October 10, 2018
Using Client Feedback to Stay on Course
Kevin Bolduc and Phil Buchanan
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Like a good GPS system, signals from multiple sources—grantees, staff, other funders, and beneficiaries—can help pinpoint where foundations stand.
“Make a legal U-turn.” “Exit right in two miles.” When we drive, many of us now have an electronic voice telling us the shortest route, how to avoid detours, and how to correct wrong turns. We’ve recycled our atlases and put our trust in global positioning systems—GPS. The power of GPS is immense. It knows exactly where we are, even when we don’t. Using a process called trilateration, it locates our position via simultaneous signals from four different satellites. Thanks to this precise measurement, overlaid on maps in our digital navigation systems, we’re never lost and can usually travel along a continually updating, optimized route.
So what does this have to do with foundations trying to navigate toward solutions to tough social and environmental problems? Foundations can take almost any course of action, but they don’t always have enough input to choose the best direction and stay on course. The good news is that there are at least four, readily available feedback sources—four signals—that can help them hone in on the most effective approaches for achieving impact. These include feedback from grantees, foundation staff, other funders, and beneficiaries. Taken together, they can help pinpoint where foundations stand…>read more.
September 4, 2018
Amid Healthy Critiques of Big Philanthropy, Don’t Lose Sight of Its Crucial Role
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Critiques of philanthropy and nonprofits appear to be intensifying, in part fueled by a broad and understandable distrust of powerful institutions and of the “elites.” That is healthy, of course: There is legitimate reason to be concerned about those who seek cynically to wrap themselves in a flag of charitable do-gooding only to perpetuate inequality or stand in the way of real change.
“Even as they give back, American elites generally seek to maintain the system that causes many of the problems they try to fix — and their helpfulness is part of how they pull it off,” writes Anand Giridharadas in a provocative op-ed in the New York Times. “Thus their do-gooding is an accomplice to greater, if more invisible, harm.”
Books such as The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, by David Callahan, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, by Giridharadas, and the forthcoming Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better, by Rob Reich, raise important questions about whether philanthropists are wielding inappropriate levels of power and influence.
Such skepticism of big givers is often warranted and has always been part of our country’s philanthropic history. But I worry about the potential to overlook the positive stories about giving in the United States and about all the nonprofits that depend on private giving to support their missions.
Let’s not take for granted the good — indeed vital — work being done each day by crucially important nonprofit organizations, often supported by generous donors across a range of income levels who don’t look anything like the Davos-attending ultrawealthy power brokers whom Giridharadas describes (and often rightly calls out)…>read more.
July 27, 2018
Forum Annual Conference 2018: When learning is both personal and professional
One of the unique aspects of working in philanthropy is that when we come together with peers in our field, the lessons we learn can be both personal and professional in nature. I was reflecting on this truth after the United Philanthropy Forum conference in Boston last week, where a consistent theme threaded throughout the sessions was the importance of racial equity and inclusion.
The professional takeaways as they relate to racial progress are loud and clear. From each plenary speaker, we heard the call to action for funders and philanthropy-serving organisations (PSOs) to take up the mantle to speak out and advocate for policy change in a time when so many marginalized communities and civic institutions are in crisis. It was necessary to be faced with our painful history, hard data, and moving stories — and to be able to celebrate hard won victories together — in order to sharpen our collective sense of urgency and the knowledge of what’s possible. The week was also a great response to the Forum’s own racial equity scan of philanthropy-serving organisations, which found that 43 per cent of PSOs say that they are just beginning their race equity journey, with a request for more frameworks, resources, and peer learning…>read more.
April 4, 2018
Putting ‘New Power’ to Work in Philanthropy
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Black Lives Matter, the ice-bucket challenge, the National Rifle Association, and ISIS don’t, at first glance, appear to have much in common. But all are highlighted in an important new book by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms for their ability to harness what the authors have dubbed “new power” — a power that is “made by many … open, participatory, and peer-driven.”
New power, they argue, operates “like a current and, like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges.” Contrast that with “old power,” which is “held by few … closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven,” operating “like a currency.”
Their rich and deeply researched book — filled with business, government, and nonprofit examples — is called New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make It Work for You. It describes a fundamental shift in the way people get things done in an age in which our devices connect us wherever we go — and in which expectations for participation and engagement are high, especially among millennials…>read more.
