Unorthodox Philanthropy (UP) is sponsored by the Lampert Byrd Foundation in San Francisco, and grew out of efforts to identify extraordinary ideas. It approaches funding differently. Most foundations direct funding to nonprofit organizations that rely on a continuous cycle of philanthropic dollars to remain viable and grow – despite the fact that such capital is scarce relative to the vast capital markets. This constrains the impact of many nonprofit efforts, where even some of the largest organizations can only reach a fraction of the population they set out to serve. In contrast, UP searches widely for rare opportunities that require a finite amount of philanthropic capital to embark on a pathway to spread widely without additional philanthropic funding. It believes there are many pathways to achieve social impact at scale that don’t require building massive organizational infrastructure dependent on ongoing donor capital.
UP’s primary goal is to support efforts that can result in large-scale improvements in human welfare with finite philanthropic capital. Ideas can be at any stage of maturity and pertain to any issue, sector, or geography. They must:
- Create transformative impact: Ideas should have the potential for a big and sustained social return, regardless of financial return
- Use a finite amount of philanthropic capital: Ideas should have high fixed costs, low or no marginal costs, and a clear path to implementation and scale beyond our initial investment
UP has a preference for unorthodox ideas that are not attracting sufficient attention and resources elsewhere. It evaluates submissions based on breadth and depth of impact, plausible pathway to scale, and the absence of alternative funding at present. Submissions are also evaluated based on the team involved in driving the project – leadership is just as important as the idea itself. While UP is open to opportunities for which UP funding helps a team coalesce around an idea, at least one committed and passionate champion must be present at the start.
Amount: $3,000,000 is available. Funding ranges are not published.
Eligibility: Submissions are accepted from any sector and type of organization.
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