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Money Well Spent

Of all the foundation presidents active today, Paul Brest of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is one of the most respected. He has written extensively on evaluation and accountability, most recently in his book, Money Well Spent, co-authored with Hal Harvey. In a recent conversation, I asked him how his foundation balances the need to come up with significant dollars to do effective evaluation with the desire to put as much money as possible into supporting programming and mission-related activities. Brest replied that this is the wrong way to frame the question. Foundation dollars are intended to drive towards impact. Evaluation is critical in helping to achieve that goal. It is not a separate add-on expenditure, but fundamental to the grant because it is crucial to know if the goals of the effort are being achieved. There is no point in funders making grants, he suggests, if they do not know in some kind of objective way if they are being successful. Indeed, Money Well Spent was written partly to change the paradigm in funder thinking that evaluation takes money away from program funding. Both are needed if outcomes are to be achieved.

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