August 17, 2017
In Defense of Perpetuity
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Limited-life foundations are currently all the rage, but Fleishman’s book reminds us that perpetual, endowed foundations are in many cases preferable.
Perpetuity is so yesterday. Or so it sometimes seems, as many high-profile philanthropists make clear their intention to do their “giving while living,” rather than establish endowed, perpetual institutions. The once-multibillion-dollar Atlantic Philanthropies is in the final stages of winding down operations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to spend down within 20 years of its founders’ deaths. And donors such as Sean Parker (of Napster and Facebook fame) have announced that their foundations will be time-limited.
Parker has gone so far as to publicly deride perpetual organizations. “The executive directors of most major private foundations, endowments, and other nonprofit institutions are dedicated, first and foremost, to preserving the resources and reputations of the institutions they run,” he wrote in a 2015 Wall Street Journal essay. “This is achieved by creating layers of bureaucracy to oversee the resources of the institution and prevent it from taking on too much risk.” The best way to avoid “philanthropic decay,” Parker argued, is “spending down all of your philanthropic assets during your own lifetime.”
August 9, 2017
Working With Big Business Isn’t Always the Way for Foundations to Achieve Their Goals
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
There’s much talk lately among foundation leaders and major donors about the need to work in collaboration with business. Proclamations about “harnessing the power of the markets,” “sector agnosticism,” and “blurred boundaries” are now the norm at philanthropy conferences. Everyone nods.
Indeed, out of a list of 24 potentially promising practices for increasing philanthropy’s impact, foundation CEOs rated collaboration with business and other spheres in the top five in a survey conducted last year by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which I lead, Fifty-nine percent said that “foundations simultaneously collaborating with other foundations, business, government, and nonprofits” holds “a lot of promise” for boosting impact.
But in my work with grant makers and donors over the past 16 years, I have grown worried that too many are naïve about business as a “partner.”
Of course, business plays a crucial role as an employer, a provider of needed (and unneeded) products, and, sometimes, a driver of progress and innovation. Business, big and small, affects all of us. For good or ill (or a mix of both), it influences many of the challenges philanthropists and foundations seek to address. But these statements of the obvious are too often followed by a reflexive declaration that, therefore, “we need to work with business.”…>read more.
October 4, 2018
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Foundations are not as in touch as they think they are with the needs and concerns of the nonprofits they support, according to a new study that draws on the perspectives of both foundation and nonprofit leaders.
Most foundation leaders — 73 percent — say their organization follows up with grantees often or always to understand the effects of the support they have provided. However, only about one-third of nonprofit CEOs said foundations often or always follow up.
“You expected to see some discrepancies” based on previous research, said Ellie Buteau, vice president for research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which conducted the survey. “But I don’t think we expected to see the degree of the discrepancies in the study. That was surprising to us.”
The survey also found that 87 percent of foundation leaders believe their organization is aware of grantees’ needs, while 58 percent of nonprofit CEOs say none or few of their grant makers ask about their group’s overall needs beyond funding…> read more
September 7, 2018
Forbes Nonprofit Council
Having an organization that is diverse and inclusive is key to equal performance within. But according to a study by The Center for Effective Philanthropy, sexual orientation and gender diversity are lacking at many nonprofit organizations.
While these organizations claim to have a handle on the situation, reality proves they do not. Nonprofits need to show their clients, as well as their employees, that they are willing and able to accept all, regardless of their gender, race, religion or background.
August 16, 2018
Katie Smith Milway
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Fay Twersky and Lindsay Louie of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation were stumped. Less than a year into forging a coalition of funders that was briskly moving grants out the door, they realized that they might have a flaw in their approach to fostering change. The collaborative they helped to create, Fund for Shared Insight, aimed to help funders and nonprofits become more effective by listening intently to the people they strove to help—their end users. Although gathering user feedback is common in the corporate world, where consumer preference informs strategy and makes or breaks sales, in the charitable sector, consumers too rarely get asked if the hours are convenient or the services are advancing their life goals.
