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Philanthropy. Open For Improvement.

MFG Archive

Announcing the Fund for Shared Insight, a multi-year, multi-million dollar effort to improve the practice of philanthropy

We call this effort “Markets for Good” but let’s face it: markets are not perfect. “Market failures” are part of the reason why the important work of the people and organizations in the social sector is so critical to a thriving society. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t market dynamics at work in the social sector: the approximately 1.5 million nonprofit organizations (in just the US) require capital to do their work. They are the “sellers” of social impact, and donors are the “buyers”. But this is an imperfect “market”, lacking the necessary feedback loops. How do we listen to the voice of the people we seek to help? Where do they factor into this system?

The 80,000 foundations in the US are a large force in the philanthropic marketplace; private foundations with at least two paid staff control nearly $40 billion of giving each year. Foundations are a part of our social contract, receiving preferential tax treatment in exchange for a commitment to advance the common good. Yet even those of us who work in the sector don’t always know just how impactful this giving really is. We believe that foundations and philanthropy serve as a means to an end; we believe we can make an even bigger social and environmental impact in the world with the $40 billion foundations deploy each year if they are more open. What does this mean? We hope for foundations to encourage and incorporate feedback from the people they seek to help; understand the connection between feedback and better results; foster more openness between and among foundations and their grantees; and openly share what they learn.


So Liquidnet, one of the partners behind Markets for Good, has joined forces with several prominent funders to launch the Fund for Shared Insight. This collaborative fund will make $5 to $6 million in grants each year over the next three years, all to improve the practice of philanthropy. We have just launched an open call for proposals from nonprofit organizations with ideas for increasing the openness and effectiveness of foundations. Specifically, we are looking for ideas which:

  • Advance the practice of using feedback loops to hear from the people we seek to help
  • Advance the research base to identify how feedback data may be best collected and whether there may be some perceptual and/or experience data that can serve as leading indicators of change
  • Support efforts to increase foundation openness in service of effectiveness

Markets for Good has been exploring in a broad way how the how the social sector can better generate, share, and use data and information to improve decision making. The Fund for Shared Insight is focused on one specific area of this effort – staffed foundations – and working to make their good work better than ever before.

Proposals are due Wednesday, October 15, 2014. More information, answers to frequently asked questions, and full details – including ways to ask questions – can be found at the Fund for Shared Insight website.

There are many creative ideas out there for enhancing collaboration, information exchange, feedback loops, and the openness of foundations. What are your ideas?

Many thanks to Brian and his team at Liquidnet for their hard work in developing the Fund for Shared Insight. If you have a great idea, be sure to apply, and should you have any questions, use the comments field below, and don’t forget to follow Brian on Twitter.