In a community of philanthropists seeking maximum impact, we believe that traditional funding structures and attitudes have room to improve.

Open Road Alliance conducts research and collects data in the practice of and attitudes towards risk management in philanthropy. Through surveys, case studies, statistical analysis, and convenings of our peers, we seek to identify gaps in practice as well as solutions for best practices across the grant making spectrum.

For example, through this research we know:

  • 1 in 5 projects will encounter an unexpected obstacle during implementation
  • Only 13% of funders currently budget for contingencies
  • 76% of funders don’t ask about project risks during the RFP process
  • Non-profits are less comfortable talking with funders about risks, than funders expect

To learn more about these findings and other, we invite you to browse the below resources.

Risk Management Cycle


Open Road Resource
Survey Databook: 2018 Contingency Funding in Philanthropy Assessment
In 2017, to build on the findings from its 2015 study, Open Road commissioned Harder+Company Community Research to conduct an in-depth assessment of what happens to nonprofits when they encounter unexpected catastrophic roadblocks and how foundations respond to offer support.
Open Road Resource
Roadblock Analysis Report
The findings from this multivariable roadblock analysis provide the first-ever empirical dataset on “what goes wrong” in impact- focused projects and offer early conclusions on how specific roadblocks correlate with other variables.
Open Road Resource
Risk in Philanthropy: A Framework for Evaluation
This brief framework is designed to provide grantmakers and NGOs with tools to conceptualize and describe risk and its implications within the scope of their philanthropic work.
Open Road Resource
Foundations Don’t Know What They’re Risking
Critical gaps exist in philanthropy’s definitions of and approach to risk management. This article describes the scope of the problem and a framework for philanthropists to adopt risk-management practices that better equip the sector to address the challenges of our time.
Open Road Resource
Risk in Philanthropy: Funders Don't Ask & Non-Profits Don't Tell (2015 Survey Report)
In 2015, Open Road Alliance conducted a 400-respondent survey designed to look at the frequency of need for contingency funding as reported by Funders and Grantees. This is what we found.
Open Road Resource
2015 Survey: Annotated Data
In 2015, Open Road Alliance conducted a 400-respondent survey designed to look at the frequency of need for contingency funding as reported by Funders and Grantees. The survey was designed to explore questions about risk and contingency funding. Here's a look at our annotated data.
Open Road Resource
Project Risk and Impact: A Case Study From International Development
In 2014 Open Road Alliance commissioned an independent researcher to conduct a case study of a large health-oriented international development non-profit organization to better understand the ways that risk affects social sector programs.
Open Road Resource
A First Look at Failed Clinton Global Initiative Commitments
In 2016, the Clinton Global Initiative released its first analysis of failed commitments. Devex took a look at the report before its publications — and spoke with a few experts — to determine the lessons that can already be learned from it to form stronger, more successful partnerships.
Open Road Resource
Contingency Strategies, Mitigation Strategies
About Open Road
Watch this short 3-minute video to learn more about what Open Road does, and why we do it.
Open Road Alliance
1 in 5 projects encounter unexpected obstacles
83% of funders don't budget for contingencies
48% of non-profits are uncomfortable talking to their funders about risk

Risk & Philanthropy

The world is unpredictable. However, the philanthropic financial market is not structured to deal with the unexpected.

No industry standards currently exist for discussing, assessing, or planning for risk in philanthropy. Few grantmakers assess risk during the grant application process, and even fewer have processes in place to respond to anticipatable risks once a project is underway. The problem is not that philanthropists consciously seek to avoid risk; in fact research shows that funders often describe themselves as risk-taking. The problem is that, without the appropriate structures in place, philanthropy’s noble intention to take risks for the common good remains largely a noble intention. Without taking steps to accurately identify, understand, and manage risk, philanthropy’s ability to play the risk-taking role it has set itself is severely limited. By the same token, foundations have a significant opportunity to increase the impact of their grantmaking by taking concrete steps to proactively identify, measure, and mitigate risk.

Through research, collaboration, and advocacy, Open Road Alliance hopes to solve this gap in practice by providing tools, templates, and best practices for risk management in philanthropy.



Tools & Templates

Stories of Risk Management in Action

In addition to this work, we provide the necessary, fast, flexible capital to help organizations overcome the unexpected.

OR In The News

News / Dec. 10, 2018
The Center for Effective Philanthropy
A Failure to Communicate
by Maya Winkelstein
If good communication is a bridge where funders and grantees have to meet halfway, it’s actually up to the foundations to take the first step.
News / Nov. 16, 2018
The Nonprofit Leadership Podcast
Podcast: How a philanthropic initiative is providing reliable funding to help nonprofits move forward
by Dr. Rob Harter & Caroline Bressan
Open Road's Director or Social Investments, Caroline Bressan, is interviewed on the Nonprofit Leadership Podcast.
News / Sep. 28, 2018
The Psychologist Staking $50 Million to Help Cure a Blind Spot for Philanthropists
by Tom Metcalf
Laurie Michaels, Maya Winkelstein, and Caroline Bressan spoke with Bloomberg to discuss Open Road Alliance and the first $10 million in loans via Open Road Ventures.
News / Jul. 20, 2018
Podcast: Open Road Alliance Helps Nonprofits Address What Can Go Wrong
This week’s Business of Giving features Maya Winkelstein, executive director of Open Road Alliance, which aims to bring conversations about risk to the forefront in philanthropy. Seventy-six percent of grant makers the organization interviewed said they do not ask charities at any time during their application process what could go... Read more »