The potential for user feedback to improve funder and nonprofit decisions and offerings, as it does commercial entities’, seemed obvious. But it became clear to Twersky and Louie, after a January 2015 visit to nonprofits piloting ways to listen, that it was going to be hard to capture that potential. “There was no existing platform that could scale,” says Twersky, “and the approaches that nonprofits were using seemed artisanal and very complex.”
Twersky, Louie, and Fund for Shared Insight’s story of finding simplicity on the other side of this complexity—of collaborating with other funders not to scale a proven approach, but to design a solution with nonprofits and their end users that could be adopted far and wide—is fairly unique in the world of philanthropy…> read more
July 19, 2018
The Nonprofit Times
About four out of five nonprofit CEOS say that racial diversity is relevant to their organizations and slightly fewer report that their organizations are least somewhat racially diverse.
Other forms of diversity — such as gender identity and sexual orientation — are viewed as less relevant.
Some 82 percent of nonprofit CEOs believe that racial diversity is relevant to organizational goals and 79 percent said their organizations are at least somewhat racially diverse, but barely half (52 percent) find diversity in sexual orientation relevant to organizational goals, according to “Nonprofit Diversity Efforts.” The new study by The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) in Cambridge, Mass., surveyed 205 nonprofit CEOs. Just over half (55 percent) of respondents identified diversity in gender identity as organizationally relevant with 68 percent finding diversity among individuals with disabilities to be important.
These priorities bear out in actual diversity. Just one out of five CEOs (21 percent) reported that their organizations were not at all or not very racially diverse. That figure increased for sexual orientation (26 percent), gender identity (42 percent), and disabilities (59 percent).
Representation for those with disabilities also was identified by CEOs as far and away the area in which nonprofits least reflect the populations they serve (40 percent). Sexual orientation (18 percent), gender identity (15 percent), and race (15 percent) ranked far behind in terms of not reflecting populations served…> read more
July 19, 2018
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Most nonprofit chief executives say diversity is an important goal, but their organizations are falling short of the mark, according to a study released today.
A survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that more than two-thirds of nonprofit leaders thought that having a diverse staff was very or extremely important. But only about one-third said their own staff met that goal. There was a similar disconnect between nonprofit leaders’ aspirations for diversity and the actual make-up of their boards and executive leaders, the survey found.
“They have a long way to go in terms of how diverse they want their staff and boards to be in order to meet their goals,” said Ellie Buteau, the center’s vice president of research.
A majority of nonprofit leaders reported that their organization was diverse based on race and ethnicity, gender identity, and the sexual orientation of members of their work force. But nearly 60 percent said their organization was “not very” or “not at all” diverse when accounting for employees with disabilities…> read more
July 17, 2018
In the fall of 2017, the Barr Foundation commissioned the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct a Grantee Perception Report, or GPR. More than 200 respondents participated in the GPR, which is a confidential survey of grantees and declined applicants about working with a funder. This is an important tool for foundations to gauge how they’re managing relationships that come with built-in tensions.
As CEP’s president Phil Buchanan told Inside Philanthropy: “Getting candid, comparative feedback from nonprofits they support is crucial for funders, given the power dynamics between those seeking resources and those who possess them.”
Barr received mixed results in the survey, finding that its partners were more satisfied in some areas than others. It was also sometimes rated as “typical.”
Barr’s last GPR was in 2012, and ratings for the overall quality of Barr-grantee relationships improved from being in the lowest quartile in 2012 to a more “typical” level in 2017—in the 37th percentile.
July 13, 2018
Alexa Cortes Culwell
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Those of us in the social sector are painfully aware that toxic individuals and cultures are not just a function of the private sector—unfortunately, our sector has had its own share of recent scandals. Which raises the question: What if all social impact organizations held their leaders and staff accountable not only for what they accomplish, but also for how they accomplish it?
In recent years, the social sector has largely focused on what it is achieving, emphasizing theories of change, performance metrics, and impact—or the end result. But it’s also important to look at how we do the work, focusing on our cultures, internal behaviors, and the means to the ends. At the center of organizational culture must be a fundamental commitment to value and respect all people, inside and outside our organizations.
