June 23, 2016

Foundation Plans Surge of Grants for Social Entrepreneurs

The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation is stepping up its giving significantly. In its first 15 years of operation, the fund provided $300,000 grants to about 100 social entrepreneurs in the early stages of their projects. It plans to back another 100 in the next five years.

The Menlo Park, Calif., organization models its grant making on venture capital and has raised money from about 50 people and grant makers, including the Hilton, Kresge, and Packard foundations, for the $65 million effort.

The philanthropy was founded in 2002 by William Draper III and Robin Richards Donohoe, venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Robert Kaplan, a former vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group, later contributed to the fund.

Draper Richards Kaplan built a reputation as a savvy judge of fledgling organizations when it made early bets on nonprofits like Kiva, One Acre Fund, and Room to Read, that quickly grew to prominence.

Close Relationships

The fund awards three-year, unrestricted grants of $300,000 to social entrepreneurs tackling tough problems and whose organizations have the potential to expand their work widely. During the grant period, a foundation staff member serves on the group’s board of directors, and the fund works closely with grantees on organizational challenges, such as refining their programs, increasing fundraising, and building a board.

To get ready for the surge, Draper Richards Kaplan has more than doubled its staff in the last three years to a total of 20 employees.

The foundation carefully studied the applications it receives and is confident it can increase the number of grantees without lowering its standards, says Jim Bildner, the fund’s chief executive: "We didn’t just pick 100 because it’s a nice, round number."

Send an email to Nicole Wallace.