Key Points

This article examines how the design principles of a major philanthropic initiative have influenced its performance, and provides a practical example of strategic philanthropy that can contribute to the current debate over the merits and flaws of this approach.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s $369 million Andes Amazon Initiative, one of the largest private environmental conservation initiatives ever, reflects the values of the Moore family by focusing on conserving important biodiversity and wilderness areas such as the Amazon. “Making a difference” in the context of the Andes-Amazon has required adherence to the foundation’s founders’ principles of investing at sufficient spatial and temporal scale, the development of an evidence-based theory of change, and a systematic means to measure and evaluate progress against a clearly articulated outcome.

Maintaining a commitment to these principles through multiple changes in foundation leadership and staffing has been an important challenge.

The lessons learned are reinforced by the experience of the foundation across its other initiatives, spanning fields as diverse as scientific research and supporting advances in the field of health care. The relevance of the foundation’s experience, therefore, extends beyond environmental conservation to other areas of philanthropy.

Open Access Sponsor

Support for this open access article is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Open Access