So how can we counteract workplace toxicity and develop stronger performance in the process? Based on decades of experience leading and advising social impact organizations, I believe there are four questions leaders should ask:
1. Are your organization’s values and cultural norms explicitly stated? Whether or not they are written down, every organization has implicit values and a culture defined by its leaders. If you have not yet created an explicit values statement, it’s time to do so—and it doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve worked with a number of clients to create statements that can serve as an internal North Star and help anchor organizational culture.
Last year, the growing team at the Sobrato Family Foundation, a place-based grantmaker whose mission is to make Silicon Valley a place of opportunity for all residents, used its staff retreat to make the organization’s cultural norms and practices more explicit. The result was an internal co-created document that outlined, in very clear terms, the values and behaviors that aligned with the foundation’s mission and were expected of all employees…> read more
June 14, 2018
Suzanne Garment and Leslie Lenkowsky
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
The just-released 2018 edition of “Giving USA” brings glad tidings to the nonprofit world. In 2017, charitable gifts by Americans totaled $410 billion. That’s 3 percent more than in 2016, even after adjusting for inflation — a sign that the strong economy continues to power philanthropic giving.
But don’t expect fundraisers and other nonprofit executives to break out in smiles when they read the report, published annually by the Giving USA Foundation and based on research by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. (We are both affiliated with Indiana University but are not involved in the production or publication of “Giving USA.”)
To the contrary, more than half of the 357 foundation and nonprofit leaders surveyed earlier this year by the Center for Effective Philanthropy worried that giving would decrease in 2018, largely because of the new tax law. Just 19 percent of the high-level foundation officials surveyed, and 14 percent of the nonprofit executives, disagreed with this gloomy prediction…> read more
May 22, 2018
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
A majority of nonprofit chief executives and foundation leaders believe fundraising will suffer under the new tax law. But, according to a survey released today, the two groups disagree, in part, on how to respond.
More than one-third of 170 nonprofits surveyed by the Center for Effective Philanthropy said that to prevent losses in revenue, foundations should become more vocal in promoting the importance of nonprofit organizations as a whole. In response to the same question, foundations shrugged. None of the 187 participating foundations identified advocating for nonprofits as the proper response to a potential decline in giving.
In comments accompanying the survey, some nonprofit leaders described such advocacy as “inspiring” the public with efforts like marketing campaigns.
Nonprofits “see foundations as having a voice, a platform, and a position from which they can speak and be heard,” said Ellie Buteau, vice president for research at the center. “Perhaps foundations don’t realize, or might not be thinking about the value of that in a way that nonprofits are.”…> read more
May 10, 2018
Dr. B.J. Bischoff
Sonoma Valley Sun
Last month, the Community Foundation Sonoma County and Napa Valley Community Foundation released a report describing the results of a survey they commissioned to determine the impact that the October wildfires on Sonoma and Napa County nonprofits. The survey, conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Advisory Services, was sent to 468 nonprofit organizations that were former grantees of the foundations. The survey response rate was 39%, with 184 nonprofits weighing in. Of the nonprofits that responded, 56 percent have budgets under $1 million. A total of 49% of the 86 Sonoma Valley nonprofits surveyed responded to the survey.
An overwhelming majority of the nonprofit respondents (85%) reported that their organization had been affected in some way by the wildfires. When asked how the fires had impacted them, 81% reported that they provided services to more individuals or organizations; 78% reported that their major donors or board members lost their home or suffered damage to their home; 78% reported that they added new services or programs; and 61% reported that they had to shift staff from other services or projects to fire recovery efforts…> read more
May 8, 2018
When the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) debuted Philamplify a few years ago, we cheered the project on. As NCRP notes, many grantmakers operate in a bubble, rarely receiving critical feedback on how they’re achieving impact—or how they aren’t. For a dozen foundations, Philamplify’s assessments offer detailed suggestions to correct organizational shortcomings, especially within the context of movement building and equity. (By the way, GrantAdvisor is another more recent attempt at eliciting feedback on funders, through crowdsourced reviews rather than detailed assessments. And the Center for Effective Philanthropy has long been a leader in this area.)
NCRP’s latest endeavor, an assessment toolkit called Power Moves, grew out of Philamplify. This time, the sector watchdog group is promoting a do-it-yourself approach, calling on funders to assess their own commitment to equity and justice. As the name indicates, power is the central concept. NCRP makes the case that without a frank analysis of the power relations that inform grantmaking, funders will never be able to change the systems that perpetuate the problems they want to solve…> read more
April 10, 2018
Napa Valley Register
A new survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy reports that 85 percent of nonprofit organizations in the North Bay—spanning arts and culture, education and the environment, and health and social services—have been impacted by the October 2017 wildfires.
