Bridgespan 2020 Annual Report
Jeffrey L. Bradach
Managing Partner & Co-founder
Thomas J. Tierney
Chairman & Co-founder
What a year 2020 was. It laid bare inequities and injustices while also opening our eyes to possible pathways to a better future. Bridgespan, like so many organizations, struggled to find the right balance between helping leaders respond to urgent needs—like addressing food insecurity as it skyrocketed in the pandemic or adapting service models to be virtual—and, at the same time, build back better so that we have a more equitable, just, and sustainable world in the future. Both kinds of work are crucial, and we feel honored and humbled to serve so many extraordinary people and organizations that have met this moment with such impact, care, and hope for the future.
This annual report shares the range of activities Bridgespan has undertaken in 2020. While much of the focus was on helping organizations navigate the compounding crises of 2020, there was an equal measure of work focused on long-time systemic inequities such as illuminating racial barriers to philanthropic capital in the United States, addressing the health care needs of tribal populations in India, and empowering women to support the development of other women in Africa. Like so many we serve, Bridgespan’s work is a continuous interplay between making better what is while imagining and working towards what can be.
We are deeply grateful to the clients, colleagues, and funders whose trust in Bridgespan propels our work, to our teams for their passion and commitment, and to the many individuals across these groups who continued to work tirelessly for a better world even as they were directly affected by the challenges of this period.
As we cross into our third decade, we remain deeply rooted in the question that has animated our work from the beginning: How can we best contribute to make the world more equitable, just, and sustainable? We commit to do all we can to make it so.
Tom and Jeff
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Clients & Collaborators
In 2020, The Bridgespan Group had the privilege to work with over 300 mission-driven organizations, leaders, movements, philanthropists, investors, and foundations through Advisory, Leading for Impact®, and Bridgespan Leadership Accelerator engagements to help scale their social impact. A selection of these clients is included below.
What Our Clients Say
"Bridgespan has a unique ability to bridge theory and practice - to help clients shape and convert big ideas into pragmatic plans. One of their unique strengths is an ability to bring strong analytics - and passion and heart - to helping clients solve big problems. In my experience, Bridgespan has the most talented team of philanthropic advisors in our sector."
President, Ford Foundation
"Bridgespan strikes a rare balance in their client engagement work to drive impact. They are brutal in the rigor of their analysis and utterly humane in their execution."
President & CEO, Independent Sector
"Bridgespan has been a critical partner for 15 years, helping the Harlem Children's Zone turn ideas into innovative programs to help thousands of children and families. Much of what we have done has been without precedent. Bridgespan was invaluable in helping us move through uncharted territory. Through their thoughtful counsel, we rolled out initiatives that are now models for organizations across the country."
President, Harlem Children’s Zone
"For more than a decade, Bridgespan has been an invaluable partner in helping to make the critically important work of UnidosUS and our affiliate network more focused, more strategic, and more impactful. The caliber of their staff and the quality of their analysis and thinking have been consistently exceptional.”
President & CEO, UnidosUS
"The Bridgespan Group has been an outstanding partner to the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Blue Meridian Partners for the past 20 years. As a result of our partnership, we and our grantees are making smarter strategic decisions and producing greater impact for our nation’s most disadvantaged children and youth."
CEO, Blue Meridian Partners
President & CEO, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
“In my two years of leading the Tribal Health Collaborative, Piramal Swasthya's partnership with Bridgespan has been a highlight. Their contribution in shaping Anamaya, the Tribal Health Collaborative is immense, both from a strategic point of view as well as networking and forging partnerships. They played the role of a true partner and took ownership of Anamaya. The entire Bridgespan team worked in perfect sync with our internal team as a single unit to develop the strategy and operating model of Anamaya. My interactions with each member of their team was enriching as they brought a blend of national and international experiences while keeping the tribal beneficiary in the centre. Their value system aligned perfectly with the value system of Piramal Swasthya and played a major role in the launch of Anamaya. Today, as we embark on the next phase of Anamaya, we look forward to a stronger partnership with Bridgespan.”
Senior Vice President & Head, Public Health Relations, Piramal Swasthya Management and Research Institute
*Most client quotes collected as part of Bridgespan’s 20th anniversary report project.
