What Moneyball and Facebook’s IPO Should Remind Philanthropy (and a Fear)

Moneyball successfully challenged 150 years of how business is done on the diamond. Facebook’s IPO shows the value of young people leading major innovation.

My fear is that both are seen as once in a generation breakthroughs and that each relied on a 1 in a million leader with superhuman insight.

That would be wrong. Both stories are actually quite common.

The same youthful intelligence, audacious leadership, and impact is happening everyday across the nonprofit sector from a new generation of leaders. On a smaller scale, but it’s happening — and that’s my point:

The difference is not in the quality of the idea or abilities of the leader. The difference is between the funding ecosystem in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors — exacerbated when young and unproven.

If the latter was supported with more money, more risk, and more attention, we’d be celebrating far more social change breakthroughs by a generation uniquely positioned to create them.

With increasing inequality over the last few decades, the irony is that it’s far riskier not to support new ideas from young leaders with fresh perspectives. The real risk is using these challenging times as a reason to doubt the relevance of new approaches and to continue placing just the same safe bets (or less bets).

(Not to belabor the point but something like 1 out of 5 movies make a majority of Hollywood’s profits and many lose money. Studios have to take five swings to hit one out of the park (pun intended). What would our communities look like if philanthropy had a similar approach?)

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