October 23, 2014

Q&A With Ellie Buteau: Foundations and Nonprofits Disconnected on Key Issues

By: Ellie Buteau

“In order for nonprofits and foundations to work most effectively together, they must understand each other’s perspectives.” This is a key point that opens a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, entitled Transparency, Performance Assessment, and Awareness of Nonprofits’ Challenges: Are Foundations and Nonprofits Seeing Eye to Eye? The problem is these two groups misunderstand each other on some crucial issues.
According to the report, CEOs from foundations and nonprofits do not agree that funders adequately support the performance evaluation requirements of their grantees, or that they provide adequate transparency. Why the difference in perspective? I asked one of the report’s co-authors, Ellie Buteau, Vice President of Research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy…>read more.

 September 2, 2014

What Community Foundation Donors Value: The AdNet Conference 2014

By: Phil Buchanan

On the 100th anniversary of the community foundation – as we contemplate how these crucial institutions can be even more relevant in the next century of their existence than they have been in their first – it’s crucial to look hard at what donors value.

Turns out, donors value what community foundations are uniquely positioned to deliver.

Research conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the organization I lead, has shown that donor satisfaction is tied both to intent to give in the future and referrals.

So donor satisfaction matters.

But what does it take to increase donor satisfaction? Our research, based on analysis of more than 6,000 completed donor surveys of about 47 community foundations, shows that it’s not primarily about administrative fees and endowment performance…>read more.

September 2, 2014

Foundation CEOs Need Candid Feedback to Succeed in Driving Change

By: Phil Buchanan

Leading a foundation is hard. That’s among the messages in a thoughtful, just-released letter from Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, reflecting on his first year in office.

Mr. Walker writes that he was “unready” to take on a “job for which one might assume I had been preparing for years.”

“Easy as foundation work may look from some vantage points, the truth is that it is hard,” Mr. Walker writes. In his letter, he remarks with candor on both the joys and unexpected challenges of his role. “My single greatest fear is that I am not hearing enough constructive criticism.”

His fear is a well-founded one…>read more.

May 18, 2014

More Grant-Maker CEOs and Presidents Should Serve on Foundation Boards

By: Phil Buchanan and Jennifer Glickman

Experience in philanthropy is becoming a more valued asset for foundation leaders.

In the past year alone, the Ford and Kellogg foundations looked within their staffs to find Darren Walker and La June Montgomery, respectively, to lead their organizations. California Wellness named Judy Belk, formerly of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, as its new CEO. And the Barr Foundation named Jim Canales, former CEO of the Irvine Foundation, as its first president…>read more.

March 3, 2014

Beyond formulas and easy answers

By: Phil Buchanan

Context is everything.

That’s what I take away from this deeply thoughtful set of articles exploring the role of grantmaking, why (and even whether) it matters, and how to do it best. Barry Knight and Jenny Hodgson make the argument particularly powerfully, cautioning against the simplistic matrices and frameworks promoted by the likes of FSG Social Impact Advisors. ‘We should run a mile from management books or consultancy advice that promote a single, simple answer – otherwise we will fall prey to unevaluated fashion,’ they write…> read more

This article was originally published in the March 2014 issue of Alliance magazine. The original article can be found atwww.alliancemagazine.org/en/content/march-2014. For more information about subscribing to Alliance, please visitwww.alliancemagazine.org/subscribe.

 February 24, 2014

Unlike For-Profits, Nonprofits Succeed by Sharing the Work and the Glory

By: Phil Buchanan

In recent years, foundation and charity leaders have paid increasing attention to questions of performance. The focus on impact, outcomes, and assessment, while not new, has certainly intensified among both foundation and charity leaders.

This is a positive development, but too often performance is defined in a way that can undermine the effectiveness of the nonprofit sector as a whole.

The analog seems always to be business, where the focus is on competition among institutions—a zero-sum perspective in which organizations strive to best each other…> read more

 February 12, 2014

Five Myths that Perpetuate Poor Philanthropic Strategy

By: Phil Buchanan

“Stop, Daddy!” That is the refrain, screamed from the back seat of the car, that I’ve heard from the day my older daughter could string together a few words—and really ever since—every time I sing along to the radio. The problem isn’t that she and her younger sister, who has joined the lament, don’t like music. They love music, love to sing, and love to play their instruments. They just don’t like my singing—and for good reason. I have a terrible singing voice.

The way my daughters feel about music—including bad music (like my singing)—is more or less the way I feel about strategy in philanthropy. I am a big proponent of more strategic philanthropy, better assessment of effectiveness to fuel learning and improvement, and iteration of strategy. But I have a real problem with poor strategy. It makes me want to scream “Stop!” from the back seat.

I think those in the philanthropic sector at times create poor strategies because of five prevalent myths…> read more

February 3, 2014

Getting the Data We Need to Combat Bullying

By: Phil Buchanan and Marny Sumrall

The three year anniversary of the suicide of Phoebe Prince, the South Hadley high school student who took her life after enduring relentless bullying at the hands of her peers, passed last month with little notice. The publicity surrounding her death briefly brought bullying in schools to the fore, both in Massachusetts — where the Legislature passed a law in response — and nationally. But there is little evidence of a decline in bullying…> read more

January 24, 2014

Embrace Transparency and Remain Open to Change

By: Kevin Bolduc

Here are a few thoughts for your next phase of planning, based in part on my experience working with the Foundation on its Grantee Perception Report and Applicant Perception Report. None will be earth-shattering. But I hope they’re a good reminder of the importance of organizational effectiveness and leadership within the context of the particular program goals you will choose. So here goes…> read more