Giving Compass' Take:

•  Shelley Whelpton explains how individual funders can adjust their strategies to better support political entrepreneurship to make an impact in this fast-moving space. 

• Are you equipped to support grassroots political entrepreneurship? What groups in your area have the capability to make the most of your donations? 

• Learn how philanthropy can support criminal justice reform

In today’s political environment, speed and agility are critical. Advocates on the front lines of change have to move at the speed of the news cycle. In this context, some of the well-established funding processes and characteristics of traditional philanthropy, such as five-year strategic plans and lengthy evaluation processes, just don’t fit. We still need solid strategies, of course. And we still need to monitor, evaluate, and learn. But we need to design our processes to match the actual pace of events, not hope to make history conform to the traditional grant cycle. In particular, philanthropy needs to get better at seeding and supporting early-stage efforts, assessing and managing risk, and providing the right kinds of capital to drive real policy change.

It’s a simple truth that the plumbing of philanthropy is best set up to work with larger, well established, national organizations—and many of today’s political entrepreneurs are comparatively small, new, and local enough to directly represent their communities. Providing seed capital that enables such entrepreneurs to grow and flourish is critical. Demanding that they meet all of the criteria applied to large, long-established grantee organizations, however, is a non-starter and often preserves implicit biases at a moment when funders are striving to reduce inequity.

Here we can learn from organizations that already seed innovation in other contexts, like Echoing Green and Ashoka. Funders can also take advantage of intermediary organizations, donor collaboratives, and rapid-response funding vehicles specifically designed both to enable them to work with smaller organizations and to provide funds on more flexible cycles.

Read the full article about supporting political entrepreneurship by Shelley Whelpton at LinkedIn.