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Philanthropy Framework Profile: Newman’s Own Foundation

December 28, 2018

Key Statistics

Founding Date: 2005
Location: Westport, CT
Assets (2021): $225 million
Total Grantmaking (2021): $11.5 million
Number of staff: 7


Newman’s Own Foundation is a private foundation formed in 2005 by legendary actor and race car driver Paul Newman to sustain the legacy of his philanthropic work. Funded entirely through the profits and royalties from the sale of Newman’s Own food and beverages, the Foundation does not maintain an endowment, raise funds, or accept donations. The Foundation believes that each of us, through the power of philanthropy, has the potential to make a difference. Since 1982, when Paul Newman first declared, “Let’s give it all away,” hundreds of millions of dollars have been donated to thousands of nonprofit organizations helping people facing adversity around the world. The Foundation has a unique relationship with public consumers through its promise to use 100% of the money it receives from the sale of Newman’s Own products to nourish and transform the lives of children who face adversity.

Core Framework

Newman’s Own Foundation is a grantmaking foundation whose operations are funded by the sale of Newman’s Own food and beverage products. Its guiding principles, outlined below, are informed by the vision and values of Paul Newman.

The Foundation co-creates change by partnering with like-minded organizations and working to build trust over time. It recognizes that viable solutions and timelines often come from the communities being served and from the leaders and nonprofits working within those communities.

The Foundation invests in exceptional leaders, seeking out promising early-stage entrepreneurs. It uses convenings and cohort models to enable entrepreneurs to connect, share knowledge, and build capacity within their organizations.

The Foundation remains flexible, adapting as challenges arise. Engaging in conversations and research ensures funds can be directed to address the greatest need and have maximum impact.


Newman’s Own Foundation operates with a stewarded charter that is formed by the donor’s legacy and values. Paul Newman’s personal values of humility and generosity have become core values of the Foundation in its operations and practices.

Leadership and staff have the freedom to interpret that vision and define the Foundation’s framework and programmatic areas for grantmaking. The Foundation’s charter is not directive or codified but operates as a framework for decision-making and a shared set of values that determine the Foundation’s priorities. The Foundation’s central tenet of giving away 100% of profits has also been the defining principle of Newman’s Own, the food business, since its founding in 1982. The Foundation owns 100% of the company. Intellectual property associated with Paul Newman and his name and image is owned by No Limit, LLC, the licensing arm of Newman’s Own.

Another core value of the Foundation to trust and show respect and appreciation for leaders in the nonprofit sector and in its grantee organizations. This value is connected to the Foundation’s practice of avoiding prescriptiveness in its grants and encouraging new ideas and initiatives in its grantee partners.

Social Compact

The Foundation has a strong commitment to accountability to the nonprofit sector, and to the public at large. Its reputation as an effective charitable institution is tied to its reputation as a food company, and both functions must earn the trust and respect of the public to be successful. The Foundation earns its financial resources through the commercial entities (Newman’s Own, Inc., and licensees), and therefore the products have to be successful in a competitive market. The maintenance of a trustworthy brand is of critical importance.

This sense of public accountability informs the food company’s value of “quality trumps profits,” which was also a stated value of Paul Newman. “Quality” is defined broadly and includes the quality of food products, the value of respectful relationships among staff and with grantee and business partners, and the organization’s ethical framework.

Because of the food company’s public commitment to donate 100% of profits to help children who face adversity, the Foundation feels a particular obligation to be clear and transparent about its grantmaking, to demonstrate that it is fulfilling its promise. It files the required IRS Form 990-PF, conducts annual audits, and highlights key partners and stories of impact on its website. As part of its external communications strategy, the Foundation promotes important work being conducted by grantee partners and nonprofit leaders—on social media, in op-ed pieces, and through speaking engagements and other public-facing opportunities.

