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
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 / Nov. 16, 2017
What We’ve Learned After Five Years of Risk Management in Philanthropy
by Laurie Michaels
Laurie Michaels is Founder of Open Road Alliance, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary. This article is the first in a four-part series sharing what Open Road has learned about risk management in philanthropy and how the organization has evolved over the past five years to better address the need for fast, flexible contingency funding in the sector. This series will include findings from Open Road’s research and practical guidance on best practices for managing risk in order to maximize impact in philanthropy.
News / Nov. 14, 2017
Global Development Incubator
5 Minutes with a Social Agitator – Caroline Bressan of Open Road Alliance on fast, flexible contingency funding in the philanthropic sector
by Mckinley Sherrod
Interview with Open Road's Director of Social Investments, Caroline Bressan, by Global Development Incubator.
News / Sep. 19, 2017
What It Takes to Be a Leader: Advice From People at the Top
by Drew Lindsay
Recent Chronicle profiles of top charity and foundation executives offer insights into effective leadership — and a few pieces of advice. Think Big In 2013, Patty Stonesifer (profiled in August) left her post as CEO of the Gates Foundation, the world’s largest grant maker, to run Martha’s Table, a small... Read more »
News / Jul. 14, 2017
Q&A: How a new toolkit is helping nonprofits budget for risk
by Catherine Cheney
An interview with Open Road's Executive Director, Maya Winkelstein.


New in

The Foundation Review

Foundations Don’t Know What They’re Risking

(free and available to the public)

Read Here