Changing systems through grantmaking requires a delicate dance between setting clear goals and making dynamic adjustments on the fly.
Achieving this balance requires a grantmaking strategy that is deeply engages the field, sets measurable outcomes, and responds dynamically to results. Because a grantmaking strategy culminates in cutting checks, we qualitatively and quantitatively analyze how grants generate social impact, and how different levels of investment and spending by activity generate crucial outcomes. When we complete a strategy, a foundation should have an executable plan in hand and a means to track progress.
Specific outcomes form the bedrock of a clear strategy. In 2008, Redstone partnered with the Hewlett Foundation’s Population Program to pilot outcome-driven grantmaking, a philanthropic approach that encourages clarity about goals and assumptions. Philanthropic strategy at the Hewlett Foundation and across the field has evolved a great deal since then, but the value of clear outcomes has not changed. Across all our work, we strive to achieve clarity about what an institution seeks to achieve with as much specificity as possible, balanced with a recognition that these outcomes can and do change.
Monitoring and evaluation enable dynamism. We help foundations define grantmaking strategies that are intended to change as the organization learns more and evolves. Like other grants, monitoring and evaluation investments can and should be prioritized. Monitoring and evaluation dollars are best invested on outcomes with the greatest uncertainty, the most potential to change, and can actually yield to rigorous research. When we work on grantmaking strategies, we ensure monitoring and evaluation activities are prioritized and inform grantmaking scenarios, and we also lead largescale, continuous evaluations to help funders respond to what they learn.
Capacity building enables effective execution and makes future grantmaking more effective. A grantmaking strategy is simply a way to get money to great organizations; it is those organizations and their strengths as enterprises that solve social problems. In every sector, we have engaged in capacity building work to make grant-funded institutions more effective, and help build fields with the capacity to make change possible. We work with leading nonprofits with budgets of a few million to several hundred million dollars to improve their strategies and organizations.