Beyond leveraging its communications capabilities to shine a light on partners, the Foundation uses its role as a convener, collaborator, and influencer to increase the impact of grants. The Foundation uses both financial and non-financial resources to build the capacity of organizations, develop leaders, and engage leaders in sharing best practices and leveraging partnerships to increase their influence and impact. As a convener, the Foundation has created peer learning cohorts of grantee partners to help those organizations grow and share with their peers. More recently, funding has been directed to support the development of BIMPOC leaders and BIMPOC-led organizations, with a focus on entrepreneurial and grassroots community programs.

Before the Foundation was created in 2005, Paul Newman personally made all grants from income generated through Newman’s Own via a flexible and intuitive process, with due diligence conducted by grants staff. Once the Foundation was established, Newman himself still led decision-making, but largely through approval of grants proposed by Foundation staff. Since Newman’s death in 2008, the Foundation has, more than once, refined the focus of its giving with an eye towards maximizing impact and maintaining Paul Newman’s core values. In 2022, the food company and Foundation went through a joint rebranding process. Their new mission—to nourish and transform the lives of children who face adversity—acknowledges the importance Paul placed on protecting the most vulnerable among us and bringing joy to children whose lives had been disrupted by illness.

One pillar of the Foundation’s funding focus is the SeriousFun Children’s Network, the umbrella organization for 30 camps and programs around the world, founded by Paul Newman, serving children living with serious illness and their families, free of charge. Another pillar is support for access to nutritious foods for children, including in schools and for Indigenous youth.

Operating Capabilities

Newman’s Own Foundation relies on a lean team that works interdependently, maintains creativity and flexibility of thought, and trusts in its individuals to serve the needs of the organization. The Foundation’s Board of Directors provides oversight and empowers the President and CEO to lead execution of the strategic plan. The President & CEO of the Foundation can approve grants up to $250,000, and the Director of Philanthropy can approve grants up to $50,000. Larger grants require board approval.

The Foundation makes a plan each year to meet its projected grantmaking budget, which is dependent on projected profits and royalties generated by the sale of Newman’s Own products. The budget supports the mission and the strategic plan with an eye towards maximum impact.

The Foundation consults with other nonprofits working in its areas of interest to develop new ideas and initiatives, and it is comfortable supporting pilot programs and new strategies that other funders might overlook. Particular emphasis is placed on networking, relationship building, and collaboration. The Foundation uses its perspective and experience to support many different approaches to the same core issues to raise the level of knowledge across the field, enabling grantee partners to increase their effectiveness.

Theory of the Foundation in Action

One model that Newman’s Own Foundation has invested in is the learning cohort. By participating in a cohort, nonprofit leaders learn from each other and build capacity. The cohort enables them to better serve the communities in which they are invested. The Foundation uses the cohort model to drive impact and scale from the ground up, placing its trust in grassroots organizations and the entrepreneurial spirit of their leaders.

The Foundation created its first cohort in 2015, consisting of six grantees working in the field of nutrition across different regions of the country. The members of the cohort received multi-year capacity-building grants to strengthen their own organizations’ infrastructure and programs, and were invited to attend regular convenings. The purpose of the cohort was to create relationships among grantees that would last beyond the duration of the capacity-building grants, and for the members of the cohort to define what it would be and how it would operate. Leaders from Newman’s Own Foundation attend convenings, assist with logistics, and cover costs, but these cohorts are grounded in a peer-to-peer model that is driven by the participants.

One member of the nutrition cohort said that it was a unique situation to be able to sit in a room at a convening with a funder and speak candidly about their organization’s struggles. The openness is a result of the close and candid relationships that the Foundation establishes with its grantee partners and peers. This commitment to shared learning and collaboration is emblematic of the Foundation’s value of respectful relationships, trust, and networks.

Another model—adopted by Newman’s Own Foundation in 2022—is the RFP (Request for Grant Proposals) Program. The Foundation is working to drive impact in nourishing food access and education for children by making a large number of small grants available to grassroots coalitions and organizations pursuing solutions to entrenched problems in meaningful ways. Funding is prioritized for BIMPOC-led projects and is non-prescriptive. The Foundation places its trust in the people doing the work, allowing them to use funding where it is needed most, according to the timeline that works best for them.

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