Staff are highly responsive in communication with grantees: New Media Ventures

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: August 20, 2019

Editor’s note: The following is a Power Moves toolkit Power in Practice example.

“Funding exclusively through referrals can limit what funders see and increase the risk of confirmation bias – one of the reasons white men are so much more likely to get venture capital funding in Silicon Valley. By having an open and transparent application process, heavily marketed to ensure we’re getting outside our own bubbles, we’ve made a tremendous impact on the diversity of our portfolio.” –Christie George, New Media Ventures

New Media Ventures is a national seed fund and network of angel investors supporting media and tech startups that disrupt politics and catalyze progressive change. NMV has become an evangelist for open-call grantmaking.

Christie George noted that being willing to assume less control over outcomes leads to new connections, solutions and opportunities that might not otherwise come their way.

Unlike a traditional request for proposals, in which the funder defines the terms of engagement and strategy, the Innovation Fund Open Call process was designed with very broad parameters. This required the staff to “be comfortable with uncertainty and develop the humility to stay in a learning mindset.”

George urges grantmakers to try the open call approach, with these recommendations:

  • Start on a small scale at first because this approach is more labor intensive.
  • Consider doing an open call in collaboration with others to share the work. NMV partnered with the Pluribus Projecton, a democracy-focused open call in 2016.
  • Consider carving out a portion of your grantmaking budget to fund projects selected through an open process.
  • Don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel. NMV and other similar groups have developed deep expertise around open calls and are eager to help.

Lisa Ranghelli is senior director of assessment and special projects at NCRP and primary author of Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justiceFollow @NCRP and @lisa_rang on Twitter, and join the conversation using #PowerMovesEquity!

This post is part of a series of case examples on building, sharing and wielding power for NCRP’s Power Moves toolkit

Power Moves