Insights from the Research Team

Seed funding early-stage nonprofits: An update to our thinking

Published on
Written by
Stephen Clare
Rachel Baxter
Share this story

Just as certain established nonprofits do hundreds of times more good than others, certain early-stage nonprofits have outsized potential. Since seed funding a new nonprofit can be the difference between it thriving or failing, funding a young organisation could be a very high-impact, albeit risky, giving strategy. After spending several months assessing the potential impact of supporting early-stage nonprofits, we have developed some new tools to evaluate startup nonprofits which we will incorporate into our regular cause area research. In this blog, we outline what we’ve learned and our thinking behind this decision.

Finding the best new nonprofits

Our Research team is always looking for new ways to find impactful organisations to recommend to our members. Last year, in collaboration with several members of our community, we spent some time looking into how we could evaluate opportunities to provide seed funding to early-stage nonprofits. We knew this approach had potential because such donations are highly leveraged - if a seed donation helps an impactful charity successfully scale, then it creates a new funding opportunity for a large pot of future funding that otherwise might have gone to a less impactful organisation.

Last year we worked with a small group of highly engaged Founders Pledge members to find a group of early-stage nonprofits that had the potential to become new, high-impact recommendations. After developing an appropriate framework for evaluating such opportunities, we sourced a longlist of promising opportunities from various partners. We narrowed this list down to three great organisations: two that work in low-income countries (Taimaka and Suvita), and a third (London YIMBY) which works in the UK. At a virtual event last November, these organisations pitched to a group of 10 Founders Pledge members. Following the event, a total of $90,000 was donated to support the scale-up of these highly promising organisations.

Our learnings

We found that evaluating and recommending seed-stage nonprofits requires a different approach than our regular cause area research. For example, since early-stage organisations change and grow quickly, having a long lag between starting our research process and presenting our recommendations to members doesn’t work very well. Still, we think the leverage argument for supporting some early-stage organisations is strong enough that we want to find ways to continue evaluating and recommending early-stage organisations.

Because the specific cause an organisation works on is a major driver of its potential impact, we currently don’t think it makes sense to go looking for early-stage organisations in particular. Instead, we’ll be applying the ideas and methods we developed for this project to evaluate more early-stage organisations in the course of our tried-and-true, cause area-focused research. This will allow us to consider a broader range of organisations in our research reports, and to find opportunities that other evaluators may overlook. We’ll also be considering these organisations for grants from our Funds.

Want to find out more?

If you’re a Founders Pledge member and you’d like to learn more about this project, the organisations we recommended, or our future plans, I’d love to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at and I’ll be in touch.

Stephen Clare


Stephen joined Founders Pledge in 2019. Previously he was a Program Analyst for the United Nations Development Programme in Rwanda. He has also worked on climate change projects with the UN in Panama and the Youth Climate Lab in Canada. Stephen has an M.Sc. from McGill University and a B.Arts.Sci. from McMaster University.

Rachel Baxter


Rachel is a Communications Writer at Founders Pledge. Before joining the team, Rachel was a copy editor and staff writer at the popular science news website IFLScience, where she wrote about everything from astronauts to dancing chimps. She has a degree in zoology from the University of Bristol and master’s degree in science communication from Imperial College London.