Innovation Fund–Promise (largely) Kept!

Susan Raymond is the Founding Director of the Alliance’s Innovation Fund, which made its inaugural grants in the fall of 2012.  These are her observations on the Fund’s receiving second quarter reports from its grantees:

The Alliance for Global Good gave birth to the Innovation Fund from a concern that nonprofits working in deeply complex areas of global development need diverse revenue streams to ensure their stability.  Problem solving will take significant time, and therefore time must be anchored, in part, by the ability to continue to pursue mission with stable resources.  While reliance on traditional charity will likely remain an important source of funding, new approaches to social finance and “market” based revenue generation consistent with mission could complement those sources and contribute to stability and mission achievement.

It was, to some extent, a hypothesis.   True, careful due diligence was conducted to verify the accuracy of the problem statement and vet the utility of the approach with international nonprofit and development leadership.  Still, such an effort to focus on enabling medium-sized nonprofits to “go to market” with revenue diversification strategies had not been undertaken previously.

Round I of the Innovation Fund investments brings news that the hypothesis does indeed have merit.  After 6 months of effort, three of the four grantees have made marked progress toward revenue generation, from the jungles of the Congo to the mountains of Morocco to the crowded streets of Vietnam.  In the fourth case, real but unanticipated (one might even say, unimagined) barriers have been overcome and a path forward is now clear.  Moreover, in all cases the nonprofits have generated or attracted the matching resources required by the Innovation Fund, and hence begun to introduce their mastery of innovation into their traditional fundraising.  The Innovation Fund’s leverage, therefore, is not simply against financial diversification, but also against deepened and broadened traditional donor commitment.

Much has been learned.  There is still much, much more to be learned.  Not everything has worked completely as anticipated.  But this is the way of markets.  And it reveals an additional benefit that the Innovation Fund is helping nonprofits to master, the benefit of nimbleness and flexibility in strategy implementation.

In a world where a new generation of philanthropists and a new cohort of social leaders are joining together to develop ever new ways to flow resources to social problem solving, there are increased opportunities for nonprofits to creatively match mission to markets in ways that strengthen and stabilize their work and funding.  The Innovation Fund of the Alliance for Global Good is on the cutting edge of demonstrating how to invest in such capacity to produce concrete results.




Proud to announce our newest partner


Leonard Kaplan’s creation of the Alliance for Global Good was the expression of his passionate philanthropy.  It’s also the logical outgrowth of all that came before it.  Together with his wife and philanthropic partner Tobee, and through a family foundation later renamed TOLEO, they gave unselfishly of resources and time to improve their community and the world for more than twenty-five years.

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

The Alliance’s focus on five areas of giving—health, education, environment, poverty, and world relations—is mirrored in Leonard’s past.  He has made major gifts to Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer and Heart Centers, to the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC Chapel Hill, to the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Moses Cone Hospital, and had a leadership position at the Greensboro Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.  In 2004, Leonard and Tobee built the new building for the Women’s Resource Center in Greensboro. He created scholarships for residents of Guilford County to attend North Carolina colleges and universities, and was a founding donor of Elon University Law School.  Critically, in partnership with the Kellogg Foundation, Leonard helped create the Center for Organizational Leadership, a philanthropic studies program (which was one of first nationally to educate non-profit executives).

“Everyone wants to leave something to their grandchildren.”

“The money won’t matter if the world they live in is so far gone,” Kaplan says. “The opportunity now is to take some of what might become their inheritance, and use it soon to make the world a better place.”

Addressing poverty, Leonard made possible the building of two houses for Habitat for Humanity, and by providing food for hungry people both close to home in Greensboro, and as far abroad as the former Soviet Union.   The Kaplans were staunch supporters of Trickle Up, which provides grant financing to women in the developing world who want to start their own microenterprise.

Leonard gave not only of his wealth, but also of his time and expertise, taking on leadership positions in many organizations and campaigns such as the Greater Greensboro United Way DeToqueville Society, and as a Core Member of ACTION Greensboro, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education, revitalization of downtown Greensboro, and leveraging economic development.

Active in their community of faith, the Kaplans built a new building for the Greensboro Jewish Federation, and for the Hillel youth organization at U.N.C., Chapel Hill.  He served on the board of the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro, and on that of the national Hillel organization, and was a founder of Camp Ramah Darom.

Viewing giving as a responsibility of affluence, Leonard led by example, and encouraged others to do the same.  He created Wealth & Giving, an educational program designed to inspire the largest wealth holders in this country to be more generous.  The Alliance continues that work by promoting and providing donors with opportunities for effective and efficient giving.

Read more about the Five Guiding Principles.