Moore Foundation 'Founders' Intent' Emphasizes Scientific Methodology

Moore Foundation 'Founders' Intent' Emphasizes Scientific Methodology

Susanna Frohman/Mercury News

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has published a "Founders' Intent" statement on its website that outlines how its founders see the foundation operating and arriving at grantmaking decisions in the years to come.

In the first formal articulation of the couple's intentions for giving since establishing the foundation in 2000, Gordon Moore writes that the foundation should "tackle large, important issues at a scale where it can achieve significant and measurable impacts." Moore, who co-founded semiconductor chip maker Intel and in 1965 predicted that progress in the density and speed of silicon chips would increase exponentially, an observation that has come to be known as Moore's Law, continues: "Scientific methodology should be a cornerstone of nearly all of the foundation's efforts.”

The approach articulated by Moore also holds that the foundation should only support programs that can demonstrate measurable outcomes and that it should focus on areas where it can make a difference rather than attempting to address problems of a scope and complexity too large for any single foundation to take on. For example, Moore writes, the foundation should forego investing in efforts to address climate change unless it "can satisfy itself that it has the capacity and resources to be a significant factor in bringing about measurable, durable solutions." Moore explains that he and his wife, Betty, chose the foundation's original areas of interest — environmental conservation, scientific research, higher education, and the San Francisco Bay Area — based on their personal involvement in those areas as well as the opportunities they represent.

Accordingly, the four "filters" for determining whether the foundation should award a grant are: whether the project is important; whether the foundation can make a difference; whether it is measurable; and whether it contributes to a "portfolio effect," increasing impact and reducing risks. In addition, the foundation should move resources from less productive areas to areas of higher impact, although "[s]uch changes should be carefully considered and deliberate so as not to jerk the grantees around, to preserve progress the foundation has accomplished, and to prevent unplanned mission drift." The statement also notes the "Areas We Wish to Avoid" — which include religious activities, arts and cultural activities, civil disobedience, and emergency or disaster relief efforts.

"It is our hope that if Betty or I were to return to the foundation in a decade, a century, or a millennium," writes Moore, "while the issues the foundation is working on might be different, the foundation would be recognizable to us — that it would continue to be innovative, intellectually rigorous, take risks, operate efficiently, exercise humility, and remain focused on measurable results."

"Founder's Intent." Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Website 08/28/2015.