Bridgespan Group Releases Wide Ranging Analysis on Big Bet Philanthropy in Stanford Social Innovation Review Special Edition

Supplement, “Unleashing Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change,” includes original Bridgespan research and contributions from leading thinkers in the field to inform the conversation on how large philanthropic gifts can support social change

Boston, Feb. 21, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Bridgespan Group, a global nonprofit organization that collaborates with mission-driven organizations, philanthropists, and investors to break cycles of poverty and dramatically improve the quality of life for those in need, published new research on large philanthropic commitments to social-change causes, as part of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) Special Edition supplement, “Unleashing Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change.

“We believe that philanthropy’s big bets have a major role to play in improving the lives of millions of people,” said William Foster, a partner at Bridgespan Group and head of Bridgespan’s consulting practice. “We hope that the research and opinions voiced in this special edition of SSIRprompt nonprofit leaders and their funders to take a step back and think about what is ‘possible’ in a big way.”

Unleashing Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change.” features the following research papers:

  • Becoming Big Bettable: This article addresses nonprofits, mainly those who already have received support from donors with the capacity to give big bets but who have not yet been able to secure grants at that level. It guides them to identify ways to position themselves to better attract and effectively deploy large philanthropic investments, ultimately creating more investment opportunities that can transform the world. This paper was written by Bridgespan Partners William Foster and Gail Perreault, along with their colleague Bradley Seeman.
  • Reimagining Institutional Philanthropy: This article highlights how historic growth in wealth globally and the rise of new philanthropists threaten the relevance of institutional philanthropy. It also offers ideas for leaders in institutional philanthropy to revitalize their role, from setting time-bound, right-sized goals to ceding control of strategies. The paper was written by Bridgespan Senior Director of Philanthropy Alison Powell and Bridgespan Partners Willa Seldon and Nidhi Sahni.

The SSIR supplement also includes a range of opinion articles from thought leaders in the field about the state of big bet philanthropy, including: 

  • The Benefit of Being the Runner-up Learning from Competition by Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, director of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health at Rice University.
  • Big Bets Are ImportantBut So Is a Big Heart by David Callahan, founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy.
  • Big Gift, Big Impact by Andrew Youn, co-founder and executive director of One Acre Fund, and Matthew Forti, managing director of One Acre Fund USA
  • Doing More with Big Bets by Barbara Picower, president and chair of the board of directors of JPB Foundation.
  • Empowering Nonprofits by Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector.
  • Hacking the Bias in Big Bets by Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green.
  • Investing in Population-level Change by Jim Shelton, most recently president of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Education division and formerly deputy secretary of the US Department of Education.
  • From Promising Model to Major Investment by Nancy Roob, president and CEO of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and CEO of Blue Meridian Partners, and Mark Edwards, co-founder and co-CEO of Upstream USA.
  • Renewing Common Purpose and Collective Action by Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation.

In addition to the two Bridgespan-authored research papers and nine outside opinion pieces, Unleashing Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change” provides a detailed overview and analysis of big bets data: 

  • Profiles of Big Bets: This section highlights five philanthropic gifts of $25 million or more made to support social change efforts, and the enormous impact these investments can have on the world’s most pressing problems.
  • Big Bets, 2015-2018: This list features each of the over 150 commitments of $25 million or more that went to social change. An interactive version of the 2015-2018 list, including information about the donor and recipient, the grant amount, and the specific initiative that the grant focused on is available on Bridgespan’s web site at:

About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group ( is a global nonprofit organization that collaborates with mission-driven organizations, philanthropists and investors to break cycles of poverty and dramatically improve the quality of life for those in need. With offices in Boston, Mumbai, New York, and San Francisco, Bridgespan’s services include strategy consulting, leadership development, philanthropy and nonprofit advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.




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