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In February, we launched the Regranting Challenge, aiming to add $150 million in funding to the budgets of outstanding grantmakers at other foundations.

We saw the Challenge as an opportunity to maximize our impact, by:

  1. Adding funding to high-impact work that was already underway. We’ve long been inspired by the work of other grantmakers, and we believe there are highly effective grantmaking organizations doing better work than we could in their respective spaces. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we’ve used the Regranting Challenge to give some of those organizations additional funding, so they can increase the scale and scope of their own work.
  2. Piloting a new approach to growing highly effective grantmaking programs. The lack of feedback mechanisms that ensure effective grantmakers get more money to allocate is a major shortcoming in the existing philanthropic ecosystem. The Regranting Challenge gave us a chance to experiment with changing that dynamic.
  3. Learning from a wide range of grantmakers with different approaches. By creating an open call, we were able to identify highly effective foundations and program areas to support that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

 

Results

After eight months, three selection rounds, and evaluations from dozens of experts (inside and outside Open Philanthropy), we’ve chosen the awardees!

We’ll share a brief description of each program here, but you can learn more about them on the Regranting Challenge website.

 

Development Innovation Ventures: $45,000,000

Development Innovation Ventures is a program inside the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). They invest in early-stage organizations and projects in global health and development that have the potential to be highly impactful and cost-effective. They’ve supported programs in water sanitation, early childhood education, and routine immunization (among others).

(Read more)

 

Eleanor Crook Foundation: $25,000,000

The Eleanor Crook Foundation funds research and advocacy to end global malnutrition. They have a track record of successfully advocating for the increased use of the “Power 4” malnutrition interventions — prenatal vitamins for pregnant women, breastfeeding support for mothers, vitamin A supplementation, and ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat wasting.

(Read more)

 

Global Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: $5,000,000

The Global Education program at the Gates Foundation makes grants to organizations that aredeveloping and improving highly effective education interventions. These interventions — namely remediation, structured pedagogy, and teaching at the right level — have been shown to improve foundational literacy and numeracy in low- and middle-income countries.

(Read more)

 

Global Health Innovation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: $65,000,000

We are supporting two global health initiatives at the Gates Foundation. The first ($40,000,000) will fund grantees who are advancing a new vaccine through efficacy trials against tuberculosis in adults and adolescents. The second ($25,000,000) will fund grantees who are helping a new vaccine manufacturer supply oral cholera vaccine — which will diversify the vaccine’s manufacturing base and increase vaccine supply to better meet global demand.

(Read more)

 

Tara Climate Foundation: $10,000,000

Tara Climate Foundation focuses on climate change mitigation in South, Southeast, and East Asia (excluding China and India). They help found new nonprofits and grow the climate movement across this region. In addition to climate impacts, their work could also lead to substantial improvements in air quality.

(Read more)

 

Process

Here’s more on how we arrived at our set of awardees:

  • Round 1 (expression of interest): We received over 100 expressions of interest from foundations around the world.
  • Round 2 (summary of track record): We invited over 60 of the most promising candidates to submit written applications (with a 5,000-word limit) focused on their historic track records.  
  • Round 3 (funding proposal): We chose 10 finalists and asked each of them to submit a proposal for how they would use new funding. We then shared each proposal with a team of expert reviewers in addition to undertaking our own analyses.

For more detail on our selection process, visit the Regranting Challenge website.

 

What we learned

We’re hoping to write more in the future about our learnings from this process. Some initial thoughts:

  • We were surprised and impressed by the strength of the applications we received. When we launched the Challenge, we weren’t sure we’d be able to allocate all of the funding while staying above our bar. That bar went up ~50% over the course of the year, largely because of the decline in our available assets, but we believe all awardees were able to clear this new higher bar.
  • Structuring the Challenge as an open call sourced a larger and broader set of high-impact programs than we anticipated. We we received expressions of interest in roughly even proportions across our three focus areas (climate, economic development, and health). None of the programs we ended up funding were among those we thought we were most likely to receive grants when we began the process. Additionally, we had anticipated most likely regranting to 1-3 programs, but found more exceptional programs than we expected.
    • That said, we know that many applicants, including those we didn’t ultimately select, spent a significant amount of time on the Challenge, which is a real cost. Now that we’ve announced our decisions, we plan to survey all applicants about the process to learn more about the scale of those costs and how to improve any similar processes we run in the future.
  • Declining marginal returns are real, even with the most effective programs. We thought that many applicants had stellar average returns. However, in many of those cases, we were less sold on the value of further funding on the margin.
  • There were many foundations that did not meet our eligibility criteria, but that we would have been excited to evaluate. For practical reasons, we constrained participation to programs that had undertaken more than $10 million in grantmaking per year for at least the last three years. At the beginning of this process, we received numerous applications from promising programs that did not meet that criterion. We aren’t yet sure whether we’ll repeat the Regranting Challenge, but if we do, one avenue we would be excited to explore is expansion to smaller organizations.