In February and March, the center surveyed 468 current and former grantees of Community Foundation Sonoma County and Napa Valley Community Foundation, and received 184 responses for a response rate of 39 percent.
The results of the survey were clear: the fires that started six months ago had a broad impact on organizations of all sizes and all types. Among the key findings for nonprofits in the region:
- 81 percent reported needing to provide services to more individuals or organizations after the fires…> read more
April 2, 2018
Be Bold, Be Strong, Be Big and Be Known
LOCUS Impact Investing
The staff of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation(AAACF) has taken to calling their foundation “a community impact engine” where the whole staff – finance, administration, development, program – works in service of impact. “It’s a virtuous cycle… create impact, build endowment, create more impact, build more endowment,” said Jillian Rosen, the foundation’s Vice President for Community Investment.
It’s not just a good marketing line, either. In the last three years, the foundation has witnessed remarkable growth even when adjusted for market performance. Assets of the foundation have grown 80%, and, as a result, the foundation’s grantmaking has almost doubled. The success came after a process where the foundation asked, “How are we contributing to the overall wellness of Washtenaw County?” Rosen said, “Endowment came as the answer.”
In 2015, the foundation embarked on three-pronged, data-driven assessment of their work. First, with help from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, they conducted a survey to gather candid feedback from the foundation’s donors. Second, they interviewed professional advisors to see how they viewed the foundation and to ask how they could be a better service in the community. Finally, working with CF Insights, they identified six “aspirational peers” or foundations from similar communities that had experienced remarkable growth, and spoke with them about their work and their approaches to asset development…> read more
March 27, 2018
Community Foundation Sonoma County
NorthBay Business Journal
For its leadership in taking the long view in providing funds for recovery and rebuilding needs, Community Foundation Sonoma County was nominated for a Community Philanthropy Award by Len Marabella, executive director of Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa.
The day after the fire outbreak, the foundation launched its Resilience Fund, raising public awareness of the need for an extended period of funding, given that the majority of giving — typically 70 percent to 80 percent — goes toward immediate relief.
The foundation asked donors to contribute to a plan focusing on mid- to long-term funding needs over a five-year period.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy found that forming a long-term investment fund is a best practice, and according to FEMA, recovering from the magnitude of the North Bay fires will take between three to seven years.
“We are gathering information to develop a strategy to ensure that the Resilience Fund will make an impact beyond initial funding and loans by government agencies and insurance sources,” said CEO and President Elizabeth Brown.
“We are also researching donor giving practices during disasters and collecting data based on local successes and outcomes experienced by others faced with similar situations.”
The foundation convened a meeting with 250 nonprofit leaders and funders last November, and in February hosted 10 listening sessions with some 200 attendees to assess which areas have the most urgent needs. This feedback will give Community Foundation Sonoma County direction on where to focus its funds.
A survey of nonprofit organizations in partnership with the Center for Effective Philanthropy and the Napa Valley Community Foundation is also being conducted to ensure that the Sonoma County foundation is able to address recovery and rebuilding needs both now and for the future…> read more
February 15, 2018
Building Trust in Funder–Grantee Relationships
No social arrangement can operate well or for long without trust.
The amount of time and work it takes to cultivate trust is inversely related to how quickly it can be lost. Then too, while familiarity may breed contempt, it also breeds trust. We typically don’t default to trusting those we don’t know, especially when we find it so difficult to trust well those we do.
So it shouldn’t surprise us when the Center for Effective Philanthropy reports that one of the central problems in modern philanthropy is a “pervasive lack of trust” between foundations and grant recipients. This lack of trust is largely the result of a knowledge deficit, revealed in grantees’ complaint that those offering the grants need to learn to defer to those who live in, know, and understand a region.
