Foundation funding is typically directed to organizations that must continually raise philanthropic capital to remain viable and grow. And yet, a relative scarcity of such capital severely constrains the impact of most nonprofit endeavors. The reach of even the largest nonprofits is tiny in comparison to successful for-profit companies, which have access to the vast capital markets.
Our strategy is to search widely for rare opportunities which defy this limitation of the traditional model. Specifically, we seek ideas which require a finite amount of philanthropic capital, but which can then spread widely without additional philanthropic funding. We are otherwise agnostic.
We tend to be a contrarian funder, believing that the opportunities with the greatest potential reward exist where others aren't looking and/or avoid altogether.
A Bottom-Up and Networked Approach to Finding Ideas
We seek to foster a system that enables great ideas to flow upwards toward capital, rather than allocating funding downwards from predefined issues or causes. We intend to employ a variety of methods to source opportunities, with an emphasis on reaching out to diverse, untapped networks that may not typically engage with private philanthropy. We are actively recruiting individuals and networks that can serve as scouts, connectors, and evaluators to build a community that can help us identify potential breakthrough initiatives. We are eager to have interested individuals join our effort; if you would like to participate or have a proposal that might fit our criteria, please contact us.
Who We Are
Unorthodox Philanthropy is an initiative sponsored by a San Francisco-based family foundation. This initiative grew out of our previous efforts to identify extraordinary ideas: a 2010 challenge that helped launch GiveDirectly, and our 2013 Unorthodox Prize awarded to Evidence Aid. We are building on these experiences to establish a process for identifying high-impact endeavors that require finite philanthropic capital. Learn more about the current Unorthodox Philanthropy awards here.