January 15, 2016

Donor Values and Beliefs: Sample Statements

This is part of a toolkit on how to get more serious about your philanthropy. For an introduction, click here. For other sections, see the bottom of the page.


Mission or Core Values Donor Intent or Guiding Principles
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

To promote the well-being of humanity by focusing on the most serious problems facing society, where risk capital, responsibly invested, may make a difference over time, and on sustaining and improving institutions that make positive contributions to society.

The Hewlett Foundation is concerned primarily with solving social and environmental problems. This requires that staff defines program objectives, grants, and other activities in terms of problems to be solved; identifies indicators of progress and criteria for evaluating success; and that the foundation is prepared to stay the course.

The solutions to serious problems are seldom known with anything close to certainty. The foundation must therefore be prepared to experiment and take risks in its philanthropic activities. This, too, entails clear objectives and measures of success, without which staff cannot know how the risk eventuated. It also requires a willingness to acknowledge and learn from failures.

Grantee institutions—nonprofit organizations and, in some cases, government entities—are essential partners in achieving the foundation’s mission. This explains the high proportion of the foundation's grants budget allocated to general operating support. It also implies a concern not only for the health of individual organizations, but also for the fields in which they operate.

The James Irvine Foundation

The Irvine Foundation is dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society.

The guiding principle in all the foundation’s activities is the idea of expanding opportunity, whether by helping youth navigate critical transitions in their lives, by fostering creativity and nurturing a rich cultural environment, or by improving decision making on critical issues facing California today and into the future.

Four core principles guide Irvine’s grantmaking activities:

  • Focus on place
  • Invest in organizations
  • Build leadership
  • Engage beyond grants
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.

Beliefs: (i) humankind can improve, (ii) there is a universal set of human rights, (iii) an independent and strong civil society is essential, (iv) societies are at their best when individuals are well-educated, trained, and supported by government, (v) people and nations should work together, (vi) more developed nations have a responsibility, and (vii) every generation has a stewardship responsibility.

How it works: (i) embracing complexity, (ii) being willing to take risks, (iii) supporting creativity, (iv) taking the long view, (v) creating and strengthening institutions, (vi) being optimistic, (vii) promoting diversity of viewpoint, (viii) being a convener, catalyst, and enabler, and (ix) exhibiting fairness and transparency.

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