A good example of a charity investing in technologies that could lead to a better society is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and their $22 Million investment in a company called FoldRx. Check out this article in the Boston Globe.
The article talks about how this investment could be a good example of how charity and private enterprise may better be able to collaborate together to undertake development efforts that will help society at large, but may not make sense on paper for bottom-line oriented investors. In this case the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation investment will serve to attract other investments that ultimately will allow for full funding of a research team that might not otherwise exist.
This is but one example of the type of venture philanthropy and social venture capital solutions that are possible when donors, charities, and philanthropists think in new and different ways, innovative ways.