For Impact


Audacious Philanthropy

Story | | Nick Fellers

Read the feature article in this month’s Harvard Business Review: Audacious Philanthropy. Lessons from 15 World-Changing Initiatives.

The Movements: The Anti-Apartheid Movement – Aravind Eye Hospital – Car Seats – CPR Training – The Fair Food Program – Hospice Care – Marriage Equality – Motorcycle Helmets in Vietnam – The National School Lunch Program – 911 Emergency Services – Oral Rehydration Solution – Polio Eradication – Public Libraries – Sesame Street – Tobacco Control.

It’s a ‘must read’ for social innovators, funders, and movement leaders!!!

Executive Summary:
Research revealed five elements that together constitute a framework for philanthropists pursuing large-scale, swing-for-the-fences change. Successful efforts:

  1. Build a shared understanding of the problem and its ecosystem
  2. Set “winnable milestones” and hone a compelling message
  3. Design approaches that will work at massive scale
  4. Drive (rather than assume) demand
  5. Embrace course corrections

The article walks through dozens of illustrations and case studies — and it’s in these individualized narratives that we find true gold. Here is one vignette about the power of reframing to advance the LGBTQ rights movement:

“Supportive philanthropists financed polling and focus groups to help movement leaders understand how to reframe the core message. The research revealed that many voters perceived the movement as driven primarily by same-sex couples’ desire for the government benefits and rights conferred by marriage—and they did not find that a gripping rationale. This insight was pivotal: The movement refocused its communications strategy on equality of love and commitment, arguing that “love is love”—a message that struck a chord. Victories piled up, culminating in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. And although limited in scope, the push for marriage equality advanced the broader LGBTQ rights agenda in ways that might not otherwise have been possible or that would have taken much longer.”