Overview We believe there are extraordinary leaders seeking to transform an entire field for whom funding is the gating item to unleash their focus on an effort that they otherwise might not pursue. They may be looking to embark on a new chapter in their career and/or to shift into a new sector. They may be working across or at the intersection of disciplines or fields. Their idea may not fit easily into a defined program area or be perceived as too risky. UP would like to step in to be the first, or one of the first, backers, believers, or funders in the leader and their transformative idea.
Background on UP’s New Search We embarked on Unorthodox Philanthropy (UP) with the intention of experimenting with a new sourcing model, evaluating opportunities based on their potential endgame rather than short-term output metrics, and prioritizing efforts that have a clear financing pathway at scale. We believe that we have validated some of our original hypotheses and recognize that there are more funders now focused on endgames and systems change, potentially making our approach less novel and value-added. We will continue to support several of our existing grantees that are pursuing their pathway to scale.
After a review of our portfolio, we found that a successful strategy is to enable a passionate individual or team to pursue something new or different and that they otherwise might not have without catalytic funding. We have witnessed the magic of combining early, flexible funding with a powerful entrepreneurial drive to do good in the world. Sometimes the specifics of the idea or effort change, but we have seen how a dedicated and creative leader can surpass all expectations to achieve outsized impact.
Thus, we are launching an experiment to see if we might identify exceptional people to back by removing some of our original criteria and instead focusing more squarely on the leaders driving the effort forward.
We are seeking nominations of extraordinary leaders that are passionate about transforming a field and have identified potential qualities that may characterize the types of people we seek:
Unique vision for alleviating suffering in the world: We are agnostic as to the issue, sector, or geography being addressed; our guiding principle is to support mission-driven individuals seeking to achieve transformational social change. Our goal is to prioritize people that have proximity to the issues and communities in which they are working.
Strong entrepreneurial nature: While this person may come from academia or have a research background, we would like to direct our funding toward someone dedicated to transforming their ideas into reality -- someone with a big vision, along with the commitment and skills to make it happen. It’s not necessary that this person has a long track-record of success, but instead the tenacity and drive to achieve their ambitious goals. The leader should have the capability to mobilize other partners and funders to get involved once they are able to more fully explore and demonstrate their vision.
Full-time focus on a singular goal: We would like to identify individuals that are seeking to dedicate themselves full-time to a singular effort. They may be pursuing this work in a professional capacity currently and are looking to embark on a new chapter in their career, or have a personal passion to which they would like to dedicate themselves more fully. We recognize that accomplished innovators and big thinkers may be involved in a variety of efforts and, in this case, we would expect them to be mobilizing a full-time leader or team dedicated to the effort.
Outsized ambition, passion, and commitment to transform a field: We are seeking to support exceptional leaders that are pursuing transformative ideas which create a new solution, define a new market, or ideally do both; they may demonstrate a new paradigm, challenge prevailing narratives or assumptions, or have the potential to shift or redirect a field or sector. It is likely that such transformational leaders are working across or at the intersection of disciplines or fields.
Providing catalytic funding for a new effort, rather than incremental support of an existing venture
Supporting leaders for whom funding is the gating item to unleash their focus on an effort that they otherwise might not pursue
Supporting an extraordinary leader at the moment when an idea moves to action
Stepping in to be the first, or one of the first, backers, believers, or funders in a person and their idea
Supporting leaders in emerging fields that are not yet defined program areas, or are perceived as too risky -- and thus less likely to be initially funded by traditional funders
Providing a series of seed grants ($50k-$250k) to several leaders and from this group, considering larger follow-on investments ($1M+) especially in cases where there are catalytic co-funding opportunities
Nomination Process We are experimenting with a new process to identify and select leaders to support. Rather than asking individuals to apply on their own behalf, we are seeking nominations from our network of advisors and scouts. If you would like to nominate someone, you can simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name and a short description of why you are nominating this person.