In designing our strategic approach to philanthropy and advocacy, we found inspiration in Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimist” philosophy – which urges us all to aim high and believe in wildly ambitious goals.  When we found an additional framework called Catalytic Philanthropy, we knew we were on the right path.  Catalytic Philanthropy is defined as when a donor’s ambition to change the world is matched by their courage to accept the responsibility for doing it. For too long, traditional philanthropy has made its investments and relegated the responsibility for devising and implementing solutions to the nonprofit sector.  That leaves too much leverage on the table, and too many big problems unsolved.

When the Stanford Social Innovation Review first published its 2009 cover story on Catalytic Philanthropy, we felt like we had finally found a way to describe our approach.

For us, it means throwing everything we have at the problems we confront, beyond our checkbook and grants, in pursuit of our goals.  We are deploying our philanthropy, our political advocacy, our personal leadership, visionary nonprofit partners, multimedia investments like books and films, and the skills and creativity of our talented staff.

The nonprofit sector is already a powerful force for change.  Throw catalytic philanthropy into the mix, at a scope and scale commensurate with the challenges we face, and we just might be unstoppable.

Social change is a messy process in which the willpower of a determined and influential person can often tip the balance. Donors who are serious about solving social problems must take a catalytic role, mounting a campaign and knitting together the pieces of a solution in ways that the fragmented nonprofit sector cannot do for itself.

Catalytic Philanthropy, Mark Kramer
Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2009