TED raises $280M to help nonprofits battle climate change, online sex abuse and more

TED is unveiling the eight participants in the second year of The Audacious Project, a program aimed at helping nonprofits pursue their most ambitious goals.

TED’s Chris Anderson told reporters yesterday that this is “an attempt to solve one of the most annoying things about the nonprofit world” — the fact that organizations have to raise money “one bloody meeting at a time.” And since often they can’t get all the money they need, “they end up cutting back their dreams.”

So The Audacious Project (which TED runs with support from social impact advisor The Bridgespan Group) asks nonprofits to lay out their “biggest dream” on the TED stage. Comparing this to an IPO, Anderson said this is an “Audacious Project Offering designed to attract — not investment to make money out of shares, but investment to make change.”

Anderson also contrasted this approach with traditional philanthropy, which has been criticized with the question, “Why should rich people get to decide what to do about the world?”

“You can argue about that topic all day, but The Audacious Project has been specifically designed from the ground up to avoid that criticism,” he said. “This is a scenario where anyone in the world can apply” to participate, with the winners selected based on “what actually has a chance of working” and “how effective are the leaders.”

TED says the eight recipients were chosen from more than 1,500 applications. And even before taking the stage tonight, The Audacious Project helped them raise $280 million in funding.

Anderson said he doesn’t expect the funding to increase “massively” after the nonprofits take the stage, “but we think that in terms of the number of people engaged, it will increase a lot.” And that could also translate into more fundraising down the road.

Here are this year’s recipients:

  • The Center for Policing Equity plans to use data-capture technology to bring measurable behavior change to police departments.
  • Educate Girls is partnering with 35,000 volunteers to persuade parents and elders in remote Indian communities to register girls who are out of school and support them so they stay enrolled.
  • The Institute for Protein Design is trying to design new proteins to create new medicines and materials.
  • The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is working to make plants more effective at capturing and storing carbon in their roots.
  • The END Fund plans to bring treatment for parasitic worms to 100 million people, while also providing access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene education.
  • The Nature Conservancy aims to protect 4 million square kilometers of the ocean by buying up the debt of 20 island and coastal nations — in exchange for government commitments to protect their marine areas.
  • Thorn is building tech products to fight child sexual abuse online, for example by making it easier to locate the victims.
  • Waterford UPSTART aims to help 250,000 children prepare for kindergarten by providing proactive family coaching and personalized learning.