MDRC in the News

A Venture-Philanthropy Pioneer Crusades for Better Charity Performance

The Chronicle of Philanthropy


Mario Morino would soon turn 70. For a blue-collar kid from Cleveland, he had done very well for himself. He had made a fortune in the software industry and given a lot of it away — about $40 million, he estimates. He had helped pioneer venture philanthropy, an approach to charitable giving modeled on venture capital. He had written a book called Leap of Reason, urging nonprofits “to create more meaningful, measurable good”…..

…..Morino’s belief that donors and nonprofits should become true partners, while recognizing the power imbalance between the two, shaped Leap of Reason. It’s core to the Leap community, too. Morino says grant makers and charities need to be more honest with one another, and they need to expect more from each other. “Funders should expect high performance for greater results, but they must help their grantee leaders build and strengthen their organizations to meet those expectations,” he says…..

……To be sure, none of this is entirely new. Consultants like Bridgespan and McKinsey, networks like Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and nonprofits like MDRC and GiveWell have preached about impact.

Even the federal government, beginning in the Obama years and continuing under President Trump, has steered hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that run programs that can show evidence of their effectiveness; this effort supported such nonprofits as Youth Villages and the Nurse-Family Partnership. Youth Villages uses counselors to help troubled youths in their homes instead of moving them to foster care or detention centers, while Nurse-Family Partnership sends specially trained nurses to visit first-time moms; both have been extensively vetted…..

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