Our Approach to Philanthropy
Each year, foundations and individuals in the U.S. donate about $300 billion per year to charitable causes. But while this figure seems large, it is very small when we consider our many social and environmental challenges, like climate change, global poverty, or the educational achievement gap. Our foundation believes that all donors have a responsibility to try to make good choices in our giving, but we realize that this is easier said than done.
Outcome Focused Grantmaking: A Hard-Headed Approach to Soft-Hearted Goals
The Hewlett Foundation makes grants to solve social and environmental problems. We practice what might be called "outcome-focused grantmaking." In other words, whenever possible, we try to specifically articulate the outcome we are trying to achieve. For example, the Foundation's Global Development Program seeks to double the income of people living on less than $2 a day. This is a highly ambitious goal, but by committing to something specific, we force ourselves to be rigorous in our grantmaking decisions.
We follow this approach whenever possible, while recognizing that in some areas-such as the performing arts-it can be particularly difficult to determine quantitative outcomes. Even without quantifiable outcomes, though, we believe that the discipline of trying to be specific helps us test our assumptions, understand if our grantmaking is aligned with the scale of a problem, and be as clear as possible about what we are trying to do.
Effective philanthropy goes beyond just focusing on outcomes, though. We believe it also requires clear communication and respectful relationships with grantees and others in the field, a willingness to be humble in the face of new evidence, a preference for transparency, and patience to stay the course over a long period of time.
The information available in this section offers further detail on our approach to philanthropy.