Menlo Park
United States


The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

May 14, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
Menlo Park
United States

A nonpartisan, private charitable foundation that advances ideas and supports institutions to promote a better world.

Mission and Purpose

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's philanthropic approach flows directly from the ethos and values of their founders. They are committed to acting honestly and with integrity, in accordance with the law and the highest standards of practice, and to treating all those with whom they deal fairly and respectfully.[1] Their mission is to support efforts to advance education for all, preserve the environment, improve lives and livelihoods in developing countries, promote the health and economic well-being of women, support vibrant performing arts, strengthen Bay Area communities and make the philanthropy sector more effective.[2]

The Hewlett Foundation seeks to acheive their charitable goals by:

  1. Bringing about meaningful, socially beneficial change in the fields in which they work.
  2. Pursue change by tackling defined problems in a pragmatic, nonpartisan manner.
  3. Focus on outcomes in order to maximize the effectiveness of our support.
  4. Remain committed to openness, transparency, and learning.
  5. Work in a collaborative fashion based on mutual respect; treating grantees, co-funders, and other colleagues as partners in problem-solving
  6. Promote the values and practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workforce, culture, and grantmaking.
  7. Approach their role in philanthropy and their tresponsibilities to society with humility and respect for others
  8. Maintain a lean staff with considerable autonomy; a commitment to simple, flexible procedures; and a cooperative working relationship between the board, staff, and the president, who is the leader of the foundation[3]

Origins and Development 

The Hewlett Foundation was established in 1966 by William and Flora Hewlett who shared a deep, persistent and personal belief in a life of charity and philanthropy. The Foundation was created to formalize their charitable impulses with a loose charter mandating only a “perpetual existence … as a charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational foundation for the purpose of promoting the wellbeing of mankind.” 1966 to 1972 are termed the “living room years” of the foundation, when family members met at home and together decided how the Hewlett Foundation could do the most good. In 1972 sons William A. Hewlett and James S. Hewlett joined the board of directors and, in 1974 the foundation hired its first executive director, John May. Under May's direction, the Hewlett Foundation operated as a conservatively managed hybrid of family philanthropy and community trust, focussing on grantmaking through “networks” rather than “categories.” The establishment of David P. Gardner as president in 1993 marked a turning point. Gardner brought both breadth and focus to the programs during a period of rapid growth in the foundation’s assets, which increased to more than $2 billion, and annual grantmaking, which increased from $35 million in 1993 to $84 million in 1998. The foundation broadened its scope of funding, turning from environmental efforts mostly in California, to encompass the entire Western United States and Canada. The foundation also broadened its education funding to emphasize K-12 reform and developed a program on U.S.-Latin American relations. Larry Kramer became president in 2012 and, since that time, he has sought to maintain continuity with the ethos of Bill and Flora Hewlett. Kramer describes the foundation's current strategy as "an ongoing conversation with our past—looking at the problems Bill and Flora cared about and the reasons they cared about them, and reshaping our work to remain continuous with those values and concerns in changing circumstances.”[4]

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The Hewlett Foundation is governed by a board of directors that includes four members of the Hewlett family, and 5-11 other leaders drawn from philanthropy, government, business, education and civil society. Their current president is Larry Kramer.[5] The foundation is wholly independent of the Hewlett Packard Company and the Hewlett Packard Company Foundation.[6]

Specializations, Methods and Tools

The Hewletts appproach to philanthropy is grounded in a humanistic philosophy based on faith in the capacity of people to do good and belief in the importance of healthy institutions as a means for doing so.[7]

Major Projects and Events

Through their various projects and initiatives, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation promotes the wellbeing of humanity by supporting activities in the arts, education, the environment and population, and addressing other timely problems, such as challenges posed by cybersecurity and U.S. democracy.

  • Education Program - makes grants to help students succeed in work and civic life by building deeper learning skills and expanding access to open educational resources.
  • Environment Program - makes grants to protect people and places threatened by a warming planet by conserving the North American West, expanding clean energy, and addressing climate change globally.
  • Global Development and Population Program - makes grants to expand women’s reproductive and economic choices, amplify citizen participation, and improve policymaking through evidence.
  • Performing Arts Program - makes grants to sustain artistic expression and encourage public engagement in the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Effective Philanthropy Program - seeks to strengthen the capacity of Hewlett Foundation grantees and philanthropy in general, to achieve their goals and benefit the common good.
  • Cyber Initiative - seeks to cultivate a field that develops thoughtful, multidisciplinary solutions to complex cyber challenges and catalyzes better policy outcomes for the benefit of societies.
  • Madison Initiative - seeks to create the conditions in which members of Congress can work together more effectively and craft legislative solutions.[8]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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See Also

Ford Foundation


[1] "Our Guiding Principles," 

[2] "About Us," 

[3] "Our Guiding Principles," 

[4] "The Hewlett Family and Foundation History," 

[5] "Board," 

[6] "About Us," 

[7] "Our Guiding Principles," 

[8] "Our Programs," 

External Links

Official Website: 


Lead image: YouthTruth,