Summary of Money Well Spent

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Nonprofit enterprises make up a multibillion-dollar sector of the U.S. economy, yet their funding decisions are often shots in the dark. They make a lot of mistakes. Investments that initially seemed inspired do not produce positive, measurable results. Paul Brest and Hal Harvey aim to change all that. Their “strategic philanthropy” process aligns goals, strategy and implementation, and includes accountability and measurements. Their book is full of pertinent, real-world examples that help to bring their points home. Although the guide is theoretical and abstract in parts, getAbstract recommends it to foundation directors and program officers who are tired of wasting their organizations’ money.

About the Authors

Paul Brest is the president of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and a former Stanford Law School professor. He is the co-author of Problem Solving, Decision Making, and Professional Judgment. Hal Harvey was a director of The Hewlett Foundation’s Environment Program and is now president of ClimateWorks and of the New-Land Foundation.



The Problem with Philanthropy

Charities provide immediate relief, while philanthropy focuses on problems’ fundamental causes. “Strategic philanthropy” requires money, perseverance and a results-oriented strategy. Currently, however, because of inadequate initial research, unrealistic expectations, poor implementation or bad luck, many philanthropic investments fail to produce the intended outcomes.

Even well-planned programs may fail. For example, before the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) launched its Fighting Back initiative to reduce drug abuse, it studied the problem for two years. Previous programs had concentrated on stopping the flow of drugs into communities; RWJF’s leaders decided instead to focus on coordinating government and nonprofit efforts, and involving communities. They received 300 applications and chose 15 that “linked strategies for prevention, early intervention, treatment and relapse prevention” in communities in which organizations had proven they could deliver services. Between 1988 and 2003, RWJF invested about $88 million in the project. Yet, after 10 years, an evaluation found no significant decrease in substance abuse. RWJF is unusual...

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