We hope that our check-ins with awardees over the coming months and years will help us learn about the impact of this funding. We answer some other anticipated questions on the Regranting Challenge website.

Comments4
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:39 PM

Thanks for doing this, I think it's awesome! I'm excited to see some unfamiliar names and different cause areas on the list.

Thanks so much for this. I especially (and selfishly) like the idea of opening some avenue for smaller organisations. Especially given that some of the orgs you give to are just going to hand money on to smaller orgs anyway When you give money to say USAID development ventures, they are going to have that on again to smaller orgs, quite inefficiently and with less of an EA focus than you. The water down effect is real.

Why not just spend a bit of extra money for more analysis and give it to effective smaller orgs yourself?

Hi Nick, thanks for engaging.

Part of the rationale for the Regranting Challenge was that it might be possible to identify funders who already have the infrastructure to deploy funding effectively at scale, rather than creating duplicative philanthropic infrastructure. In 2021, Open Philanthropy recommended ~$400M of grants with an average staff number of ~40 (so ~$10M / FTE). To compare, the Gates Foundation granted $6.7B with a staff of 1,736 (so <$4M per staff person); Wellcome Trust moved £1.23B with a staff of ~800 (so <$2M per staff person).* Now Open Philanthropy is scaling up internally (see jobs page!), and we pay others to do research on our behalf, but these things take time so we wanted to experiment with this approach of working through other funders.

Scale / existing infrastructure isn't the only benefit though - sometimes other funders have advantages that we don't. 

I think a good example of this is the award we made to the Eleanor Crook Foundation. Transparently, they know more about malnutrition than Open Philanthropy does, and they have relationships with researchers and decision makers that would take a long time for us to develop internally. They can make grants here that we would struggle to make as effectively, even though we have existing grantmaking in both development research and aid policy. As Alexander tweeted, every funder that cares about X having its own program X can't be the best approach.

On the specific DIV example, we describe some of the rationale for this on the minisite:

DIV makes four types of grants:

  • Stage 1 (Pilot) grants support initial small-scale implementation of new ideas in low- and middle-income countries to test user demand, feasibility, impact, and financial viability (up to $200,000).
  • Stage 2 (Test and Position for Scale) grants support rigorous testing to determine impact or market viability (up to $1,500,000).
  • Stage 3 (Transition to Scale) grants transition proven approaches to widespread scale in new contexts or new geographies (up to $15,000,000).
  • Finally, DIV makes Evidence Generation grants to support research and evaluation of widely-used development approaches that are not necessarily innovative, but lack sufficient evidence of impact and cost-effectiveness (up to $1,500,000).

With $45,000,000 in Regranting Challenge funding, DIV will expand their grantmaking through Stages 1, 2, and 3 grants and launch a new “Stage 4” initiative. Stage 4 grants will help some of the most promising programs in DIV’s portfolio scale up through partnerships with Missions and Bureaus across USAID. They will provide partial match funding for other USAID spending, with the aim of expanding the use of innovations that have been rigorously demonstrated to cost-effectively improve development outcomes.

A key reason for working through DIV rather than trying to do this work directly is that they sit within a much larger pool of resources than we do, much of which is spent without the same focus on impact and evidence that Open Philanthropy, effective altruists, and DIV themselves bring to the table. To be clear - this might not work! But often you have to try things out to see.

*These figures are rough; I've not tried to adjust for e.g. part-time of definitional differences. I'd note additionally that Open Philanthropy makes a lot of very time intensive small grants (e.g. to individuals) mostly within the longtermism portfolio.

Thanks for that fantastc reply appreciate it - makes a lot of sense. A brief look at DIV indeed surprised me by the quality of organisation that they are funding. I just usually rile at USAID because I have seen their multi million dollar projects achieve nothing (or negative value) again and again here in Northern Uganda. But if they are regranting like that to great orgs than indeed it solves that problem.

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