October 27, 2018
5 Philanthropy Book Recommendations From The Center For Effective Philanthropy
Grace Chiang Nicolette
Here’s what we’ve been reading at CEP in recent years that has shaped our thinking on philanthropy:
New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World—and How to Make It Work for You by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans
At first glance, the title of this book may not reveal its relevance to philanthropy, but the connections are vital. Henry Timms, head of New York’s famed 92nd Street Y, is also the founder of the global #GivingTuesday phenomenon. He and his co-author, Purpose CEO Jeremy Heimans, are very attuned to the changing landscape around social movements and how modern change is being made in the age of social media and instant news. Filled with memorable and often hilarious stories, the authors are clear-eyed about the enormous opportunities that “new power” can wield, as well as its dangers. This book will make you look at the world around you with different eyes.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
At CEP’s 2017 conference, Bryan Stevenson nearly brought the house down with a stirring talk based on his critically-acclaimed and bestselling book. Drawing from his stories representing juveniles and the wrongly-accused on death row through his organization, the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson brings us vividly into the sobering realities of mass incarceration and racial injustice in the United States. His stories are indelible, and his hope for America’s future on these intractable issues is contagious… >read more.
October 22, 2018
Crazy Rich Asians In An Age Of Inequality
Grace Chiang Nicolette
Like many, I flocked to see the romantic comedy film Crazy Rich Asians in August, drawn in by the previews of the cross-cultural love story written by author Kevin Kwan — and by the excitement of supporting a practically all-Asian international cast. Since its opening, the film has grossed over $169 million at box offices worldwide, making it the most successful romantic comedy of the past decade, not to mention its significance in advancing Asian representation in Hollywood.
As someone who lived in China for seven years earlier in my career and traveled extensively in the Asia-Pacific region, there was something comforting about seeing familiar and beloved city scenes and hearing the different Chinese dialects spoken on the big screen. Having worked in the philanthropic sector there, it was also striking to see glittering reminders of the enormous wealth among the relatively few. There are now more billionaires in Asia than in the North America1, and the rising economic tides of the last two decades have been both a boon, raising millions out of poverty, and a contributor to pervasive social and economic inequality… >read more.
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.
January 2, 2019
Twin Cities Business
Foundations are increasingly involving community members—not just their boards and staff—to help decide who gets their money, according to a national Foundation Center report released in October.
A playbook for “participatory grantmaking,” the report highlights seven foundations, including the Minneapolis-based Headwaters Fund for Justice, and details how each draws upon community expertise to make grant award decisions.
Funding decisions long have been influenced by community input, but the trend shows that inclusive, community-led grantmaking practices are becoming more pervasive and creative as foundations look for ways to shift power and decision-making toward the communities they intend to serve.
This mirrors other shifts in leadership practice, management, and governance that recognize that the people closest to the work have the most expertise to solve problems and develop innovative responses…> read more
December 21, 2018
Johnson Scholarship Foundation
At December’s Continuing Education presentation, “How to listen to grantees (and still find out what we need to know),” Bobby Krause of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors made the point that we must actively and emphatically listen to our grantees. His presentation to his fellow Grant Program Committee members contained good communication and relationship building advice, namely, show up, shut up, engage and interpret. This advice fits well with recent research by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), Strengthening Grantees: Foundation and Nonprofit Perspectives.
Here is the summary of CEP’s findings:
- Foundations are not as in touch with nonprofits’ needs as they think
- Nonprofits most desire help in fundraising, staffing, and communications
- Both nonprofits and foundations have a role to play in closing the gap between the support nonprofits need and the support foundations provide
- Nonprofit CEOs see general operating support grants as having the greatest impact on strengthening their organizations
The first finding is hardly surprising, and neither are the numbers behind it: 95% of foundation leaders believe that their foundation cares about the health of their grantees and 87% of them believe that they are aware of grantee’s needs. But only a minority of grantees (43%) believe that foundations care about strengthening their organizations and most of them (58%) say that foundations don’t ask them what they need…> read more
November 18, 2018
When I interview an association about a new program it’s launching, I usually ask the same question: What does success look like? The question serves two purposes. Overtly, I’m interested in what KPIs/metrics/what-have-you the association is concerned with as it gets its new idea off the ground. And on another level, I’m trying to learn something about the association’s general strategic approach to projects—often, I’ll hear about the process behind defining “success,” what stakeholders were involved in that, and how it divvies up ownership of a project.
