Knowledge for Better Philanthropy

Overview

Bill Hewlett’s background as an engineer influenced his philanthropic approach and has inspired the foundation’s commitment to learn and improve, while supporting an ethos of learning and adaptation in the growing philanthropic sector.

The Hewlett Foundation seeks to support all foundations to achieve results with their giving, regardless of the issues they focus on. We view ourselves as citizens in a larger community of philanthropy and nonprofits. If we work together, learn from each other and from research about what works and what doesn’t, we can all make a bigger difference. We make grants to organizations that produce independent, high-quality knowledge about practical matters facing foundations. We support work ranging from academic centers to investigative journalism. We encourage a spirit of inquiry that promotes dialogue and debate.

Goals

Inform and improve funders’ thinking and decision-making through the creation and dissemination of independent, high-quality research about philanthropic practice.

Our Grantmaking

WINGS
for general operating support
Center for Evaluation Innovation
for Freedom Dreams in Philanthropy

Our Team

Jehan Velji 
Director
Amy Arbreton 
Evaluation Officer
Kathleen Badejo
Kathleen Badejo 
Program Associate
Neha Singh Gohil
Neha Singh Gohil 
Communications Officer
 @nehasgohil
José Larios 
Program Fellow
Leeanne Oue 
Grants Officer

Learn More

In the early 2000s, we began grantmaking in this area by supporting basic infrastructure for the field of philanthropy as well as knowledge about philanthropic practice. We provided seed funding for organizations such as the Bridgespan Group, Center for Effective Philanthropy, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. These organizations and many others that we fund are now considered mainstays of the field, providing practical, research-based guidance to a broad range of practitioners.

In 2013, the first formal and independent evaluation of our strategy affirmed that our grantees were producing high-quality and useful research. Yet, there were gaps in the grantee portfolio with respect to audiences, methods, and distribution channels. In response, we: refined our strategy and expanded our grantmaking to encompass a more diverse portfolio of grantees and to represent more diverse research methodologies; re-focused on organizations whose research and communications support the practical needs of staffed foundations; and took more steps to actively measure and understand whether the work we are supporting is in fact influencing philanthropic practice.

In 2017 we commissioned a field scan about how U.S. foundations access and use knowledge about effective philanthropy, and in 2021 an updated field scan was published. Together, these studies point to the value of peer-to-peer learning, offer insight into the barriers and enablers of change, and identify diversity, equity, and inclusion as the leading topic of interest for philanthropic knowledge. These findings supported additional rounds of refinement to our grantmaking strategy, including funding for organizations creating knowledge about equitable grantmaking practices.

We hope the breadth and depth of research available will help make the field more effective, buoying the important charitable work done by all philanthropies.

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