Global Philanthropy Forum: Thoughts on day 3

I attended two morning sessions at GPF on Day 3 before I had to leave to catch my flight home. The first was a presentation by Omidyar Network on how they combine grants, programme-related investing and mission-related investing; this was followed by  a very large session on measurement and metrics. Here are some thoughts on the two sessions.

→ Given that it was held at 8am, Omidyar Network’s session was surprisingly well attended, which I think is at least an encouraging sign that more funders are beginning to take the idea of flexible funding (the ability to advance one’s mission via grants, equity investments or loans, including using the corpus for mission-related investments) seriously. Less encouraging was Omidyar Network’s description of the organization they have evolved to make flexible funding work. In short, this involves having a foundation with no staff; the foundation’s work is outsourced to an LLC (a for-profit corporate structure). This allows the same ‘programme officers’ to make grants, programme-related equity investments or just straight for-profit investments according to what is most appropriate for the situation. The folks from Omidyar also noted that making the system work involved having a very close working relationship between programme officers and legal and finance staff. That’s discouraging because it’s hard to see many foundations actually reorganizing themselves this deeply – and that would be a real barrier to success with flexible funding.

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Timothy Ogden