The Tamer Fund for Social Ventures provides seed grants of up to $25,000 to nonprofit, for-profit, and hybrid early-stage social and environmental ventures. Social or environmental ventures are defined as those working to solve a social or environmental problem. In general, social and environmental for-profit ventures produce products and/or services that either focus on addressing the needs of low-income communities or customers with an explicit purpose of increasing the welfare of these groups, alleviate a market failure, and create significant public goods or benefits that are not wholly captured in the price charged by the business, or have attracted funding for the business by investors or grant makers who are seeking measurable social or environmental impacts.
Ventures must be led by Columbia University students, alumni, faculty or researchers, or be advised and have significant involvement by Columbia University faculty or researchers. There is no time limit after graduation for alumni to apply. The entire team need not be Columbia University affiliated; one founding member or significantly involved faculty or research advisor is sufficient. Please note that the venture’s only Columbia affiliation may not be someone from the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. If the venture has a Tamer Center affiliation, the venture must also have an additional Columbia University affiliation in order to be eligible for the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures. The University is committed to support all members of the Columbia community, including those formerly incarcerated, who are encouraged to apply to the fund. Learn more about related programs, such as the ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP) at Columbia Business School.
To be eligible for the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures, ventures must not have closed their seed funding round at the time of application. Current students may not enroll in the Investing in Social Ventures course in the same semester in which they apply to the fund for their venture. Preference will be given to ventures that have the potential to be financially self-sustaining in the longer term. This preference includes nonprofits that can be sustained by generating revenues via fee-for-service models, for example.
Typically, ventures can only apply once for funding from the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures. We strongly recommend current students take advantage of the courses offered at Columbia before applying to the fund (see Other Resources for Social Venture Teams for more information on available courses). We encourage you to apply when your application can clearly address the following questions:
- What is the intended social impact of the venture? How socially innovative is it? What is the potential to scale the venture? What metrics will be used to measure its success?
- What is the business model and how likely is it to succeed? (e.g.: Social Impact Business Model Canvas is a potential framework that can be used by applicants); and
- Has the venture already attracted needed resources, including a quality management team, advisors, customer/client or stakeholder connections, and other sources of funding?
Ventures will be evaluated using the following rubric, where each criterion is weighted equally: