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March 17, 2016

Opinion: 'Big Bets' by Donors Can Propel Social Movements

History shows that "big bet" donations of $10 million or more play a key role in the progress of mass movements on social issues, a nonprofit adviser writes in a Forbes blog post. Bridgespan Group partner William Foster cites new research by the consulting firm on successful social movements such as the rejuvenation of conservatism in the 1970s and '80s and the push for LGBT rights and marriage equality.

"More than 70 percent of the social movements we studied received at least one pivotal big bet," Mr. Foster writes. He says major influxes of philanthropic cash reflect not only confidence that a set of social goals can be achieved but give activists time to work out strategies and subsidize "the critical infrastructure required for movements" that seek major change, such as research, legal services, materials, and staff.

Listen to a Business of Giving podcast on big bets and the Bridgespan Group study and a Chronicle of Philanthropy article about last year's biggest donations seeking social change.