December 5, 2016
Foundation CEO Angst: Moral Imperatives and Insomnia
Phil Buchanan and Ellie Buteau
Stanford Social Innovation Review
More than two-thirds of the CEOs of large, staffed foundations in the United States believe foundations have the potential to make a significant difference in society. That’s the good (and perhaps hardly surprising) news in a new report from our organization, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP).
But there is bad news, too, and some may find it more surprising. A much smaller proportion—just 13 percent—of the 167 foundation CEOs responding to a survey we fielded believe that foundations are making a significant difference today. Instead, most characterize the current difference foundations make as “moderate” and cite a number of barriers that impede foundation impact. For the most part, foundation leaders point the finger not at others—such as their grantees or the government—but at themselves, with two-thirds saying internal barriers at their own foundations are getting in the way of greater impact…>read more.
October 4, 2016
Ditch Strategic Philanthropy — but Don’t Throw Out Strategy With It
Phil Buchanan and Patti Patrizi
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Recently, there has been a kind of backlash against “strategic philanthropy.” The term has come to take on some very negative connotations, conjuring up images of arrogant, overpriced consultants and their large foundation clients issuing top-down edicts that are ineffective and divorced from the realities nonprofits face.
Strategic philanthropy, in this conception, is seen as overly formulaic and linear, denying the complexity of the tough, interdependent challenges foundations and nonprofits try to address. Moreover, feedback from grant recipients is usually absent, because the idea is that the donor knows best.
Maybe it’s not surprising, then, that even prominent proponents of strategic philanthropy are having second thoughts. Hal Harvey wrote a much-discussed mea culpa that was published earlier this year byThe Chronicle of Philanthropy (“Why I Regret Pushing Strategic Philanthropy,” April 4)…>read more.
September 7, 2016
Black Lives Matter partners with charity in sign of growth
Take Two (89.3 KPCC)
Phil Buchanan, president of CEP, recently joined Alex Cohen, host of the radio show Take Two to discuss the implications of the recently announced partnership between International Development Exchange’s (IDEX) and the national Black Lives Matter movement. Take Two explores news and culture through the lens of Southern California and is the top-rated public radio show in the country’s largest market on the West Coast. KPCC reaches an audience of over 800,000 listeners….> listen here
March 21, 2017
Why More And More Philanthropies Are Choosing To Put Themselves Out Of Business
The majority of America’s top foundation leaders recently admitted in a Center for Effective Philanthropy report that they don’t think their industry is doing such a great job at making a difference in the world. The list of causes focused largely on controllable hang-ups–everything from not listening to grantees, to not collaborating well with other organizations. What most didn’t complain about was their business model.
The irony is that by making a radical change to their business model that’s being embraced by more and more philanthropic organizations, many groups may give themselves far less to complain about: because they would be out of business, after making a huge impact. That’s the finding of a recent report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which interviewed the heads of 11 organizations that are limited life groups, meaning they plan to spend themselves out of existence within a certain timeframe, a model that proponents say gives them both more immediate funds to address the world’s most urgent problems and additional pressure to ensure investments are well spent.…> read more
March 21, 2017
Foundations Find Different Paths to Closing Their Operations
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Foundations that decide to spend all of their assets and close shop don’t follow uniform or precise formulas for how to tie up loose ends, according to a new report.
Published by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the study is based on conversations with 11 foundation leaders. It looked at various aspects of those organizations, including investment decisions, grantee relationships, performance evaluations, and staffing.
“We learned that there is no one way to spend down,” said Ellie Buteau, vice president at the Center for Effective Philanthropy and co-author of the report. “Our hope is that this research will help foundations that are spending down — or those considering spending down — explore a range of approaches.”…> read more
February 13, 2017
Using Knowledge to Improve Funder Practice
Lindsay Louie & Fay Twersky
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Do funders use knowledge to inform and improve their work? If so, how do they use it? What role(s) does it play?
