Other Group

The Audacious Project

Website:

https://www.audaciousproject.org/

Formation:

2018

Type:

Grant-giving project

The Audacious Project is a project of the TED Foundation which funds organizations intended to catalyze positive large-scale social impacts. Many of the groups it funds have left-of-center policy goals, particularly related to environmentalism and social justice.

From its founding in 2018 to 2020, the Audacious Project spent almost $2 billion. [1] Its funding comes almost exclusively from non-profits, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Audacious Project claims to have no focus beyond positive social impacts; it considers “all issue areas.” There is no limit or range to its grant sizes. [2]

History

In 2010, TED launched the TED Prize, an annual grant of $100,000, and eventually of $1 million. In 2018, TED revamped TED Prize as the Audacious Project, which provides grants to more than one organization per year and at far larger levels. [3]

Grant Process

The Audacious Project raises money for organizations through a process that has been described as an “IPO for nonprofits.” Its designers argued that traditional philanthropic fundraising was inefficient because organizations must request funds from multiple donors individually; the Audacious Project mitigates this issue by bringing dozens of large donors together for a single private presentation. [4]

Grants

For its 2021-2022 cohort, the Audacious Project spent $920 million on grants to nine organizations: Glasswing International, a mental health support group; the Center for Tech and Civic Life, an election administration group; Code for America, a group which uses programming to improve the efficiency of the social safety net; the International Refugee Assistance Program; Noora Health, a healthcare group based in India and Bangladesh; Tenure Faculty, a group which fights for the legal rights of Native Americans to establish more nature preserves; the Woodwell Climate Research Center; Myagro, a financial management system for small West African farmers; [5] and Climate Electric, a group which supports electric vehicles and raised $300 million between the Audacious Project and the Climate Leadership Initiative. [6]

For its 2020-2021 cohort, the Audacious Project spent $459 million [7] in grants exclusively for non-partisan philanthropic groups, like Project Ceti, which is attempting to decode whale noises, and the One Acre Fund, which invests in African farms. [8]

In the 2019-2020 cohort, the Audacious project mostly supported non-partisan groups, but also gave funds to the Center for Police Equity, which attempts to use data science to eliminate alleged racial bias in policing. Likewise, the 2018-2019 cohort included the Environmental Defense Fund and the Bail Project. [9]

Funding

Funding for the Audacious Project Comes from at least 37 organizations, including many left-of-center grantmaking groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the Someland Foundation. [10]

TED does not provide any funding to the Audacious Project. [11]

The Audacious Project is “supported” by the Bridgespan Group, a non-profit consulting firm which has worked for many major left-of-center organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the Rockefeller Foundation. [12] Inside Philanthropy calls the Bridgespan Group “a major influence” on the Audacious Project. [13]

Prospective Audacious Project grantees are identified by the Science Philanthropy Alliance, a project of the left-of-center fiscal sponsorship nonprofit New Venture Fund. [14]

Criticism

Tate Williams at Inside Philanthropy has criticized the Audacious Project for following a trend of “shoehorning social change into the realm of entrepreneurship,” which often leads to the celebration of “big ideas and individual visionaries” over progress. Williams argues that largescale problems are complex and require incremental progress across numerous organizations, while a Silicon Valley-style approach to philanthropy prioritizes unrealistic moonshots often based on charismatic leaders. [15]

Part of this approach is a reliance on “big bets” in philanthropy, of which the Bridgespan Group is a proponent. Critics, like William and Flora Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer, have criticized single large grants to nonprofits as cumbersome and inefficient. [16]

References

  1. [1] “A Year of Resilience + Adaptation.” Audacious Project. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://impact.audaciousproject.org/year-in-numbers. ^
  2. “FAQs.” U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.electionexcellence.org/faq. ^
  3. “FAQs.” U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.electionexcellence.org/faq. ^
  4. Williams, Tate. “The Audacity of TED: New Platform is Moving Big Money, But Does it Get Social Change Right?” Inside Philanthropy. April 15, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:P0IiCBuUdYkJ:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2018/4/15/the-audacity-of-ted-new-platform-is-moving-money-but-does-it-get-social-change-right+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ua. ^
  5. “Meet the 2021-2022 grantees.” Audacious Project. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.audaciousproject.org/grantees. ^
  6. [1] “Drive Electric and the Audacious Project announce historic $500 million milestone Live from the TED Countdown Summit.” Climateworks Foundation. October 12, 2021. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.climateworks.org/press-release/drive-electric-and-the-audacious-project-announce-historic-500-million-milestone-live-from-the-ted-countdown-summit/. ^
  7. “A Year of Resilience + Adaptation.” Audacious Project. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://impact.audaciousproject.org/year-in-numbers. ^
  8. “Meet the 2021-2022 grantees.” Audacious Project. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.audaciousproject.org/grantees. ^
  9. “Meet the 2021-2022 grantees.” Audacious Project. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.audaciousproject.org/grantees. ^
  10.  “Partners & Collaborators.” Audacious Project. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.audaciousproject.org/about. ^
  11. “FAQs.” U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.electionexcellence.org/faq ^
  12. “FAQs.” U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.electionexcellence.org/faq. ^
  13. Williams, Tate. “The Audacity of TED: New Platform is Moving Big Money, But Does it Get Social Change Right?” Inside Philanthropy. April 15, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:P0IiCBuUdYkJ:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2018/4/15/the-audacity-of-ted-new-platform-is-moving-money-but-does-it-get-social-change-right+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ua. ^
  14. “FAQs.” U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.electionexcellence.org/faq. ^
  15. [1] Williams, Tate. “The Audacity of TED: New Platform is Moving Big Money, But Does it Get Social Change Right?” Inside Philanthropy. April 15, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:P0IiCBuUdYkJ:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2018/4/15/the-audacity-of-ted-new-platform-is-moving-money-but-does-it-get-social-change-right+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ua. ^
  16. Williams, Tate. “The Audacity of TED: New Platform is Moving Big Money, But Does it Get Social Change Right?” Inside Philanthropy. April 15, 2018. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:P0IiCBuUdYkJ:https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2018/4/15/the-audacity-of-ted-new-platform-is-moving-money-but-does-it-get-social-change-right+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ua. ^
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