Paul Brest and Hal Harvey’s substantially revised second edition of Money Well Spentshows they have listened to their own new experiences, their critics, and many other scholars and practitioners In 2008, when their first edition was published, Brest was well into his tenure as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s president, and Harvey was a seasoned Hewlett grantmaker and environmental advocate. They combined forces to explain and defend what had come to be called “strategic philanthropy”—grantmaking that improves the odds of achieving results by focusing relentlessly on goals, evidence, and outcomes.

But where they (and other strategic philanthropy proponents) saw a common-sense need for rigor and discipline, others found plenty to criticize, worrying about top-down strategies that too often ignore the firsthand knowledge of leaders on the front lines. By 2016, Harvey himself joined the debate, offering an apology in The Chronicle of Philanthropy titled “Why I Regret Pushing Strategic Philanthropy.”

It’s no surprise that the two authors teamed up to produce this update, which showcases how much they—and the field—have learned from an additional decade of practice, debate, and reflection. The second edition covers the same basics, but in an even richer and more nuanced way. 

Again and again, I found Brest and Harvey stretching beyond the easy stereotypes of past debates. They seem determined not to be misread as providing a simple recipe for complex decision making, arguing that there is no substitute in the end for judgment and wisdom. And they are clear that good nonprofit leaders should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Brest and Harvey wisely do not try to relitigate these and many other doubts about strategic philanthropy. Instead they focus on making their own updated case in the most compelling way.

Read the full article about strategic philanthropy reconsidered by Katherine Fulton at Stanford Social Innovation Review