How will the $45M matching funds for the Social Innovation Funds be distributed?

Last week’s a group of five philanthropic institutions – the Skoll Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Omidyar Network, Open Social Foundation's Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation, and John and Ann Doerr's Family Foundation – announced that they will provide an additional $45 million in matching funds to support the Social Innovation Fund. The announcement was well promoted by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service and covered extensively (see Chronicle of Philanthropy article and Nathaniel Whittemore's post on Change.org). It even generated some interesting criticism by Pablo Eisenberg (well worth the read).

What remained unclear is how the new funds might be allocated. Will the $45M pledged by the grant makers go to the Social Innovation Fund intermediaries (i.e., the 7 to 10 grantmaking institutions the Corporation will select to receive a grant) or their subgrantees? I posted the question to Suzanne Perry of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, who asked the Corporation to clarify. Turns out the additional funds can be used to provide support through either method (in a third option, the funders might just support projects not funded through the Social Innovation Fund).

How this now rolls out will be of further interest over the next few months. In one scenario, a foundation selected as an intermediary grantee by the Corporation might also become a grantee of one of the five philanthropic institutions listed above. While not unheard of, a grantor/grantee relationship between foundations is still unusual and raises interesting issues around power dynamics and grant monitoring responsibilities. In the second scenario, I would anticipate that nonprofit subgrantees would have to pursue matching funding directly from the five new funders. Aligning those competitions with the subgrantee competitions the intermediaries will have to manage will also present some interesting challenges, especially around coordination and project assessments.

 

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