They might well have added “love,” a word which we should not forget is at the root of “philanthropy.” People who get into the nonprofit sector typically do so because they are trying to promote, defend, enrich, or maintain something they love, and these loves form the backbone of any worthwhile enterprise…> read more
January 31, 2018
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is #OpenForGood
Hope Lyons and Ari Klickstein
As a private foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund advances a just, peaceful, and sustainable world through grantmaking and related activities. We believe that discerning and communicating the impact of our grantmaking and other programmatic contributions is essential to fulfilling the Fund’s mission, as is a commitment to stewardship, transparency, and accountability. Philanthropy exists to serve the public good. By opening up what we are learning, we believe that we are honoring the public’s trust in our activities as a private foundation.
As part of our commitment to serving the public good, we are proud to be among the first foundations to join the new #OpenForGood campaign by sharing published reports on our grantmaking through Foundation Center’s open repository, IssueLab, and its new special collection of evaluations Find Results, and continue to make them available on our own website. These reports and impact assessments are materials authored by third party assessment teams, and sometimes by our own program leadership, in addition to the published research papers and studies by grantees already on IssueLab.
We feel strongly that we have a responsibility to our grantees, trustees, partners, and the wider public to periodically evaluate our grantmaking, to use the findings to inform our strategy and practice, and to be transparent about what we are learning. In terms of our sector, this knowledge can go a long way in advancing fields of practice by identifying effective approaches. The Fund has a long history of sharing our findings with the public, stretching as far back as 1961, when the results of the Fund’s Special Studies Project were published as the bestselling volume Prospect for America. The book featured expert analysis on key issues of the era including international relations, economic and societal challenges, and democratic practices, topics which remain central to our grantmaking work.
We view our grantmaking as an investment in the public good, and place a great deal of importance on accountability. Through surveys conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy in 2016, our grantees and prospective grantees told us that they wanted to hear more about what we have learned, as well as what the Fund has tried but was recognized as less successful in its past grantmaking…> read more
January 3, 2018
Funder-Nonprofit Relations Matter, But Is Anyone Listening?
The fraught relations between foundations and nonprofit organizations was a hot topic last year.
But as I watched the “Medici: Masters of Florence” series on Netflix over the holidays, I was reminded how power for good or bad has always been a dynamic tension in philanthropy.
Searching for signs of humility, empathy, and trust
Our friends at the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy have been saying this for the past 20 years. Jennifer Choi reminded us that power dynamics are the most significant source of strained relationships between foundations and nonprofit organizations.
Martin Levine offered blunt advice in the Nonprofit Quarterly. In Listen More to Nonprofits and Speak Less, he offers hope that some funders can learn to be more self-aware.
But self-awareness never comes easily to institutions with power. I recently wrote how this blind spot may prevent funders having honest conversations about data and evaluation with nonprofit leaders.
Hoping for an honest conversation
Last September, I joined a lively event in Boston where Henry Berman of Exponent Philanthropy cajoled a funder-nonprofit audience to have a long-overdue conversation about this problem. Exponent’s national funder-grantee conversations were a collaboration with the National Council of Nonprofits and helped crowdsource ideas for better relationships.
The latest report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) validated the findings harvested by Exponent and NCN. CEP’s report, Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees and the Keys to Success, highlighted what it takes to build strong relationships while navigating the power imbalance between funders and nonprofits…> read more
January 2, 2018
Fighting Misinformation, Grooming New Leaders, and Unlocking More Giving: Ideas for 2018
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Some of the best writing in The Chronicle’s opinion pages in the past year focused on federal policy — including the pros and cons of ending the six-decade ban on charity politicking, the impact of changes in the tax code on giving, and the growing attacks on social-justice organizations in the Trump era.
But lots of other important ideas are percolating across the philanthropic landscape, and top thinkers shared them in our opinion section. Here are some key ideas that will be important in 2018:
The power of cash.
Benjamin Soskis, a philanthropy scholar at the Urban Institute, examined intensifying interest among donors about promoting a universal basic income — the idea that everybody should get a minimum, no-strings-attached sum annually. He followed up with a look at a groundbreaking effort by the nonprofit Give Directly to test whether giving cash — an approach the group has proven to work in Africa — can be adapted to provide aid to Texas victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Philanthropy’s role in fighting misinformation.
Elizabeth Good Christopherson, head of the Rita Allen Foundation, noted that all grant makers — regardless of their missions — have a stake in making sure policy makers and voters base their decisions on evidence and facts.
