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Big philanthropic bets have the power to change society for the better. In fact, the majority of the most successful nonprofit organizations and social movements over the past decades have had at least one $10M or greater philanthropic gift behind them. While supporting ambitious social change is the primary motivation for the large majority of philanthropists, 80-percent of their big bets go to traditional institutional giving such as universities and medical research. Why does this aspiration gap exist, and what can be done to close it?

William Foster is a partner and head of the consulting practice at The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. He has helped philanthropists structure some of the past decade’s biggest philanthropic bets on social change. William is a widely quoted thought leader on issues of philanthropy and social change and author of numerous articles on nonprofit funding and philanthropy, including “Making Big Bets for Social Change,” published in Stanford Social Innovation Review in November of 2015.


About the Speaker

William Foster

William Foster

William Foster is a Bridgespan partner, head of the consulting practice, and active thought leader on issues of philanthropy and social change.

Since joining the firm in 2002, William has supported the success of some of the sector’s leading nonprofits such as Youth Villages and Communities in Schools. He has a particular focus on the diligence, structuring and supports required for philanthropic “Big Bets.” William has helped the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a number of individual donors to craft some of the sector’s largest gifts.

Since 2013, William has worked closely with Bridgespan’s Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Mumbai offices to guide the overall consulting practice.

Based on his clients’ experiences, William has dedicated himself to research on the topics of philanthropic “Big Bets” and nonprofit funding models. In November of 2015, the Stanford Social Innovation Review will publish “Making Big Bets for Social Change.” Among his other publications are: “When You’ve Made Enough to Make a Difference” (Harvard Business Review, 2011), “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models” (Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009), “How Nonprofits Get Really Big” (Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2007), and “Should Nonprofits Seek Profits?” (Harvard Business Review, 2005).

William has served as the executive director of the Jacobson Family Foundation, an outcomes-oriented funder making grants to support educational excellence, equality, and Jewish continuity in the United States and Israel.

Prior to joining Bridgespan, William worked at Bain & Co. He received his BA from Harvard College and his MBA from Stanford University where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar. He lives outside of Boston with his wife Rachel and their four wonderful children.