Money Well Spent by Paul Brest
  • Title: Money Well Spent
  • Subtitle: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy
  • Author(s): Paul Brest, Hal Harvey
  • Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
  • Year: 2010-05-18
  • ISBN-10: 0470885343
  • ISBN-13: 9780470885345


In “Money Well Spent,” Paul Brest offers a thought-provoking exploration of effective philanthropy and social investing. As the former president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Brest brings years of experience and expertise to this guide for individuals and organizations looking to make a meaningful impact with their financial resources. The book highlights the importance of informed decision-making and evidence-based approaches in the world of philanthropy, emphasizing the need for clear goals and measurable outcomes to maximize the effectiveness of social investments.

Brest introduces the concept of “strategic philanthropy” and provides practical tools and frameworks to help readers identify and evaluate social initiatives that align with their values and desired impact. Drawing from real-life examples, he illustrates how strategic philanthropy can address complex social issues, not only through grant-making but also through effective collaboration and advocacy. “Money Well Spent” serves as a valuable resource for philanthropists, nonprofit professionals, and anyone interested in creating positive social change, offering insightful strategies and insights to maximize the impact of financial resources for the greater good.

Book Review

In “Money Well Spent,” Paul Brest presents an invaluable guidebook for individuals and organizations seeking to make a tangible and lasting impact through their financial resources. Drawing on his extensive experience as the former president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Brest delves into the principles and strategies of strategic philanthropy, emphasizing the importance of evidence-based approaches and measurable outcomes to drive positive social change.

One of the key strengths of this book lies in the numerous real-life examples that Brest shares, showcasing how strategic philanthropy can make a difference in addressing complex societal challenges. For instance, he describes how the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation transformed its grant-making approach and embarked on a pioneering path to funding promising nonprofits with strong evidence of impact. Brest’s portrayal of this shift not only underscores the need for philanthropists to be discerning and strategic in their investments but also demonstrates that taking risks coupled with rigorous evaluation can lead to remarkable outcomes.

By introducing the concept of a “theory of change,” Brest provides a framework to identify and evaluate effective social interventions. He stresses the importance of clarifying goals and developing a clear roadmap, citing the story of one organization that sought to address the seemingly intractable issue of homelessness. Through rigorous research, data analysis, and collaborative efforts, this organization developed a cost-effective program that not only improved the lives of homeless individuals but ultimately reduced the overall cost burden for society.

Additionally, Brest emphasizes the significance of collaboration and advocacy in philanthropic endeavors. He highlights the case of the NoVo Foundation, which successfully partnered with other organizations and used its resources not only to finance initiatives but also to catalyze broader social change. This example serves as a reminder that strategic philanthropy extends beyond granting funds—it involves actively engaging with communities and advocating for systemic transformations to address root causes.

Money Well Spent” is a comprehensive and accessible resource that offers practical tools to evaluate social investments and maximize their impact. Brest’s guiding principles enable philanthropists and nonprofit professionals to navigate the complexities of the social sector effectively. By stressing the importance of evidence, rigorous evaluation, and collaboration, Brest empowers readers to make informed decisions and create lasting change in their philanthropic endeavors.

In conclusion, “Money Well Spent” is an essential read for anyone aspiring to make a significant difference in addressing social challenges through their financial resources. Brest’s expertise, supported by compelling examples, provides readers with valuable insights, strategies, and frameworks to approach philanthropy strategically. By combining theoretical perspectives with practical advice, this book equips individuals and organizations to engage in effective and impactful giving, ultimately maximizing the potential of their resources for positive social change.

Word Count: 452

Key Ideas

Money Well Spent” by Paul Brest is a book that explores the concept of strategic philanthropy and how individuals and organizations can make their charitable contributions more effective. The key ideas in the book include:

  1. Strategic Philanthropy The central concept of the book is the idea of strategic philanthropy, which involves applying business and investment principles to charitable giving. Brest argues that philanthropy should not be a random or haphazard act but a well-thought-out strategy to create meaningful impact.