These were some of the questions we asked four years ago when we started working at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and inherited a longstanding strategy called “Knowledge for Better Philanthropy.” Through this strategy, we fund the independent creation and dissemination of knowledge about the practice of philanthropy, with the goal of informing and improving funders’ work. These grants support publications like SSIR and the Nonprofit Quarterly, as well as organizations such as The Bridgespan Group, FSG, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and The Philanthropy Roundtable…> read more
February 7, 2017
Philanthropy’s deliberate leaders: the story of ClimateWorks Foundation
The Wall Street Journal described recently-elected Donald Trump’s leadership as ‘deliberate chaos’. We know chaos. We live it. A barrage of destructive tweets and policy bombs have resulted in widespread protests in the United States and globally. Bans on Muslims and refugees, erosion of human rights, denying climate change and disrespecting international relationships that have kept the world safe—all create risks to global business and civil society.
The chaos erodes public trust and is exacerbated by falsehoods, fake news, and threats to destroy independent media. While the world is pushing back with civil disobedience and legal action, we need more leaders committed to conducting themselves with honesty, trust, and transparency.
Philanthropy can lead by example
In these times of uncertainty and divisiveness, philanthropy can and must lead by example. Such leadership is characterized by taking risks and showing courage; by illustrating what collaboration based on inclusion and compassion looks like; by demonstrating a commitment to building solutions from the ground up; and by showing how learning and transparency ensure open societies and human rights…> read more
December 14, 2016
Want to improve grades? Ask students how they feel in class.
The Christian Science Monitor
Glorya Wornum knows how different a classroom feels when a teacher listens.
In her sophomore year, students in her Boston charter school took a survey that included questions about what they “went through in class.” And her history teacher listened.
“My teacher was like, ‘I’ve read the survey and just want to let you guys know I’m going to change things up,’ ” recalls Ms. Wornum, who had been frequently kicked her out of class at her previous high school for speaking out of turn or not paying attention.
And she did. Her students of color spent the next week teaching classes on their own ethnic backgrounds, and the teacher changed her teaching methods to accommodate their visual learning style…> read more
December 5, 2016
Foundation Chiefs Say They Need to Make Sweeping Changes
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Foundations must make major operational changes if they want to tackle pressing issues including wealth inequality, climate change, and failing schools, according to a self-assessment of philanthropy leaders released Monday.
Leaders of 208 of the nation’s biggest foundations said in interviews and survey responses that they can make significant progress but only if they ditch a business-as-usual approach and spend more time listening to the concerns of their grantees and the people those grantees serve.
In the study, commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on its 50th anniversary and conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, 57 percent of foundation leaders said sweeping changes are necessary. About 41 percent believe foundations must make modest changes…> read more
November 3, 2016
Working with Grantees: A Relationship Worth Building
Foundant Technologies Blog
When I first began my dive into the philanthropy industry, the thing that always fascinated me was the give and take dynamic between a funder and their grantees. I’ve been amazed at the different ways of going about it; some funders choose a hands off approach, while others develop close and long lasting relationships with those they fund. Both have their benefits and drawbacks–what works well with one organization may prove disastrous for another–but doing the research and knowing your grantees makes each philanthropic dollar go further than the last.
One of the most illuminating publications I’ve read on this topic was put out in 2014 by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). You can read it here: PDF (note: it’s a bit lengthy). I’ll do a short summary below, but if you’ve got the time to read the whole thing, I promise it’s worth it. Even seasoned grantmakers can find some (research based) nuggets of wisdom there…> read more
Counting down to Leading Effective Foundations conference and research on limited life foundation release, big milestone for YouthTruth, welcoming a new board member, and much more…>read more
The Future of Foundation Philanthropy, new findings from YouthTruth, thank yous, and much more. Let us know what you think…> read more
Benchmarking foundation evaluation practices, new surveys from YouthTruth, new look for CEP website and blog, and much more…> read more
January 30, 2017
Paul Beaudet Joins the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) Board of Directors
Cambridge, MA – The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) has elected Wilburforce Foundation Executive Director Paul Beaudet to join its Board of Directors.
