May 3, 2017
Barriers to Funder Collaboration and the Will to Overcome Them
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Any thoughtful observer of philanthropy will note that, when working on stubborn societal problems, no single actor—even the wealthiest of foundations—can accomplish much by itself. This is both a historical fact and a present day reality.
Yet most would likely agree that there still isn’t enough collaboration and that the collaborations that do occur aren’t always effective. According to research we conducted at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), commissioned by the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, foundation leaders see a lack of collaboration as a barrier to progress. However, they also believe more and better collaboration could unlock much more impact.
This begs the question, if foundation leaders themselves acknowledge collaboration as crucial, why isn’t it happening more?…>read more.
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.
June 30, 2017
Inside the Mind of Your Program Officer
If you’re a grantee who’s been lucky enough to have program officers who feel like colleagues or even friends, you probably know a thing or two about the curious business of giving away money. Maybe you’ve heard about the internal haggling at foundations over funding priorities and how, exactly, portfolios of grant money are created and distributed. Surely, also, you’ve heard the old jokes about how new program officers suddenly discover that they’re funnier or more popular with long-lost friends once they’re wielding the checkbook.
Yet for many people hustling for grants, program officers can be hard to read, and the ways they operate can seem mysterious. In the worst cases, these empowered agents of institutional money can inspire feelings of anxiety and insecurity—or even dread and rage. Horror stories abound of program officers who’ve made grantees jump through inane hoops, wait months for meetings where nothing happens anyway, and live in suspense when it comes to renewal. But there are plenty of happy tales, too—of program officers who made critical introductions to other funders, or heroically shook the money tree inside their institutions with remarkable results.
So who, exactly, are these figures that loom so large in the lives—and even the dreams—of nonprofit executives? How do program officers think, and what do they want? And—for heaven’s sake—why won’t they dole out more multi-year general operating support?
Answers to some, but not all, of these questions can be found in a recent study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, “Benchmarking Program Officers’ Roles and Responsibilities,” which is based on survey responses from 150 program officers at foundations that give away at least $5 million annually.…> read more
June 22, 2017
Program Officers Value Strong Grantee Relationships, Survey Finds
Philanthropy News Digest
While most foundation program officers value having strong relationships with their grantees, only one in three lists it as one of the responsibilities they spend the most time on, a survey by the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds.
Based on survey responses from a hundred and fifty program officers at foundations with at least $5 million in annual grantmaking, the report, Benchmarking Program Officer Roles and Responsibilities, found that 98 percent of respondents saw having a strong relationship with their grantees as important for achieving the foundation’s goals, while 95 percent believed that learning from grantees was integral to their professional development. The report found, however, that while 53 percent of respondents listed developing and maintaining strong grantee relationships as one of the top three responsibilities to which they should devote more time in order to be effective, only 36 percent actually did so.…> read more
June 20, 2017
Holding the Line vs. Piling On: A Surprising Look at the “Trump Effect” on Giving
How has Donald Trump’s unexpected ascendancy to the White House affected the world of giving? It’s still early, of course, to make definitive judgments. But in addition to anecdotal evidence that many funders have changed some of their priorities or practices in response to Trump—as we report regularly—more data has become available on the dimensions of what’s been called a “Trump effect” on philanthropy.
Earlier this spring, the Center for Effective Philanthropy published a report, Shifting Winds, based on a survey of 162 foundation CEOs, finding that almost three-quarters of foundations “are making, or planning to make, some change in their work as a result of the election of Donald J. Trump.”
Two surveys conducted by PMX Agency and National Research Group—one immediately after Trump’s inauguration, the other at the 100-day mark—also shed light on the extent of a “Trump effect” on giving—in this case, individual donors. The findings suggest a number of new patterns, and some of them are quite surprising.…> read more
June 5, 2017
We Need a Science of Philanthropy
Philanthropists are flying blind because little is known about how to donate money well. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s US$100-million gift to schools in Newark, New Jersey, reportedly achieved nothing. Some grants to academic scientists create so much administration that researchers are better off without them. And some funders’ decisions seem to be no better than if awardees were chosen at random, with the funded work achieving no more than the rejected.
The recipients of funds are increasingly scrutinized, but the effectiveness of donors is not. Funders are rarely punished for under-performing and usually don’t even know when they are: if the work that they fund helps one child but could have helped ten, that ‘opportunity cost’ is felt by the would-be beneficiaries, not by the funder. The same is probably true of agencies that fund research.
