The Psychologist Staking $50 Million to Help Cure a Blind Spot for Philanthropists
The philanthropy world has a blind spot when it comes to risk. Projects can be waylaid or abandoned when unexpected challenges arise. Laurie Michaels started looking for a solution while attending the 2011 Burning Man arts festival in Nevada. Michaels, who’s married to billionaire dealmaker David Bonderman, founded Open Road Alliance to offer fast funding to nonprofits and social enterprises facing unexpected roadblocks. It made its first grant in 2012 and now offers loans, too. Open Road Ventures, its new loan fund, just topped $10 million in loans and expects to disburse at least $50 million over five years.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Michaels founded such an initiative. Her training as a psychologist helped her recognize the holes in how some philanthropists manage risk. And her husband, the chairman and co-founder of TPG Capital, has spent his career exploiting leverage and managing risk.
Michaels, Open Road Alliance Executive Director Maya Winkelstein and Caroline Bressan, director of social investments, spoke with Bloomberg this month to discuss the venture. Comments have been edited and condensed.