Luckily, most associations have good answers when I ask. So, it’s a useful question—clever me, I’ve thought. But it may be that I’ve missed something important here, because there’s another question that’s just as valuable that fewer associations ask: What does failure look like?
I come to this after reading a new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, “Understanding and Sharing What Works,” [PDF] which suggests that nonprofits have a habit of retreating into silence and deflection when it comes to the programs that don’t work out. A plurality of foundations surveyed (42 percent) say they share none or “very little” information publicly about what isn’t working in their programming. A third of CEOs surveyed say their organization “faces pressure from its board of directors to withhold information about failures,” and 40 percent of leaders say they have little or no knowledge about the failures of other organizations’ efforts…> read more
November 13, 2018
Longview News Journal
STANFORD, Calif., Nov. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — A new survey from Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) of 1,986 nonprofit, foundation and other charitable sector leaders found 88% currently prioritize gathering client feedback, with half of those (44%) calling it a high priority or top source of insight for continuous improvement. Only 12% reported feedback was not a stated priority.
However, two-thirds of respondents stated the greatest barrier to implementing feedback systems was limited staff time and/or resources. Only 10% said it was too complicated; and an additional 10%, too costly. “We were surprised to find that the vast majority of nonprofits surveyed already believed in the importance of getting feedback from their clients, but most felt seriously constrained in their ability to do so due to issues of capacity,” said Michael Gordon Voss, publisher of SSIR, which is running a multimedia series on the Power of Feedback.
These findings come as a movement of nearly 100 funders is developing new tools to make systematically gathering feedback a feasible and essential complement to traditional nonprofit program measurement methods of third-party evaluation and self-monitoring…> read more
November 9, 2018
Philanthropy News Digest
Based on survey responses from a hundred and nineteen CEOs of private and community foundations that give at least $5 million annually, the report, Understanding & Sharing What Works: The State of Foundation Practice (26 pages, PDF), found that 15 percent of respondents said they understood “extremely well” what was working in their programs, while 50 percent said they understood “very well” what was working and 34 percent said they understood “moderately well.” As for what is not working, 10 percent of respondents said they understood “extremely well,” 33 percent said they understood “very well,” and 51 percent said they understood “moderately well.” The top challenges cited by respondents in terms of learning what is and isn’t working were a lack of capacity and difficulties in assessing impact, with half of CEOs citing each as a challenge. The survey also found that the most common assessment methods were not necessarily the most useful, with most respondents relying on site visits and/or on-site assessments (98 percent) as well as final grant reports (98 percent) to learn what is and isn’t working, but only 56 percent and 31 percent saying they found those methods to be one of the most useful sources of information…> read more
November 8, 2018
The NonProfit Times
More than 40 percent of foundation CEOs believe that their foundations are not investing enough time and money in developing a better understanding of their programs, according to survey released today.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based Center For Effective Philanthropy (CEP) surveyed 119 CEOs of private and community foundations that give a minimum of $5 million a year as part of its report, “Understanding & Sharing What Works: The State of Foundation Practice.” The 26-page report also includes information obtained by in-depth interviews with 41 CEOs.
Almost two-thirds of the CEOs say they understand very well or extremely well what is working as their group attempts to achieve its goals, but less than half say they understand very or extremely well what is not working…> read more
November 8, 2018
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Thirty-seven percent of private and community foundation CEOs hesitate to share information about program mistakes or failures, according to a new report. And a similar percentage, 34 percent, said they feel pressure from their board of directors to withhold information about failures.
