Background Note | HBS Case Collection | June 2013

Venture Philanthropy: Its Evolution and Its Future

by Allen Grossman, Sarah Appleby and Caitlin Reimers

Abstract

This note explores the current state of venture philanthropy in the U.S. and its future. Based on interviews with 28 practitioners in the field of philanthropy and a review of the literature since the publication of the article introducing the concept of venture philanthropy (Virtuous Capital: What Foundations Can Learn from Venture Capitalists) sixteen years ago, the note discusses the signifiant impact venture philanthropy has had on the nonprofit sector despite its small size relative to total philanthropic giving. Venture philanthropists make large, multi-year, unrestricted grants coupled with significant non-financial capacity building support and rigorous performance measurement with the goal of increasing a nonprofit's ability to serve more people more effectively. This note discusses the full set of venture philanthropy practices and their impact on grantees. It also explores what could be done to increase this type of results-driven philanthropy in the U.S. and poses questions regarding the future trajectory of the field, including venture philanthropy's role in driving societal-level scaling of impact. This note is aimed at both the philanthropic sector overall as well as venture philanthropy practitioners.

Keywords: philanthropy; nonprofit; social entrepreneurship; social institutions; United States;

Citation:

Grossman, Allen, Sarah Appleby, and Caitlin Reimers. "Venture Philanthropy: Its Evolution and Its Future." Harvard Business School Background Note 313-111, June 2013.