Big Bet Bummer

Article by Kevin Starr: “I just got back from Skoll World Forum, the Cannes Festival for those trying to make the world a better place…Amidst the flow of people and ideas, there was one persistent source of turbulence. Literally, within five minutes of my arrival, I was hearing tales of anxiety and exasperation about “Big Bet Philanthropy.” The more people I talked to, the more it felt like the hungover aftermath of a great party: Those who weren’t invited feel left out, while many of those who went are wondering how they’ll get through the day ahead.

When you write startlingly big checks in an atmosphere of chronic scarcity, there are bound to be unintended consequences. Those consequences should guide some iterative party planning on the part of both doers and funders. …big bets bring a whole new level of risk, one borne mostly by the organization. Big bets drive organizations to dramatically accelerate their plans in order to justify a huge (double-your-budget and beyond) infusion of dough. In a funding world that has a tiny number of big bet funders and generally sucks at channeling money to those best able to create change, that puts you at real risk of a momentum and reputation-damaging stall when that big grant runs out…(More)”.

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