Stories of Impact
Publications & Media
We collaborate with a broad range of social sector leaders to develop and share ideas, tools, and insights that can drive breakthrough social impact.
Our Top Articles of 2020
Overcoming the Racial Bias in Philanthropic Funding
Social change leaders can create more investment opportunities that can transform the world by following these guidelines
Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in funding for leaders of color leave impact on the table
This research, from Echoing Green and Bridgespan, lays bare the racial disparity in today’s funding environment and argues that population-level impact cannot happen without funding more leaders of color
Making Sense of Uncertainty: Nonprofit scenario planning during a crisis
Nonprofits can navigate uncertainty with greater confidence by building scenario plans that can help them continue to pursue their missions
Guiding a Giving Response to Anti-Black Injustice
This memo offers funders potential paths to invest in organizations and movements within the Black-led racial justice ecosystem. It provides principles for giving and highlights priority investment areas and example organizations within those areas
Memo: Opportunities for Philanthropic Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
Bridgespan’s perspectives on where to productively channel resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic
Philanthropic Collaboratives in India: The Power of Many
An in-depth look at why and when Indian philanthropists and other stakeholders collaborate, as well as how they work together to overcome the barriers to amplifying social impact
Field Building for Population-Level Change
Four key principles for funders to embrace to create conditions for field builders that accelerate their impact
Research Brief: The Landscape of Large-Scale Giving by African Philanthropists
Interviews with experts and analysis of 63 major gifts of $1 million or more made in five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
Conferences & Webinars
was the most popular piece on the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2020
Bridgespan in the News
Quotes Bridgespan partner Michael Etzel and Bridgespan consultant Willie Thompson and cites their ImpactAlpha piece, “How to Unlock the Value of Diversity and Inclusion in Impact Investing.”
Video interview with Bridgespan Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Raël Nelson James, that discusses navigating discussions of race at work. Hosted by Stephanie Sy.
Features Bridgespan and Echoing Green’s research on racial equity in funding, as well as Echoing Green President and Bridgespan Board member Cheryl Dorsey.
In 2020, we transitioned to fully remote working, furthered our racial equity journey, welcomed two new Fellows and three new Board members, and strengthened our organization with a wave of new talent – all via Zoom.
Bridgespan Goes Virtual
Like many other organizations around the world, Bridgespan went suddenly remote at the beginning of March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, the thought was that the change would be temporary, and staff would return to offices in a few weeks. Little did we know at the time we would be working virtually for the remainder of 2020, well into 2021, and perhaps into 2022. Once it became clear that staff would not be returning to our offices any time soon, Bridgespan immediately got to work on figuring out how to successfully set up Bridgespanners to work from afar and support those on our team being directly affected by 2020’s compounding challenges. Despite these operational adjustments, we continued to serve and support our clients, many of whom were experiencing significant challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Bridgespan’s culture and people have always fueled our mission and propelled our impact. As it soon became clear that returning to the office safely would not be possible in the near-term, Bridgespanners quickly found creative ways to keep our culture alive – via virtual costume contests, surprise birthday celebrations via Zoom, processing spaces for world events, and socially distanced, masked meet-ups. Participating in these sometimes challenging, sometimes joyful moments together kept us connected during a time of such isolation and global devastation, strengthening our ability to team with one another and advise and collaborate with many of the world’s extraordinary social change leaders.
Deepening our Racial Equity Efforts
Racial equity is central to Bridgespan’s work and mission. We are on our journey, doing the vital learning and self-reflection required to center racial equity in our work, recognizing that we have not always understood how to actually center racial equity in all that we do. In 2016, building on more than a decade of work of the equity champions within our own organizations—primarily staff of color—Bridgespan elevated racial equity as inextricably linked to our intended impact and began to invest in increasing the ability of all staff to bring a racial equity mindset to their work. This led us to develop a theory of change based on four types of equity investments, which has become the basis for our racial equity strategy.
As the US grappled more deeply with issues of race in 2020, Bridgespan recommitted itself to the criticality of this work. In May 2020, Bridgespan collaborated with Echoing Green to publish an article on disparities in philanthropic funding for leaders of color, paired with a reflection by our Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Jeff Bradach, on Bridgespan’s own racial equity journey. In June 2020, following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, Bridgespan posted a statement in solidarity with Black people, outlining the work our organization seeks to do to fight structural racism and white supremacy culture. In August 2020, a collaboration with ABFE led to the creation of a philanthropic guide for responding to anti-Black injustice.
