June 3, 2021
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Effective Philanthropy Program seeks to strengthen the capacity of its grantees, and philanthropy in general, to achieve their goals and benefit the common good. One of the program's main strategies—Knowledge for Better Philanthropy—promotes more effective philanthropy by funding organizations that create and disseminate research-based knowledge about philanthropic practice. This includes support for academic centers, investigative journalism, consulting firms, philanthropy-serving organizations, and others who develop and share knowledge products about philanthropic practice. In 2020, the Hewlett Foundation commissioned Engage R+D and Equal Measure to partner on an evaluation examining how funders find and use knowledge to influence philanthropic practice, with a focus on what role organizations funded in the Knowledge for Better Philanthropy strategy play in that process. This resulting report, How Funders Seek and Use Knowledge to Influence Philanthropic Practice, builds on a 2016 study (released in early 2017) also commissioned by the Foundation entitled Peer to Peer: At the Heart of Influencing More Effective Philanthropy. The earlier report examined how staff and board members at U.S.-based foundations find and use practice knowledge, revealing that funders are more likely to seek knowledge from peers and colleagues than from the large volume of knowledge content available from organizations, associations, and publications. This evaluation follows up on the scan in 2016 and adds new findings. As the world changes around us, this study asks how funders are drawing from a range of knowledge sources in the ongoing pursuit of more effective philanthropy. The answers shed light on what information funders are seeking, which sources are most influential in creating change, and whose voices are included in the process. This executive summary highlights key findings from this study. Further detail on these and other findings from our survey of funders andfollow-up interviews can be found in the full report.