What We Do

We are an interdisciplinary team working at the intersection of strategic philanthropy, the behavioral sciences, and design thinking to accelerate learning for donors and relevant support staff, advisors and other intermediaries in the donor-support ecosystem—so they can make more informed and deliberate giving decisions, thereby increasing their impact. 


EPLI’s work consists of three interdependent efforts:

  • Research into the realities of philanthropic practice
  • The creation of tools and resources to help change the field and the experience of donors 
  • Education to share our knowledge and tools



Charitable contributions in the US total in the hundreds of billions of dollars each year with a large portion coming from individuals. Evidence suggests that only a small portion of philanthropists research the performance of nonprofit organizations before contributing to them, and even fewer attempt any benchmarking. Millions or even billions of dollars are wasted on efforts that don’t achieve their donors’ intended outcomes. 

The number of high-net-worth individuals has increased significantly in recent decades, and they are expected to transfer more than $16 trillion in wealth to the next generation in the coming three decades. 

This presents an unprecedented opportunity not only to increase their current philanthropic impact, but also to influence millennials who constitute the next generation of high-capacity donors. 

This growth in wealth and giving has been accompanied by an increasing number of organizations attempting to serve individual philanthropists. Unfortunately, many of the available resources are difficult to use, mismatched to donor needs, and of questionable quality. 

EPLI aims to respond to these trends, and thus influence the trajectory of philanthropic dollars toward greater impact. 

Theory of Change

We invite you to look at our Theory of Change, articulating the lab’s activities and intended outcomes. 

 Our Lab is supported by grants from:

Raikes Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation


Other sponsors include:

Hewlett Foundation
Packard Foundation
Heising-Simons Foundation
Community Wealth Partners
Perpetual Limited




In 2014, the Effective Philanthropy Learning Initiative was borne of two explorations aimed at better understanding high-net-worth (HNW) donor motivations and behavior through  a Hewlett Foundation-sponsored fellowship and a collaborative case study developed by Stanford PACS and the Raikes Foundation.  At the conclusion of the case study, Raikes elected to fund the launch of the Effective Philanthropy Learning Initiative to run a series of experiments further testing our initial hypotheses about donor behavior, engaging sector partners, and identifying scalable interventions to increase strategic behavior among HNW donors.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
All EPLI tools and resources found on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

What does this mean?

We invite all philanthropy practitioners to freely share and adapt whatever we build. This means you may copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format. You can also transform and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.

You only need to give appropriate credit to “Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society” and provide a link to the license (where possible). 


Privacy and Data Usage Statement

Users of the Effective Philanthropy Learning Initiative website and online tools will be submitting personal data. For this reason, we are committed to transparency about data use and to protecting the privacy of your personal information. Please read our Privacy andData Usage Statement before using this site.