How to budget for risk

By Catherine Cheney 14 July 2017
Maya Winkelstein, executive director of the Open Road Alliance. Photo by: Bridgette Bugay

Every NGO faces roadblocks at one point or another. But SOIL, an organization working to address the sanitation problem in Haiti, was literally prevented from getting from point A to point B. Burning piles of debris blocked the road to its composting waste treatment site in Port-au-Prince.

They contacted Open Road Alliance, which directs grants to nonprofits and social good companies that run into barriers that could potentially shut down their operations. The private philanthropic initiative provided SOIL with $100,000 to allow the nonprofit aid organization to build a new composting facility on private land adjacent to the land the Haitian government had informally provided within the city’s solid waste dump. With this support, SOIL could scale up its two sanitation businesses and expand its services in the capital.

While Maya Winkelstein, executive director of Open Road Alliance, said she is proud of stories like this one, she tells most organizations she meets that she hopes she never has to get those kinds of calls from them. That is why the organization — together with partners including the Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Sachs, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — created a toolkit for grantees and grantors to think through risk assessment. She spoke with Devex about how NGOs can better mitigate and manage risk, so that when the unexpected occurs, they are not out of money to address the problem and in a place where their only option may be Open Road Alliance.

The conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.