  2. Measurable Impact Brest emphasizes the importance of measuring the impact of charitable donations. He introduces the concept of “metrics,” which involves using data and evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of philanthropic efforts. This approach allows donors to see where their money is making a difference and make informed decisions about future giving.

  3. Theory of Change The book introduces the concept of a “theory of change,” which is a roadmap that outlines the steps and outcomes needed to achieve a particular social or environmental goal. Developing a theory of change helps donors clarify their objectives and plan their philanthropic efforts more strategically.

  4. Effective Altruism Brest discusses the principles of effective altruism, which involve directing resources to causes and organizations that have the greatest potential for positive impact. This approach encourages donors to prioritize evidence-based interventions and to be rational and analytical in their giving decisions.

  5. Impact Investing The book explores the concept of impact investing, where individuals and organizations invest in projects or businesses that generate both financial returns and positive social or environmental outcomes. Brest argues that impact investing can be a powerful tool for creating sustainable change.

  6. Transparency and Accountability Brest emphasizes the need for transparency and accountability in the philanthropic sector. Donors should have access to information about how their contributions are used, and organizations should be accountable for achieving the outcomes they promise.

  7. Collaboration The book encourages collaboration among donors, nonprofits, and other stakeholders. Brest argues that working together can lead to more significant and sustainable solutions to complex social and environmental challenges.

  8. Balancing Passion and Effectiveness Brest acknowledges that donors often have deeply personal and emotional connections to the causes they support. While passion is essential, he suggests finding a balance between supporting causes you care about and ensuring that your contributions have a meaningful impact.

  9. Long-Term Thinking Effective philanthropy requires a long-term perspective. Brest suggests that donors should be willing to invest in initiatives that may take years or even decades to produce results.

  10. Continuous Learning The book encourages donors to be open to learning and adjusting their strategies based on new information and insights. It’s important to be adaptable and willing to refine your approach over time.

  11. Inclusivity Brest emphasizes the importance of considering the voices and perspectives of the communities and individuals directly affected by philanthropic efforts. Inclusivity and engagement with beneficiaries can lead to more effective solutions.

In summary, “Money Well Spent” promotes a thoughtful and strategic approach to philanthropy. It encourages donors to go beyond simply writing checks and to engage in purposeful giving that is informed by data, evidence, and a clear vision of creating positive change in the world. This book provides valuable guidance for individuals and organizations looking to maximize the impact of their charitable contributions.

Target Audience

The book “Money Well Spent” by Paul Brest is targeted at a diverse audience interested in philanthropy, social investing, and creating positive social change. It is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Philanthropists This book serves as an essential guide for individuals, families, and foundations interested in effective giving. Brest provides practical tools and frameworks to help philanthropists clarify their goals, evaluate social initiatives, and maximize the impact of their financial resources.

  • Nonprofit Professionals For professionals working in the nonprofit sector, “Money Well Spent” offers valuable insights into strategic philanthropy. Brest’s emphasis on evidence-based approaches, collaboration, and advocacy equips nonprofit leaders with the knowledge and strategies needed to drive impactful change in their organizations.

  • Social Investors Those interested in using financial resources to not only generate financial returns but also create positive social outcomes will find this book highly informative. Brest explores approaches to social investing and demonstrates the potential for integrating social impact into investment decisions.

  • Academic Researchers and Students “Money Well Spent” provides a comprehensive exploration of strategic philanthropy and evidence-based approaches to creating social impact. It is recommended reading for scholars and students interested in philanthropic studies, nonprofit management, and social entrepreneurship.

  • General Readers Interested in Social Change This book goes beyond offering advice to philanthropists and provides valuable insights into the complexities of addressing social challenges. As such, it is recommended for anyone seeking a better understanding of how financial resources can be leveraged for positive change and wants to contribute to making a difference in society.

In conclusion, “Money Well Spent” is recommended reading for individuals and organizations interested in philanthropy, social investing, and creating meaningful social change. Its practical advice, real-life examples, and evidence-based approach make it an invaluable resource for philanthropists, nonprofit professionals, researchers, and anyone passionate about making a positive impact.