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.
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
November 27, 2017
Speaking Out When Our Values Are in Play
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Five critical questions to guide the work of nonprofit communicators.
Social sector organizations cannot hide behind silence when so many of the values they stand for are being politicized. That was the challenge Grant Oliphant, president of the Heinz Endowments, put forth with urgency at the recent ComNet17 conference hosted by The Communications Network in Miami.
“I want to challenge you today because I don’t want you actually to leave here feeling satisfied with the progress that you’re making. I have never felt more urgently in my life that what you do is needed and you have to step up. We, all of us who care about the craft of communications and the practice of this work, have got to seriously step up our game.
The place I want to start is with Darren Walker from the Ford Foundation’s annual letter, and he expressed in this letter a very simple, but fairly damning indictment of foundations in a period of time when we are being called to express moral courage and falling short. His basic premise was, “Look, we’re afraid of sticking our necks out, and we’re afraid of what people might think, and we play it cautious. This is not a time to play it cautious.”…> read transcript here
November 27, 2017
How to Strengthen Funder-Grantee Relationships: New Report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy
Tere Figueras Negrete
A new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy explores how funders can strengthen the all-important connections to grantees, and the key role program officers play.
Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success sheds light on what constitutes a strong funder–grantee relationship, as well as what nonprofits say it takes for funders to foster such relationships.
The newly released report includes interviews with 11 program officers who earned top marks, including Elizabeth Love of the Houston Endowment, who is also co-chair of the TFN 2018 Annual Conference in Houston.
November 14, 2017
New Report Zeros In on What Grantees Say Makes Program Officers Great
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Getting to know nonprofits and the context in which they operate. Understanding the needs of ultimate beneficiaries. Not pushing nonprofits to alter approaches or rejigger proposals just to secure financial support.
Those practices and behaviors by program officers are key predictors of a strong relationship between grant-making institutions and grantees, according to a new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy.
Also topping the list: transparency.
“One example would be a nonprofit feeling that a foundation funder was clear with them about what the process is for applying for a grant so that they have that understanding of what they will need to go through,” said Ellie Buteau, vice president for research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy and an author of the report. She also stressed “clarity about the timing — how long it would take between submitting an application and grantees having a sense if they were going to receive a grant.” …> read more
November 7, 2017
Have Donor-Advised Funds and Other Philanthropic Innovations Changed the Flow of Giving in the United States?
Giving intermediaries are nothing new, and include a range of vehicles such as workplace campaigns (like the United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign) and community foundation general funds. Of late, such giving intermediaries have found their donors less willing to give into a general fund—where others make decisions about the final destinations of their gift—and more in favor of maintaining decision-making control in a donor-directed grant or donor-advised fund (DAF) within these intermediaries, and in the commercial charitable funds at financial institutions. This article addresses several concerns that have been raised about DAFs and other philanthropic intermediaries, and explores in particular how the growth of DAFs affects the flow of money to nonprofits. Accompanying sidebars explore in short form other influences on the flow and the accuracy of how charitable money is counted.
DAFs: For Better or for Worse?
Donor-advised funds are becoming more common and an important philanthropic tool by every measure. For example, as the table below shows, between 2014 and 2015 both the number of DAFs and the dollar value of DAFs grew faster than that of private foundations. Moreover, the DAF asset values more than doubled between 2010 ($33.6 billion) and 2015 ($78.6 billion).
Giving as a share of GDP has increased slowly over the last forty years. It was very steady from 1976 to 1996, ranging between 1.6 and 1.8 percent. During the last twenty years, it has bumped up by approximately 0.3 percentage points and has been steadily in the 1.9 to 2.1 percent range.6 This does not demonstrate that the rise of DAFs has increased giving as a share of GDP, but it suggests that DAFs have not caused total giving to decline in absolute or relative terms.…> read more
November 7, 2017
Streamlining a Foundation Initiative’s Grant Practices
Daniel Stid and Jillian Mirack Galbete
Stanford Social Innovation Review
When we launched the Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative in 2014, we were excited to support nonprofits, advocates, and researchers who shared our audacious goal of improving the US Congress’s effectiveness in a polarized age. But after experiencing some of the all-too-common pitfalls that foundations can stumble into with grantees, we soon decided that we had to reevaluate our grant practices.