Beaudet has been with Wilburforce Foundation, a Seattle, WA-based foundation that supports land, water, and wildlife conservation efforts in western North America, since 1999. He originally joined the Foundation as program officer for evaluation and served as its associate director from 2002 to 2016. He assumed the office of executive director on January 1, 2017, where he leads the Foundation’s program teams that invest in science, conservation policy, and community engagement, as well as manages the Foundation’s capacity-building program and invests in grantee organizations and leaders to better plan, manage, and sustain their work. He has served on CEP’s Advisory Board since 2008.
“I am thrilled that Paul Beaudet is joining the CEP Board of Directors after years of thoughtful service on our Advisory Board,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan. “Wilburforce has been an exemplar in its approach to strategy as well as in its relationships with its grantees, as measured by CEP’s Grantee Perception Report (GPR), which the Foundation has consistently made public. We have consistently pointed to the Foundation as an example from which others can learn.”…>read more.
January 24, 2017
Nonprofit Organization YouthTruth Harnesses Half-Million Student Voices to Help Schools Improve
San Francisco, CA – YouthTruth Student Survey announced today that it crossed the threshold of surveying half a million students across 36 states and four countries. The San Francisco-based organization — which is the only major student and stakeholder survey partner that is an independent nonprofit — works with schools, districts, CMOs, and education funders to gather feedback from students, parents/guardians, and school staff on the topics that research shows matter most to student achievement and positive school climate.
“This is an exciting moment that signals to us the growing hunger within the education community for actionable feedback from students,” said YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Wilka. “We are meeting more and more educators and education funders who not only want to engage in the student voice movement, but also want to do so in partnership with an organization that understands the complexity of student feedback data and can help leaders use that data to drive meaningful changes in schools.”
With eight years of experience gathering robust student perception data, YouthTruth has learned directly from students about their experiences across a range of topics including academic rigor, college and career readiness, bullying, and school culture. YouthTruth regularly releases findings from their aggregate dataset to help education leaders and funders more deeply understand students’ experiences…>read more.
December 5, 2016
Foundation CEOs Seek to Raise the Bar for Themselves, New Report Shows
Cambridge, MA – Two-thirds of foundation CEOs believe in the potential of foundations to make a significant difference in society, but most do not see foundations taking full advantage of their opportunities for impact, finds a new report released today from the Center for Effective Philanthropy and commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The report also finds reasons for optimism for the future of philanthropy: much of what CEOs see as standing in their way is under their control to change, and they identify a number of ways foundations can get closer to realizing their potential for the future.
The report, titled The Future of Foundation Philanthropy: The CEO Perspective, captures foundation leaders’ views on challenges and concerns about the changing landscape in which they work, practices they believe to hold the most promise for helping foundations reach their potential, and the most pressing issues that will influence foundation philanthropy in the coming years. Inequality is high on foundation leaders’ list of pressing issues — 65 percent of foundation CEOs CEP interviewed for the study mentioned it. Foundation leaders are sober about their own levels of preparedness to deal effectively with changes that will affect society in the coming decades…>read more.
September 20, 2016
CEP and CEI Partner to Release New Comprehensive Review of Foundation Evaluation Practices
Cambridge, MA – New research released today by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) and Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI) represents the most comprehensive data collection effort to date on evaluation practices at foundations. The data, on topics such as evaluation staffing and structures, investment in evaluation work, and the usefulness of evaluation information, is presented in a new publication titled Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices.
“We believe this joint effort provides foundations with a much-needed comprehensive set of data on evaluation practices at foundations,” said Ellie Buteau, vice president, research, at CEP and one of the co-authors of the report. “Our hope is that it will help foundation leaders get a sense of what other foundations are doing, and how to think more deeply about their own evaluation choices.”
Data in the report is based on survey responses from individuals who were either the most senior evaluation or program staff at 127 foundations in the U.S. and Canada giving at least $10 million annually, or members of the Evaluation Roundtable, a network of foundation leaders in evaluation convened by CEI…>read more.