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
How to Build Contingency Protocols
This document outlines specific steps funders should consider when building out their contingency protocols.
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 / 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 »