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.

Risk Management Cycle


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 Resource
Risk in Philanthropy Matrix
To help both grantmakers and NGOs better identify, assess, mitigate, and plan for risk in their portfolios, Open Road Alliance offers the following framework for evaluating risk.
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.


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The Foundation Review

Foundations Don’t Know What They’re Risking

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