Fighting Poverty With Data

  • Prosperity
  • 1988

In the wake of the stock-market crash of 1987, a group of New York City hedge-fund savants led by Paul Tudor Jones came together to plan for what they anticipated would be a widespread economic meltdown. They created a nonprofit that would alleviate poverty in their home city using rigorous data tools. Although their gloomy expectations for the U.S. economy did not come to pass, the Robin Hood Foundation’s analytical method emerged as a potent new philanthropic model—wielding cost-benefit studies, analyses of return on dollars spent, and other business techniques to improve social outcomes.

In addition to new ways of doling out money, Robin Hood pioneered new ways of collecting it from donors. Its annual gala has turned into a spectacular fundraiser, setting records for single-event donations—for instance by raking in $101 million on one May 2015 evening. These successes have allowed Robin Hood to disburse more than $2 billion of poverty-fighting aid from 1988 to 2017. The foundation claims an average social return of $15 for every dollar in grants.

In 2015, the foundation announced a new venture to make charities more business-like. Its LeaderLink program will take finance professionals looking for a second career and train them to assume management positions at nonprofits.

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