Hewlett Foundation: Grants for Global Development

OVERVIEW: In its global development giving, Hewlett prioritizes women’s empowerment, greater government transparency and accountability, and more effective policymaking processes.  

IP TAKE: Hewlett explicitly values grassroots groups in global development, but its biggest funding dollars tend to support larger NGOs with which it often has longstanding commitments. Those commitments can make it difficult for newcomers to secure funding.

PROFILE: Established in 1966, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation was founded by engineer and entrepreneur William R. Hewlett and his wife, Flora Lamson Hewlett, with their eldest son, Walter Hewlett. The foundation is a nonpartisan organization that prioritizes the advancement of education for all, the environment, developing countries, the health and economic well-being of women, performing arts, strengthening Bay Area communities, and make the philanthropy sector more effective.

One of seven current programs, its Global Development and Population program, seeks “to help people around the world develop their capabilities as individuals, citizens, workers, and parents.” The program dedicates its efforts to expanding "women’s [...] economic choices, amplifying citizen participation, and improving policymaking through evidence." Hewlett also advocates for women’s reproductive health rights, which we look at separately here.

In the women’s empowerment space, Hewlett supports organizations that work to expand women’s choices as they relate to having children, earning a living, and how they choose to raise their families. The foundation also funds groups that advocate for the advancement of women’s economic opportunities in least developed countries around the world.

In seeking to persuade the governments of developing and middle-income countries to increase transparency and accountability, the foundation's Citizen Voices and Evidence-Informed Policy initiative, the second part of its Global Development program, seeks to make governments more responsive to the widespread needs of its citizens. This is an ambitious goal in countries where corruption is the norm and evidence-based policymaking is rare. 

Overall, Hewlett tends to fund well-established organizations in the global development space. Grantseekers should note that this is a foundation that deeply values better data, so it funds a lot of research, assessment, and data collection projects. 

While the Hewlett Foundation’s largest related grants do tend to favor the bigger players in this field, it also funds smaller organizations. The foundation's median grant size is about $125,000, but grants can run into the millions. Hewlett has both the capacity and the will to fund both one-off projects and organizational operating support, and often sticks with its grantees for many years.

Hewlett gives out hundreds of grants a year. To get a good sense of its global development grants, dig into its excellent grants database, which can be searched various ways.  

The foundation regularly posts calls for proposals, but it is also proactive in its grantmaking, and reaches out to potential grantees that are doing good work in sync with its goals. While Hewlett does accept unsolicited letters of inquiry, it rarely funds projects in response to those LOIs. But it does look at the inquiries and its staff often engages with grantseekers who are referred by existing grantees.

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