March 21, 2018
Philanthropic Issue Funds Offer Impact Opportunities for Donors and Nonprofits
By Stephanie Fuerstner Gillis
Senior Advisor, Impact-Driven Philanthropy Initiative

In 2017, the Raikes Foundation launched an initiative focused on increasing the impact of giving by individual donors, who are by far the largest segment of giving in this country—more than 70 percent of giving is directed by individual donors.

We posit that the philanthropy sector has developed infrastructure to support institutional philanthropy (large foundations with professional staff), but we have not paid enough attention to supporting individual donors—who are largest segment of giving—to be effective.

We began our work by engaging a set of partners to launch Giving Compass, a website that aggregates and organizes the rich information that does exist for this audience, and to begin to orient donors to the ways they can learn, connect and take action. We also learned from our market research that donors are hungry for information on where to give with impact.

We believe that issue funds are one way to make it easier for donors to give with outsized impact. They offer unique ways for donors to learn about and support an issue or cause through a portfolio approach, rather than giving to an individual organization. They can also be an effective way for larger foundations with issue expertise to leverage additional investments toward impact. Finally, issue funds have the added advantage of aggregating flexible capital for high-performing nonprofit organizations.

For these reasons, we set out to learn more about the landscape of philanthropic issue funds, the different types of offerings, the key players, and the operating models. We wanted to begin to begin to build a dataset of issue funds to offer on Giving Compass, and also to understand the current state of this marketplace. This research, in partnership with Christine Sherry and her team at Sherry Consulting, was done quickly and at a high level, with the understanding that we are sampling, not trying to chronicle all the funds that exist.

We hope this report is useful as a portrait of the current state of these offerings for donors and as a teaser for the opportunities that exist for philanthropy in this arena, and we share our research with that in mind.

Read the report