Over the year, the substance of much of Bridgespan’s direct work with clients also reflected the disparities, past and present, brought into sharp relief by the year’s events. Nonprofits and philanthropies sought assistance on unlocking supports and ensuring that urgent relief was reaching those communities most impacted by COVID-19, largely communities of color, as well as on how to seize the moment to drive systemic change.
Meet the New Board Members
Partner, Bain & Company
Kara Gruver is a director at Bain and served as the Boston office head for six years. She joined the firm in 1986 and in 1992 became one of the founding members of the Chicago office, spending three years investing in the local clients and team to create a scale presence in the market. Before stepping into leadership of the Boston office, Kara served as the head of the North American consumer products practice. Kara now is the head of Bain’s talent development and is managing its transformation as the head of the Full Potential Office.
Kara has spent the last 10 years focused on serving clients in the consumer products and retail industries. Kara serves as a strategic business advisor to her clients, supporting them on a wide range of issues including corporate strategy, pricing and trade strategy, M&A, innovation, supply chain restructuring, and organizational effectiveness. Kara has developed deep expertise working with a broad set of clients across multiple industries on operating model, decision effectiveness, and innovation. She recently published an article in Harvard Business Review on “Innovation in Turbulent Times.”
Kara holds an MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia where she was selected a Shermet Scholar. She graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College with a BA in Computer Science.
Founder, Lingo Ventures
Greg Gunn is a leader in using technology, innovation, and venture capital investing to promote progress in education. As co-founder of Lingo Ventures, he makes early-stage investments in education and workforce technologies.
In 2000, Mr. Gunn also co-founded Wireless Generation (now called Amplify), a leading educational software company serving millions of students annually with groundbreaking assessment and instruction products. As president of Wireless Generation, Mr. Gunn built the company’s product development, sales and analytics divisions and launched the award-winning mCLASS® platform.
Mr. Gunn is a trustee of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Education Leaders of Color, and FHI 360. He serves as an expert-in-residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab and is on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Mr. Gunn was named one of Fast Company magazine’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” in 2012.
Mr. Gunn holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Chicago. He obtained a Master of Science in Management and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
Senior Advisor and Emeritus Trustee, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Rebecca W. Rimel is senior advisor and an emeritus trustee of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Rimel joined Pew in 1983 as health program manager, became executive director five years later, and served as president and chief executive officer of The Pew Charitable Trusts from 1994 to 2020.
Prior to joining Pew, Rimel built an exemplary career in health care. She was the first nurse to hold a faculty position at the University of Virginia’s (UVA) medical school, serving as an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery. She was head nurse of the emergency department at the University of Virginia Hospital and has authored numerous scientific articles on head injury. The Rebecca W. Rimel Dean’s Chair in the UVA School of Nursing was established by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2020 to honor her contributions during her 37-year tenure. She is the recipient of the Distinguished Nursing Alumni Award from UVA and the UVA Women’s Center Distinguished Alumni Award. She was also awarded a Kellogg National Fellowship, a four-year professional enrichment opportunity for emerging leaders.
Rimel earned a Bachelor of Science degree, with distinction, from the UVA School of Nursing and a Master of Business Administration from James Madison University. She serves on the board of directors for Becton, Dickinson and Co., DWS Mutual Funds, and BioTelemetry Inc. She also is a fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, along with its prestigious Wistar Association.
We Welcomed Two Fellows
Ann Mei Chang
April 2020 - September 2021
Fellowship Goal: To develop a framework for operationalizing and funding innovation for social impact.
Fellowship Publication: “Beyond Survival: Five Keys to Unlock Social Innovation Amid the COVID-19 Crisis”, Bridgespan.org, May 2020
September 2020 - September 2021
Fellowship Goal: To inspire more family offices to grow their impact investments, especially catalytic investments in market-creating ventures, by taking on higher perceived risk or lower expected returns in pursuit of impact.
Fellowship Publication: “Back to the Frontier: Investing that Puts Impact First”, Bridgespan.org, April 2021