Some of these challenges came with the territory: Funders in the democracy field have long emphasized short-term, project-based grants. Funding tends to ebb and flow over the recurring two-year political cycles.
Yet some challenges were self-inflicted. As we developed our initiative, we wanted to learn by making a range of smaller bets. So we asked grant-seekers to provide us with theories of change, performance indicators, hypotheses they were testing, key risks and mitigation strategies, and so on. When proposals came back with incomplete or misconstrued responses, we gave grant-seekers more specific instructions and elaborate tables to complete. However, the situation didn’t improve. We began hearing half-in-jest comments from applicants about the difficulties they had filling out what one referred to as “the infamous Hewlett grid.”…> read more
October 30, 2017
Funders can set a powerful precedent by involving service users
Meetings with snacks are a recent development in my working life.
The involvement of users in shaping services is not a new phenomenon, but the narrative around ‘user voice’ continues to gain traction, particularly amongst charities. It has been broadly accepted by charities from across the sector that listening to users is not only the moral thing to do—as they solicit funding in their name—but it’s also the smart and logical thing to ds…> read more
October 17, 2017
Impact investment: Foundations go deeper
While foundations may be known for their giving, their investment portfolios lack creativity when it comes to solving environmental and social challenges. Some are taking their missions further.
According to the Foundation Center, at the last count there were 86,726 foundations in the US. Together they had more than $865 billion in assets. In Europe, there are some 130,000, according to Fondation de France, with a combined €22.5 billion. Whether in size of assets or in number, foundations are a large and powerful group of investors – because the majority of their money is indeed invested.European foundations allocate just 12% a year to their missions through grants and expenses, while US foundations allocate 7% on average.With social or environmental principles at the core of their existence, one might assume that these investments are subject to some sort of environmental, social and governance (ESG) screening or socially responsible investing (SRI) guidelines at a minimum – but that assumption would be wrong.
While data on foundations’ investments is patchy, the surveys of the community from the Commonfund, US SIF and The Center for Effective Philanthropy over the last five years reveal an interesting story. The percentage of foundations that engage in anything from SRI guidelines to full-blown impact investments never reaches more than 50%. In fact, the average is closer to 25%. That leaves around $615 billion of investments that could be managed in an impactful way that simply are not…> read more
October 8, 2017
NPF TIG Week: Foundations Can (and Should) Learn from Grantees by Cheryl Milloy
I’m Cheryl Milloy, Associate Director of Evaluation at Marguerite Casey Foundation in Seattle. We believe no family should live in poverty and that those who experience poverty know best what the solutions are. We provide consistent, significant, long-term general operating support grants to community-based organizations to work together across issues, regions, race and ethnicity, and egos to bring about long-term change that has a positive impact on the lives of families.
Foundations strive to be learning organizations, and one of their best sources of learning is the organizations they support.
Hot Tip: “Ask. Listen. Act.” This is our brand promise and our approach to learning. Grantees are our partners on the ground and we are committed to asking them and listening to them in order to learn before we act. We cannot completely eliminate the power imbalance between funder and grantee, but we can be conscious of it and mitigate this differential as much as possible. One important way Marguerite Casey Foundation does this is by providing grants almost exclusively as multiyear general operating support. This demonstrates trust in organizations and their “big ideas” and allows them to decide how to spend the funds. We encourage organizations to invest in their own infrastructure – leadership, staff, governance, evaluation and learning, technology, etc. – to build their capacity and effectiveness…> read more
October 4, 2017
Put It Up to a Vote: Who Wins When All Foundation Staff Pick Grantees?
A recent study on program officers suggests that they have a lot of influence within foundations about where grant dollars go, even if trustees have the final say. The same can’t generally be said of the many other staff who often work at foundations—in administration, finance, communications, and other support functions. While these folks keep grantmaking institutions running smoothly, they’re almost never handed the checkbook to have a little fun.
There are exceptions, though. We’ve come across examples here and there of foundations letting all staff participate in select grantmaking decisions. It’s a nice thing, although still pretty rare.
One such example is the Boston Foundation’s Out of the Blue grants. This isn’t a new idea by any means; the program has been awarding annual grants to nonprofits since 2002. Potential recipients are nominated by a TBF staff member and put up to a vote by the TBF staff. This is separate from the funder’s usual grantmaking cycles…> 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.