Two other notable pieces focused on this topic: Sarah Moore, a nonprofit marketer, offered ideas for how nonprofits can thrive in a post-fact world while Josh Wilson, a public-radio producer, urged grant makers to put more money into journalism projects that promote the public interest and to stop worrying about propping up failing business models.
Unlocking more donations for charity.
All the focus on federal tax deduction for charitable donations obscures the powerful role nonprofits have in promoting strong giving, argued Eugene Steuerle, co-founder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center…> read more
December 28, 2017
Philanthropy Awards, 2017
Believe it or not, Inside Philanthropy has now been around for four years. It’s been a lot of fun. And there’s no part that’s more fun than looking back over the past year to take stock as we give out our annual IP Philanthropy Awards, or IPPYs. (See winners for 2016, 2015, and 2014.)
There’s never been a more exciting time in U.S. philanthropy than right now, and 2017 has been another year of major developments, interesting moves by funders, and—occasionally—stuff that makes you want to scream. Enjoy our latest IPPYs! …> read more
December 18, 2017
How Highly Rated Program Officers Earn Grantees’ Approval
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
What makes philanthropy’s best grant-making officers so well regarded?
The Center for Effective Philanthropy recently released a report that zeroes in on key aspects of productive, positive relationships between grant-making institutions and nonprofit grantees.
At the top of the list are program officers who share the following qualities: an understanding of grantees’ work and the context within which they operate; a commitment to transparency about the grant-application process; and a disinclination to pressure nonprofits to alter approaches or proposals to win grants.
The report is based on survey data gathered over more than a decade from tens of thousands of nonprofit grantees; it builds on a study that the Center for Effective Philanthropy published in 2010 examining the traits of strong foundation-grantee relationships…> read more
December 6, 2017
Experts Say This Is The Most Fulfilling Way To Donate At The Holidays
Finding what you’re passionate about will make all the difference.
The final month of the year may be a time for getting, but it’s also a hugely popular time for giving, especially to charity. In 2015, for example, 30 percent of all donations that online donations platform Network For Good received came in December. Twenty percent of those donations came in on Dec. 31, the last day to donate in order to get tax breaks for the year.
When the holiday spirit moves you to donate ― or when you’re itching for a tax break ― it’s tempting to hit up that global mega-charity you’ve seen on TV and donate there in one click. And there’s nothing wrong with that, experts told HuffPost. But think deeper, and you may discover some more fulfilling places to send your money…> read more
New research release – Bracing for a Downturn: Nonprofits, Charitable Deduction Worries, and How Foundations Can Help, exciting partnership with GEO, new YouthTruth analysis, and meet some of our new staff members. >read more
New questions related to DEI and tax reform added to CEP’s assessments, sneak peek at upcoming CEP research, and a new addition to the CEP board. Catch up on the latest happenings at CEP!> read more
New research release – Staying Connected: How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help, CEP Board of Directors update, CEP2019 conference save-the-date, and much more!> read more
New research release – Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success, a new CEP webinar, new writing from CEP president, Phil Buchanan, and updates from YouthTruth. Read up on what’s been happening at CEP! …> read more
New research release – Benchmarking Program Officer Roles and Responsibilities, CEP 2017 videos and resources, new blog posts, and CEP’s 2016 Annual Report. There’s so much to catch up on! …> 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
December 12, 2017
New CEP Report Profiles How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help
Cambridge, MA — A new report released today by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) profiles five foundations’ efforts to develop understanding of their beneficiaries’ needs and incorporate that understanding into their work. The report, titled Staying Connected: How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help, includes interviews with foundations rated highly by their grantees for their understanding of their beneficiaries’ needs. These foundations have a range of focus areas, from students to children and adults in need of affordable health care.
“CEP’s research over the last few years showed us that foundations recognize the importance of learning from those they seek to help, but both funders and grantees alike don’t always see this learning happening,” said Ellie Buteau, CEP’s vice president, research, and co-author of the report. “The profiles in Staying Connected illustrate why it is so important for foundations to understand the needs of those they are ultimately trying to help — and incorporate what they learn into their grantmaking priorities.”
