Making Big Bets for Social Change

Why does such a large gap exist between what donors say they would like to achieve with their philanthropy and where they actually make their biggest bets? And how can we close it? The article tries to give answers to these questions.


According to Bridgespan’s research, charities that land big bets typically: 

  • Build a trusting relationship with a donor, usually over years.
  • Develop a compelling investment hypothesis. Groups should state simply the change that could result from a gift.
  • Work with donors who are a natural match. Bridge­span warns that a group shouldn’t move away from its core strengths to fit a philanthropist’s ambitions for change.
  • Stress the unique power of a gift.Donors respond best if it’s clear that only their gift can make something happen.
  • Give donors opportunities to contribute to the work. Bridgespan suggests “co-creation” is often critical.
  • Maintain high professional standards in operations and financial reporting. That matters to donors handing over millions of dollars to a