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

Most traditional grantmaking programs have inflexible, restrictive, slow, and unwieldy procedures for releasing funds. Many do not provide funds outside of their fixed grant cycles at all. These practices leave grantmakers unprepared to help non-profits who need funds quickly to manage contingencies. This structure leaves well-conceived programs with little or no access to capital when unanticipated obstacles are encountered mid-implementation.

The result? Many projects stall or stop completely. Alternatively, the implementing NGO pushes forward on insufficient resources or diverts other allocated funds to the detriment of efficiency, effectiveness, and ultimately impact.

The funders who invested in the project at the outset forfeit their social return alongside the non-profits and beneficiaries who may suffer even more severely. In a community of philanthropists seeking to maximize impact through deploying capital, this structure is a poor investment proposition, and one that we can change.

This page offers potential solutions in the form of tools and templates that any foundation can download, print, and bring to their next Board or staff meeting.

Format
Risk Management Cycle

Tools

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
Contingency Strategies, Mitigation Strategies
How to Build Effective Funder-Grantee Relationships
One of the most fundamental aspects of risk management lies within the funder-grantee relationship itself. Use this tool to build transparency and trust between funders and nonprofits.
Open Road Resource
How to Implement Non-Financial Risk Mitigation Strategies
Financial support is not the only way to mitigate risk, and it is not necessarily the most effective measure in every circumstance. This document outlines non-financial strategies that funders could consider pursuing to partner with grantees in addressing and mitigating risks.
Open Road Resource
How to Incorporate Risk Management into Monitoring and Evaluation
Risk management does not end with the grant check. Unlike due diligence, risk management is an ongoing process. This document provides specific guidance on how funders can address and mitigate risk through the monitoring and evaluation process and others sample language for funders to adopt or adapt
Open Road Resource
How to Incorporate Risk Management into RFPs and Grant Application Forms
Funders can help pave the way for more transparent exchanges with nonprofits about potential risks to impact by raising the topic of risk in RFPs and grant application forms, which should align with their risk profile. This document provides specific guidance on how funders can do that, and other sa
Open Road Resource
How to Incorporate Risk Management into Governance Practices
Funders should consider embedding best practices for risk management into their governance and decision-making structures. This document provides guidance on how funders can modify their governance approaches with policies and procedures to address risk and offers sample bylaw language.
Open Road Resource
How to Set Aside Contingency Funding
Funders should set aside contingency funding as part of their organizational and grant budgeting processes. This document provides guidance on how funders can determine what amount of contingency resources would be appropriate.
Open Road Resource
How to Incorporate Your Risk Profile into Your Organizational Culture
By taking steps to incorporate your risk profile into your organizational culture, funders can not only align standards, but also embrace risk as a pathway to learning. This document provides some ways to make risk management part of your daily practice and grant making.
Open Road Resource
How to Talk About—and Determine—Your Appetite for Risk
As a first step to assessing risk appetite, funders should have internal conversations to better understand how they define and perceive risk from cultural and operational perspectives. This is a list of considerations and set of guiding questions designed to support such a discussion.
Open Road Resource
How to Create a Risk Profile Statement
A risk profile describes the amount of risk, on an organizational or programmatic level, that a funder is willing to accept in pursuit of its goals. What follows is a template outline that funders may consider as a starting point for writing a risk profile statement.
Open Road Resource
Contingency Strategies, Mitigation Strategies, Monitoring Risk, Risk Identification
Risk Management Toolkit
10 Tools to help donors incorporate risk and risk management into their daily grantmaking.
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.

 

Research

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
Bloomberg
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 »