The five foundations profiled in the report are: Nord Family Foundation in Amherst, OH; Helios Education Foundation in Phoenix, AZ; the Duke Endowment in Charlotte, NC; the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation in Owing Mills, MD; and SC Ministry Foundation in Cincinnati, OH.
Each ranked among the top 15 percent of foundations that commissioned a Grantee Perception Report (GPR) between 2016 and 2017 when it comes to how their grantees rated them on questions related to their understanding of intended beneficiaries’ needs. CEP conducted in-depth interviews with CEOs and program staff at these foundations, as well as with leaders of three nonprofits funded by each foundation…>read more
December 6, 2017
Kathleen Cravero and Kelvin Taketa Elected to the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) Board of Directors
Cambridge, MA — The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) has elected Oak Foundation President Kathleen Cravero and former Hawai’i Community Foundation President and CEO Kelvin Taketa to join its Board of Directors. Both will begin serving three-year terms beginning January 1, 2018.
“Kathleen and Kelvin bring unique perspectives and a wealth of experience to the CEP Board,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan. “Kathleen’s leadership of an international family foundation and Kelvin’s experience as an innovative community foundation leader will complement the wealth of experience already around the CEP board table.”
Cravero has served as president of Oak Foundation, based in Geneva, Switzerland, since 2009, where she leads the foundation’s work addressing issues of global, social, and environmental concern, particularly those that have an impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. Prior to joining the foundation, Cravero worked in international development for more than two decades in roles at UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations, including as part of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Advancing gender equality has been a focus of her work, and her past positions have included stations in Burundi, Uganda, and Chad. Cravero holds a Ph.D. in political science from Fordham University and a masters in public health from Columbia University.
“Oak Foundation has benefitted greatly from the research and support of the Center for Effective Philanthropy,” said Cravero. “It is great to have a chance to give back and to bring the perspective of a European-based family foundation to CEP’s work. I look forward to this opportunity.”
Taketa is senior fellow at the Hawai’i Community Foundation, the state’s largest foundation. He served as the foundation’s president and CEO from 1998 until he stepped down earlier this year. Under his leadership, the foundation more than tripled the amount of funds it distributed in the state. A native of Hawai’i, Taketa has spent his entire career in the nonprofit sector including senior leadership positions with the Nature Conservancy in Hawai’i, at its headquarters in Virginia, and founding its work in the Asia Pacific Region. He has also served on a number of nonprofit boards, including those of Encore, Sustainable Conservation, Independent Sector, Stupski Foundation, and Feeding America, as well as serving in private sector capacities as the founder of a private equity company and on the board of Hawaiian Electrical Industries. He is a graduate of Colorado College and holds a J.D. from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law…>read more
November 14, 2017
Understanding and Transparency are Key to Funder-Grantee Relationships, New CEP Research Reveals
Cambridge, MA — Relationships between foundation funders and their nonprofit grantees are crucial because the two must work well together if they are to achieve shared goals. New research released today from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) finds that, in the eyes of nonprofits, the most powerful ways that funders can strengthen those relationships are to: 1) focus on understanding grantee organizations and the context in which they work; and 2) be transparent with grantees.
The report, titled Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success, also finds that the program officer to whom a grantee is assigned plays a crucial role in shaping how grantees experience their relationship with a funder. CEP interviewed 11 program officers whose grantees provided high ratings about their funder experience through CEP’s Grantee Perception Report (GPR), and the research highlights these program officers’ insights about how they view their role and what they believe it takes to be a good program officer…>read more
June 20, 2017
CEP Report Shares New Data on the Role of Foundation Program Officers
Cambridge, MA — New research released today from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) provides a comprehensive collection of benchmarking data on foundation program officers. The report, titled Benchmarking Program Officer Roles and Responsibilities, includes data on topics ranging from the backgrounds of program officers, to technical information about the structure of the program officer role, to program officers’ perspectives on certain aspects of their work, such as the funder-grantee dynamic.
Findings in the report are based on survey responses from 150 randomly selected program officers at foundations that give at least $5 million annually.
“We know that program officers greatly shape the experiences that grantees have with foundations, but there has been a shortage of research in the field looking deeply into the intricacies of the role,” said Jennifer Glickman, research manager at CEP. “Our hope is that this data will provide insight into program officers’ vast set of responsibilities.”…>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.