I founded an organization that promotes charitable giving based on sound evidence. I am acutely aware of how scant the evidence is about which ways of giving work best. The solution lies in more research on what makes for effective philanthropy. A ‘science of philanthropy’ could enable more to be achieved with the tens of billions given each year by foundations and other donors and funders.
Only a handful of studies have been done on donor effectiveness. The Center for Effective Philanthropy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that the time spent on proposals for, and the management of, ten grants of $10,000 takes nearly six times as long as the time spent on one grant of $100,000.…> read more
May 26, 2017
Are Foundations Part Of The Resistance? Challenges To Elite Donors In A Neo-Populist Age
Kristin A. Goss and Jeffrey M. Berry
The neo-populist wave that swept Donald Trump to power poses at least three challenges to elite philanthropy, which we define as both wealthy individual donors and foundations.
The first challenge is that elite philanthropy owes its wealth to an economic system at the heart of the neo-populist critique – an economic system based on job-draining automation, on job-redistributing processes of globalization, and on neoliberal policies. Second, much elite philanthropy embraces strategies driven from the top down by donors and cosmopolitan technocrats, whom neo-populists view with suspicion or even disdain. The third challenge is that elite philanthropy tends to focus on public problems (e.g., climate change) and constituencies (e.g., poor people of color, feminists, environmentalists, immigrants) that many neo-populists view as opponents in a zero-sum contest for society’s benefits. These three factors – the indebtedness to neoliberalism, the prioritization of elite approaches, and the orientation toward post-materialist progressive causes – would seem to put much philanthropy at odds with the political zeitgeist.…> read more
May 11, 2017
Why the Dell Foundation is Betting Big on Social Entrepreneurs
Experts within the philanthropy sector should consider funding fresh ideas from social entrepreneurs as much (if not more) than massive grants aimed at traditional programmatic solutions, many of which still struggle to make a huge impact on the world’s most challenging problems. That’s one key finding from a new report from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which was formed by Dell Technologies founder and CEO Michael Dell and his wife, Susan, and works in the U.S., India, and South Africa to improve the lives of children suffering from urban poverty. To that end, the Dell Foundation just committed another $1 billion to its endowment, in part, to fund just those types of ventures.
Since its inception in 1999, the Dell Foundation has spent freely, doling out a total of $1.3 billion in grants and loans, while countering the standard industry practice of just giving away the federally mandated minimum of 5%—a super-low threshold that many funders don’t exceed because they’re busily investing the rest of their endowment in the traditional market to recoup that expenditure. For many years, Dell has given far more than that—more like 15%—including impact investments in social entrepreneurs that, at least in the early stages, are the sort of allocations that can’t be expected to bring much return on their investment. In other words, the foundation has always been willing to make risky investments, giving away money that it may not be able to earn back, in order to incubate businesses and solutions that could save everyone in the space more money in the long term as they prove out or become sustainable.…> read more
May 2, 2017
Philanthropy’s Response to Trump Misses Focus on the Most-Alienated Americans
Suzanne Garment and Leslie Lenkowsky
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Now that the first 100 days of Trump administration have come and gone, it’s fair to say the philanthropic sky hasn’t fallen. Instead, the early confusion that marked the new administration has produced a highly assorted set of pluses and minuses for the nonprofit world.
The next question is whether charities and foundations will be able to look at the positives and see any way to work with the White House — or whether they will remain convinced the Trump presidency threatens virtually every goal they pursue and every value they represent.
The most recent evidence about how the grant-making world views the administration comes from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which found in a recent survey that almost half of CEOs of large foundations believe Trump’s tenure will make it harder for them to reach their philanthropic goals. A third say they’re changing goals or strategies. Almost half plan to do more collaboration with other donors and more advocacy.
These responses don’t tell us much, however, because the survey’s assiduously unbiased questions are too abstract to elicit a lot of concrete information. So let’s review some objective facts about philanthropy’s current standing under the Trump regime.…> read more
April 25, 2017
Majority of Foundations Say Trump Policies Are Prompting Grant-Making Changes
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Foundations on both sides of the political spectrum are re-examining how they can best contribute to society as the Trump administration nears its 100-day mark, according to findings from two surveys released today. Nearly three-quarters of foundation leaders have already made, or plan to make, adjustments in reaction to the Trump White House, according to 162 grant makers surveyed by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, a nonprofit research group. The foundations represented in the survey are relatively large, with each making at least $5 million in grants annually.
