When are Big Bets the Right Bet?

May 16th, 2017

Stanford Humanities Center 424 Santa Teresa Street
Stanford, CA 94305

Larry Kramer, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and William Foster, partner at Bridgespan will discuss the merits and pitfalls of today’s largest donors making big bets in philanthropy.

Foster, one of the authors of the winter 2016 issue of SSIR, “Making Big Bets for Social Change,” and the new SSIR article, “Ten Ways to Make a Big Bet on Social Change” has researched the overall trends of US big bets from 2000-2013, defined as “targeted philanthropic commitments of $10 million or more to an organization or a defined initiative …. The donors can either be individuals or foundations, but not corporate foundations. The commitments can span multiple years and multiple recipients.”  A proponent of big bets, Foster, argues that “deeply entrenched mindsets” that discourage big investments on social change need to be reevaluated. In the end, it “takes a lot to do a lot” as shown by the Big Bets behind many of our greatest social change successes.  Major educational, medical research, and cultural institutions aren’t the only place that can but really significant philanthropy to good use.

In his new SSIR article, “Against ‘Big Bets’,” Larry Kramer argues that most important social problems are not amenable to solution this way. Smaller grants, made patiently and strategically, are more likely to produce meaningful results. As Kramer writes in his article, referring to the Hewlett Foundation’s work on Western Conservation, “We facilitated [grantees’] work by spending approximately $20 million per year in recent years (less in earlier years), spread across many grantees. No single one of these grants was large enough to capture the attention of Forbes journalists, but together they represent the patient, sustained focus required for progress.”

Alexa Cortes Culwell, co-founder of Open Impact, will bring Larry Kramer and William Foster together in what promises to be a lively conversation.

Join the conversation with #BigBetPhilanthropy 

Event Speakers:

Larry Kramer, is president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and former dean of the Stanford Law School.

William Foster, is a Bridgespan partner, head of the consulting practice, and active thought leader on issues of social change.

Alexa Cortes Culwell, is co-founder and managing director at Open Impact and co-instructor for the highly-rated Stanford continuing studies course, Leadership and Governance for High Impact Nonprofits.

Event Time:

Reception: 6:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Program: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Event Location: Stanford Humanities Center, 424 Santa Teresa Street, Stanford CA 94305

9daad941-7e6e-49c5-9814-046283b3198aThis event was also available globally through live-stream and is archived here on the Stanford PACS event webpage and on Vimeo, courtesy of Perpetual.

Click here or watch below to view a recording of the live event.