Letter from Open Road's Former CEO
Open Road’s 10th Anniversary - Accelerating into the Future
For the past 10 years, I have worked alongside Laurie Michaels and our team to build the Open Road Alliance. Over that decade, Open Road has grown from a staff of one to a team of 10+. We have evolved from a grantmaker to the market leader in short-term bridge loans. We have expanded our asset base from a single donor to a growing community of impact-focused investors. And yet, despite these shifts and changes, so much of Open Road has remained the same.
Keeping Impact on Track
In An Uncertain World
ROADBLOCKS EMERGE. IMPACT SUFFERS.
In 2012, we noticed something: around the world, across sectors and regions, social impact companies face delays or derailments because they can’t find relatively small amounts of funding to enable catalytic opportunities and overcome unpredictable roadblocks.
A RESEARCH STUDY
A research study testing the effectiveness of a new climate-friendly “white asphalt” is underway in South Africa. The study is fully funded, and all personnel have been hired and trained. The study is six months into its 12-month cycle when a sudden change at the Ministry of Environment requires them to pause and then extend the study by three months beyond the original grant.
A CHILDHOOD VACCINE
A childhood vaccine developed by a medical nonprofit in the United States couldn’t roll out in Latin America because the nonprofit lacked $40,000 to accommodate a sudden change in legal compliance requirements. As a result, millions of children did not receive the vaccine for several years.
AN EDUCATION-FOCUSED NGO
An education-focused NGO in the U.S. is poised to expand its services to millions of students in the coming year; suddenly, their primary funder unilaterally changes its disbursement schedule, which would cause the NGO to miss the start of the school year and imperil its growth plans.
A MODEL BREAKTHROUGH
Open Road was built to address this challenge and create a scalable solution for impact across the globe. Ten years later, what seemed like a simple concept to help nonprofits overcome unexpected cash crunches, has evolved into a breakthrough model addressing a major market gap in the wider impact finance sector, derailing millions of dollars in impact per year.
Discovering Open Road
TIME IS MONEY... AND IMPACT.
As a philanthropist and psychologist, Laurie understood that the world is unpredictable; she also knew that when unpredictability strikes, it can often be fixed.
Through a unique grantmaking strategy, Open Road looked at the market and offered nonprofits and social enterprises what they needed: fast, flexible, finite capital necessary to overcome obstacles and move forward as planned, thus keeping impact on track.
READY FOR THE MOMENT
The Open Road funding model not only enables companies to break through barriers, but it is also a model of leveraged impact.
- New regulatory requirements
- Changes in personnel
- Policy changes
- Changes in disbursement schedule
- Funder strategy shifts
- Pause on investments
- Unexpected travel
- Third-party delays
- World events
Impact kept on track
- Maintain momentum for entering new markets
- Continue on-time payment of salaries
- Enable partnership opportunities requiring upfront investments
- Avoid “starvation” of the business
- Ensure steady resources for longer-term growth
LAURIE MICHAELS REFLECTING ON 10 YEARS OF OPEN ROAD
OPEN ROAD’S FIRST GRANTEES
From a land rights organization in Kenya, to a clean water organization in India, to a healthcare program in Peru, Open Road’s very first round of charitable grants reflected the versatility of Open Road’s model. Within months of Open Road’s first pilot grants, it became clear that there was a system-wide need for this practical, problem-solving approach to grantmaking.
Charitable Grants: By the numbers
A Decade of Impact
The charts below show the aggregate impact of Open Road's charitable grant portfolio over the past 10 years. Behind each number is a story: Atlas Corps, Splash, Landesa, PATH, Food for Education, ARMMAN, Pro Mujer, North Star Alliance, Talking Points, PSI, Maryland Pesticide Education Network, Root Capital, Global Press Institute. These are just a few of the nearly 200 stories of impact kept on track, enabled by a grant from Open Road.
Impact kept on track
Faced by Grantees
With the exception of COVID-19, the most common source of roadblocks we saw in the past decade were funder-created. The pursuit of catalytic opportunities also accounted for an additional 15% of Open Road’s grants.
Funder Created Obstacles
Acts of god | Economics