“Foundations are not sitting on their hands now,” said Phil Buchanan, the center’s president. “They are actively considering how their approaches and practices need to change in light of the changed context. The overwhelming majority are shifting something.”…> read more
April 25, 2017
Foundation CEOs Split on Impact of Trump
The Nonprofit Times
More than one-third (35 percent) of foundation CEOs anticipate making changes to their grant-making budgets in light of the election of President Donald J. Trump. Just one percent of them anticipate reducing grant-making, while 14 percent indicated that their grant-making budgets will increase. One-fifth (20 percent) of executives do not plan to change the amount in their grant-making budgets, but plan to allocate funds differently across program areas. Nearly two-fifths (38 percent) will not change their foundations’ grant-making budgets, while 27 percent stated that it is too early to tell what will be done.
“Shifting Winds: Foundations Respond to a New Political Context,” a report by The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), included survey results from 162 foundation CEOs whose organizations grant at least $5 million annually. The survey was conducted between Feb. 21 and March 10. Nearly half (48 percent) of foundation leaders believed that achieving organizational goals had gotten harder one month into Trump’s administration. By comparison, 3 percent reported that they expected a positive effect under Trump and 24 percent stated that they anticipated a mix of good and bad…> read more
April 3, 2017
How the focus on overhead disenfranchises communities of color and fans the flames of injustice
Nonprofit with Balls
In this political climate, when so many of us nonprofits are rallying to put out one fire after another, many of the things we have been used to and have been putting up with no longer make sense. Many of us in the sector have been making the argument against restricted funding and for general operating for years. Here’s a report from GEO. Here’s one from CEP. Here’s a piece from my colleague Paul Shoemaker. And I’ve made impassioned pleas here, here, and here. But despite countless arguments by dozens of leaders, we still have foundations who restrict funds, who set arbitrary numbers for “indirect expenses” and “overhead.”
But there has been one argument that we have not stressed enough to funders and donors, but now it is urgent that we do so: The focus on overhead is no longer just annoying, it’s perpetuating inequity and injustice…> read more
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
Reflections on the Leading Effective Foundations conference, release of Shifting Winds: Foundations Respond to a New Political Context, CEP Advisory Services and Surdna Foundation partner to publish Family Ties: Multigenerational Family Foundation Board Engagement, along with a number of new blog posts. Let us know what you think! …> 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
April 25, 2017
New Study Finds Range of Responses by U.S. Foundations to Shift in Presidential Administration
Cambridge, MA — The reactions and responses of U.S. foundations to the recent shift in national political context vary widely, reveals a new study released today by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). Based on survey responses from 162 CEOs of independent and community foundations in the U.S. giving at least $5 million annually, Shifting Winds: Foundations Respond to a New Political Context finds that 48 percent of respondents believe the change in presidential administration will have a negative effect on their ability to achieve their goals, while about a quarter say they anticipate a mix of positive and negative effects, and 17 percent say it is too soon to tell.
CEP President Phil Buchanan shared findings from the study earlier this month at the 2017 CEP Conference in Boston, video of which is available here.
The survey, which was fielded between February 21 and March 10, also asked foundation leaders about the extent to which they are making changes in their goals, strategies, grantmaking budgets, and practices. Overall, almost three-quarters of foundations responding to the survey report making, or planning to make, some change in their work. Additionally, about two-thirds of CEOs report planning to increase their emphasis on at least one practice as a result of last year’s election. The most frequently cited areas for increased emphasis are collaborating with other funders, advocacy/public policy at the state and/or local level, and convening grantees…>read more.
March 21, 2017
New CEP Research Highlights Key Areas of Focus for Limited Life Foundations
Cambridge, MA — Limited life foundations, which choose to spend themselves out of existence because of the belief that it will lead to greater impact, grapple with a similar set of issues in their journey to spending down. But there is great diversity in the decisions leaders of limited life foundations make about how to address these issues, finds new research released today by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). Based on interviews with leaders of 11 spend-down foundations, the report, titled A Date Certain: Lessons from Limited Life Foundations, explores the approaches of spend-down foundations in nine key areas, including investing, grantmaking and strategy, and communications.
“When we began this research, we expected that most of these foundations would take a similar path to spending down,” said Ellie Buteau, vice president, research, at CEP and co-author of the report. “But from what we heard, we learned that there is no one way to spend down. Our hope is that this research will help foundations that are spending down — or those that are considering spending down — explore a range of approaches as they consider their own planning and strategies.”…>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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]