Effective Philanthropy Group



The Effective Philanthropy Group was created to support the Hewlett Foundation’s ongoing work to improve its philanthropic practice and to help develop the field of philanthropy.

Philanthropy can help solve the great challenges of the twenty-first century—from climate change to poverty to universal access to education—but to do so we need sound, integrated strategies and effective, resilient nonprofit organizations. The Hewlett Foundation is committed to ensuring that its strategies and grantmaking are as effective as possible, and to helping the nonprofit organizations it supports be effective in every aspect of their work, from the strategies that guide them to their organizational health.

This group brings together related functions that have previously resided in different parts of the Foundation to create a hybrid operation responsible for both internal strategic functions and external grantmaking.

The Effective Philanthropy Group divides its work into five categories:

Strategy Support
The Group works to keep the Foundation’s outcome-oriented grantmaking dynamic and rigorous. This includes helping the Foundation’s programs to articulate clear objectives for what they hope to accomplish, design realistic strategies to achieve those objectives, assess their progress, and modify their strategies when necessary.

Evaluation is woven into the fabric of the Hewlett Foundation. The Foundation is interested in knowing whether our programs and our grantees are achieving their goals and uses evaluation to help teams learn what is working and adjust course. The Effective Philanthropy Group has developed a set of evaluation principles and a practice guide for designing, implementing, and using findings to inform practice and decisions. The group provides dedicated evaluation consultation to program staff during the full lifecycle of an evaluation. 

Organizational Learning
It is essential that we continuously learn from our experience in grantmaking  -- both the successes and the failures. The Effective Philanthropy Group leads the Foundation’s efforts to advance learning across our various programs, through peer discussions drawing on data and experience. We share these lessons with others and seek also to actively learn from others.

Organizational Effectiveness
Strong grantees are the engines that power the Foundation’s success. We are more likely to solve social and environmental problems in partnership with highly capable grantees. Yet many U.S. and internationally-based grantees routinely face organizational challenges, especially in light of the need to adapt to a changing world. Organizational effectiveness grants provide targeted support to help strengthen existing grantees’ strategies, leadership and organizational systems, better enabling them to do their work and enhance their impact.

Philanthropy Grantmaking
Through this program, the Hewlett Foundation makes grants to build a stronger philanthropic sector and support effective philanthropic practice so that all foundations are better equipped to make social and environmental change. To do this, we support two main strategies: (1) Knowledge for Better Philanthropy, and (2) Fund for Shared Insight.

While the Effective Philanthropy Group organizes its work into these five main areas, they work in concert and in close partnership with our programs. Ultimately, the Effective Philanthropy Group seeks to take generous impulses we all share and provide objective tools, insight, and support to make the most of our collective desire to make the world a better place.


We took 2013 to reflect on our work to-date and consider where we might take the program going forward to continue to support and strengthen our sector. This reflection process included third-party evaluations, consultations with funders, grantees, and other field experts.

To share these reflections openly with the field so that they might benefit others as well, we created a 14 minute video that includes perspectives from each of us, but also from former Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest, SSIR Managing Editor Regina Ridley, Center for Effective Philanthropy CEO Phil Buchanan, Lead Evaluators Paul Harder and Lucy Bernholz, and others.