As I announced in my column yesterday, I am collaborating with the Chronicle of Philanthropy to host a repository for non-finalist Social Innovation Fund applications. The 11 finalist applications are available on the Fund’s website along with the comments of reviewers.
Why is the Repository needed? My primary interest in the publication of Fund applications has to do with my belief that the applications represent a treasure trove of information about the practice of growth capital funding. Since 70% of all applications to the Fund were rated Strong (the second highest rating) or better by at least one review panel, we know that in many cases non-finalist applicants presented compelling arguments in their favor. In fact, in a number of cases, non-finalist applications received higher ratings than some finalists during first round reviews.
Another important reason to publish non-finalist applications is that they represent a potential “secondary market” for other funders. Take the application by Social Venture Partners. I would guess that the application scored well. There may very well be an interesting opportunity for a private funder to step in to support their $1.1 million grant request. If this were to happen, in addition to supporting a well thought out initiative, the funder may in fact help Social Venture Partners return to the Social Innovation Fund application process next year with a stronger application that includes evidence pointing to the success of their approach. Who knows, maybe SVP would be able to point to more compelling evidence of effective implementation and short term results than some of the finalist applicants.
This sort of secondary market is of significant interest to the Social Innovation Fund. One of the reasons I believe that they have held back on publishing non-finalist applications only due to public comments encouraging this approach is because they have spoken of their interest in the development of a secondary market for applications.
In an interview with Marta Urquilla, a senior advisor to the Fund, she told me, “We can only fund a limited number of applicants. That doesn’t mean the non-finalists don’t have merit. We think they’d be of interest to other funders… There are important questions here about forming secondary markets.”
In my interview with Fund director Paul Carttar, I urged Paul to consider releasing non-finalist applications. While he declined to do so, citing promises they had made to applicants regarding confidentiality, Paul did say, "How we leverage this universe of applicants is a key question because they are a real asset… The goal of the Fund is not just to fund great organizations. What this is really all about is changing how capital is allocated in the philanthropic sector.”
So I want to reiterate my call, supported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, for all non-finalist applicants to submit their application for publication. While the Fund has said they will not publish the applications themselves, Ms. Urquilla did tell me that applicants own their applications, are free to publish them and the Fund encourages them to do so.
Directory of Non-Finalist Applications (updated as they are received)
To submit a Social Innovation Fund application to the Repository, please e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to discuss your submission, please e-mail me at email@example.com.