Those are among the findings in a new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy titled “Understanding & Sharing What Works.” The survey analyzed responses from 119 CEOs of private and community foundations that give at least $5 million annually.
In recent years, it’s become fashionable for nonprofits and foundations to speak openly about their failures. However, the new report indicates that resistance to do so remains strong among many grant makers…> read more
November 4, 2018
Conducting evaluations in foundations can be tricky and, frankly, not everyone’s idea of a good time. Through evaluation we seek to document events and experiences, gather feedback, assess impact, and where possible, and find the “truth” and determine value in varied, often conflicting, experiences and perspectives. Things can get confusing and awkward and in the end is it even worth it?
Our position is that while specific evaluations may not be worth it, developing an evaluative mindset is worth the effort. In fact, we propose that an evaluative mindset, which is regularly engaging in evaluative thinking, is necessary for meaningful evaluation and that it is an important part of the suite of leadership skills. Before we dive in deeper, we want to distinguish evaluation from evaluative thinking. Evaluation is an applied inquiry process that uses systematic processes to determine something’s merit, worth, and/or significance (Fournier, 2005).
Evaluative thinking as defined by Buckley, Archibald, Hargraves, & Trochim (2015) is:
“critical thinking applied in the context of evaluation, motivated by an attitude of inquisitiveness and a belief in the value of evidence, that involves identifying assumptions, posing thoughtful questions, pursuing deeper understanding through reflection and perspective taking, and informing decisions in preparation for action.”…> read more
October 31, 2018
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
My annual performance goals this year include a commitment to increasing the collection and use of feedback from the people we seek to serve across all of the Hewlett Foundation’s grant-making programs — my way of telling the foundation’s board that I (and the staff) will make this a priority.
Our reason for doing so can be simply stated: If you want to help people, asking what they find helpful makes obvious sense. We all do that in our personal lives with our family, friends, and neighbors. We do it in our workplaces, asking for and giving feedback to team members.
And in a charitable organization, whose whole mission is helping people, it is essential that we make it a norm to ask for feedback from the people we’re seeking to help. It can only improve our ability to make a meaningful difference in their lives.
Our foundation, like some others, already uses the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Grantee Perception Report to gather and react to feedback from our grantees. These surveys have helped us improve how we work with nonprofits, prompting us to sharpen our proposal requirements, improve our approach to helping these nonprofits connect with each other, and more…> read more
October 11, 2018
Philanthropy News Digest
When it comes to strengthening the operational capacity of nonprofits, there is a gap between the support foundations tend to provide and the support nonprofits say they need, a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds.
Based on a survey of a hundred and seventy nonprofit CEOs and a hundred and eighty-seven foundation leaders who oversee their organization’s programmatic work, the report, Strengthening Grantees: Foundation and Nonprofit Perspectives (40 pages, PDF), found that although 87 percent of foundation officials said their organization was aware of their grantees’ needs, 58 percent of nonprofit CEOs said none or few of their funders ask about their needs beyond funding. According to the survey, nonprofit CEOs said they most needed help with fundraising (42 percent), staffing (37 percent), and communications (26 percent), while foundation leaders viewed fundraising (51 percent), governance (39 percent), and financial management (33 percent) as most important…> 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
Registration for CEP’s 2019 national conference in Minneapolis-St. Paul, to be held May 7-9 and themed Stronger Philanthropy, is now open, upcoming research releases- Strengthening Grantees: Foundation and Nonprofit Perspectives, and Understanding and Sharing What Works: The State of Foundation Practice, hear CEP leaders speak, and meet some of our new staff members. >read more
New research from CEP – Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations, CEP’s first resource for Individual Donors Five Things Nonprofits want Donors to Know is available, and a Year in Review at CEP.>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
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.