The world can be an unpredictable place. Currency rates fluctuate, new laws pass, natural disasters strike — all of which can present serious problems for the projects foundations support. Yet talking about the things that could go wrong is largely taboo.”Risk is a four-letter word in philanthropy,” says Maya Winkelstein. “Everybody knows it happens, but no one talks about it.”

As executive director of the Open Road Alliance, Ms. Winkelstein, 32, is committed to jump-starting the conversation. She leads a fund with an unusual mission: making grants and low-interest loans to nonprofits in the middle of projects that encounter roadblocks. It doesn’t matter what issue the charities tackle or where the projects are located — only that they ran into unexpected problems.

Since, the alliance’s launch in 2012, it has awarded $7.6 million. It expects to distribute between $5 million and $7 million more this year.

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