Investment Advice for World Changers


It doesn’t happen very often, maybe five times over the past 20-plus years, in one form or another I am asked by donors, foundations, and philanthropic organizations how they could best invest their limited funds.

Recently, it happened again.

World changers tend to be innovators in search of venture capital partners.  Hook up with innovators!

Two impressive and serious board members of a relatively small donor fund asked what I felt they should do with their limited capital to make the most difference possible. I loved their self-reflection and their willingness to engage and ask for an honest reaction.

Here’s what I told them they should do with their funds:

  1. INVEST IN INNOVATION. Look for organizations that are not afraid of risk for the sake of breakthrough moments, opportunities and seasons. World changers tend to be innovators in search of venture capital partners.  Hook up with innovators!
  2. GO BIG. Simply because your funds seem small is no reason to invest in what is small or smaller. Look for approaches, strategies and leaders who intend to move to scale as soon as possible, and put your money there. Consider a multi-year commitment of no less than three years.
  3. LOOK FOR AND EXPECT HIGH IMPACT. Smaller funders need to understand that, if focused, their relatively small investments can often lead to high impact results. Pre-development dollars, research funding, specialized staffing — all of these uses can result in surprising, high impact outcomes.


One final suggestion that I didn’t mention to my inquiring friends: once invested, tell everyone about your decision and your excitement over what will happen because of it. Sell your new partnership. Often your testimony will unearth more investors and serve to magnify the impact of your gift.

Photo: Copyright istock_lightzaber

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Larry James has provided executive leadership since joining CitySquare in 1994. Known in the Dallas faith, business, and media communities as a social entrepreneur and committed servant to the people (...)

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