As we write often, there's been a noticeable shift in the philanthrosphere as a new set of players with deep pockets has stepped up their giving. This trend is affecting nearly every major issue area, as new funders arrive in different spaces—often championing priorities that have been overlooked in the past. A great example is Good Ventures, founded by Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna, and backed by a $9 billion Facebook fortune.
The couple created Good Ventures a few years ago. The foundation has only been around for a short time, but it has already gained a good deal of notice for its thoughtful approach to grantmaking, its healthy appetite for risk, and its interest in seeking out uncrowded areas and underfunded projects to support.
Last year, we wrote about Good Ventures' biggest grant to date, a $25 million grant to GiveDirectly, an NGO which uses direct cash transfers to address poverty in Africa.
Well, judging by the foundation's activities last month, we may be seeing more big numbers like that in the future. In January, Good Ventures awarded two monster grants of $22.8 million and $10.8 million to Against Malaria and the Deworm the World Initiative, respectively.
With these grants, Good Ventures is emerging as one of the bigger global health funders around, after the Gates Foundation—a place that also famously gives money in very big chunks.
Just to remind people, Good Ventures is a spend-down foundation, with Moskovitz and Tuna believing that giving more now is most effective. “The good we do now compounds over time," Tuna told us last year.
She also said that the plan at Good Ventures is to scale up giving as the foundation becomes more sure of its priorities and that big gifts will be well spent. Tuna said the goal is to “give sooner rather than later, as soon as we can give confidently… We have a bias toward giving as much as we can.”
Clearly, the folks at Good Ventures are now feeling more confident about their grantmaking, which is done in close partnership with the charity evaluator GiveWell.
Good Ventures has been involved in global health since its launch. When the foundation made its inaugural grants at the end of 2011, nearly all of its global health awards went to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and the Against Malaria Foundation. A couple of years later, Good Ventures began supporting the Deworm the World Initiative. Not much has changed since those early years. The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative also received money from Good Ventures last month, $1 million.
Against Malaria provides funding for low-cost, long-lasting insecticide treated nets to prevent malaria transmission; Deworm the World supports government run, school based deworming programs; and Schistosomiasis Control works with governments in sub-Saharan Africa on programs to treat schistosomiasis and other soil transmitted helminths. None of this is work is exactly ground breaking, radical, or even out of the ordinary.
However, Good Ventures isn’t all about breaking new ground for its own sake. While some people imagine that the new foundations built with tech fortunes are intent to disrupt the charitable sector, you'll find plenty of super-practical funders in this area doing familiar work. Good Ventures certainly has an eye for disruption, judging by its grand hope that GiveDirectly can change how charitable dollars flow to poor countries. But it also operates very much in the spirit of effective altruism, looking to make grants for maximum impact. By that standard, its recent giant grants make a lot of sense.