From 2016

December 14, 2016

Want to improve grades? Ask students how they feel in class.

Josh Kenworthy
The Christian Science Monitor

Glorya Wornum knows how different a classroom feels when a teacher listens.

In her sophomore year, students in her Boston charter school took a survey that included questions about what they “went through in class.” And her history teacher listened.

“My teacher was like, ‘I’ve read the survey and just want to let you guys know I’m going to change things up,’ ” recalls Ms. Wornum, who had been frequently kicked her out of class at her previous high school for speaking out of turn or not paying attention.

And she did. Her students of color spent the next week teaching classes on their own ethnic backgrounds, and the teacher changed her teaching methods to accommodate their visual learning style> read more

December 5, 2016

Foundation Chiefs Say They Need to Make Sweeping Changes

Alex Daniels
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Foundations must make major operational changes if they want to tackle pressing issues including wealth inequality, climate change, and failing schools, according to a self-assessment of philanthropy leaders released Monday.

Leaders of 208 of the nation’s biggest foundations said in interviews and survey responses that they can make significant progress but only if they ditch a business-as-usual approach and spend more time listening to the concerns of their grantees and the people those grantees serve.

In the study, commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on its 50th anniversary and conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, 57 percent of foundation leaders said sweeping changes are necessary. About 41 percent believe foundations must make modest changes> read more

November 3, 2016

Working with Grantees: A Relationship Worth Building

Jacob Sharp
Foundant Technologies Blog

When I first began my dive into the philanthropy industry, the thing that always fascinated me was the give and take dynamic between a funder and their grantees. I’ve been amazed at the different ways of going about it; some funders choose a hands off approach, while others develop close and long lasting relationships with those they fund. Both have their benefits and drawbacks–what works well with one organization may prove disastrous for another–but doing the research and knowing your grantees makes each philanthropic dollar go further than the last.

One of the most illuminating publications I’ve read on this topic was put out in 2014 by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). You can read it here: PDF (note: it’s a bit lengthy). I’ll do a short summary below, but if you’ve got the time to read the whole thing, I promise it’s worth it. Even seasoned grantmakers can find some (research based) nuggets of wisdom there> read more

October 31, 2016

On a Scale of Zero to 10, Would You Recommend This Nonprofit? Good Question!

Marc Gunther
Nonprofit Chronicles

I’m just back from a vacation in Tulum, Mexico. I found great places to eat using Trip Advisor (try El Tabano, above), and wrote several reviews once I got home. Trip Advisor’s a great service. So imagine, if you will, a nonprofit sector with its own Trip Advisor, a guide that would help donors, volunteers and workers better understand which nonprofits do well at serving their customers.

The sector is a very long way from creating such a guide, but it is taking small steps in that direction, as more nonprofits experiment with feedback loops — efforts to listen, learn and respond to their constituents, and thereby become more effective. This is welcome news: A movement to build feedback loops into nonprofits is gathering adherents, winning support from foundations and building a community of practice.

That community gathered last week at Feedback Summit 2016 in Washington, where the excitement was palpable. Feedback loops help address a fundamental disconnect in the nonprofit world: Nonprofits typically are funded by their donors and not by their clients so, unlike businesses, they don’t have financial incentives to be responsive to those they aim to serve. Feedback loops connect them more closely to clients.

“The enthusiasm about a simple, rigorous, elegant feedback loop that includes quantitative and qualitative data has just been tremendous,” said Fay Twersky, director of the effective philanthropy group at the Hewlett Foundation> read more

October 6, 2016

Where Do You See Yourself in the Next Five Years?

Ronna Brown
Philanthropy New York

It’s the question you get in job interviews, by work or life coaches, and even occasionally by friends – Where do you see yourself in five years? (By the way, if conducting interviews has you stumped, check out today’s Livestream “The Do’s and Don’ts of Conducting Interviews for Potential Coworkers at Your Foundation”).

The answer to that question can be entirely superficial – or it can reveal something profound about a person’s goals and aspirations. It’s the question that we at PNY have tried to answer in our next five-year Strategic Plan. We wanted to answer this question in a way that was thoughtful, aspirational and still realistic. To do that, we turned to our Board and an ad hoc committee of dedicated members to think about what works, what we want to keep and where can we push ourselves to do more.

For the last nine months, those groups have analyzed our stats, read reports, asked questions and considered a range of options. They have ended up with, we believe,  a strong  plan to guide us for the next five years.

Our plan builds on PNY’s nearly four-decade history of nurturing an effective philanthropic community. We hope you will take the time to read the plan and share your reactions with us. We very much want to hear from you> read more

September 29, 2016

Nonprofits Worry About Election’s Impact on Public View of Charity

Rebecca Koenig
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

It’s not your imagination: Charity has become a focal point of the 2016 presidential election.

Unfortunately for nonprofits, that probably isn’t a good thing, experts say.

Discussion about the candidates’ charity work has been largely negative, raising concerns that the campaign rhetoric will do lasting damage to public perceptions about charities.

Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, worries that this election will “create the impression that nonprofits and foundations are places of scandal and conflicts of interest, which I don’t think is, in fact, generally true.”

Both candidates have been accused of excessive secrecy, and investigative journalists have found unusually rich fodder to explore in Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s charitable enterprises, which must file publicly available tax documents.> read more

September 26, 2016

Living Our Values by Listening to Our Grantees 

Neal Cuthbert
The McKnight Foundation Blog

In our Strategic Framework, we outline four key values at The McKnight Foundation:Accountability, Innovation, Integrity, and Respect. We take these values seriously, and do our best to intentionally incorporate each of them into our grantmaking and other business. When we say respect, we mean that we listen to diverse perspectives; we approach relationships with humility, openness, and honesty; and we engage constructively with partners, colleagues, and the communities we serve.

We view our relationships with our grantees in this spirit of respect and constructive engagement. The many opportunities we have to interact with our grantees during site-visits and routine communication are the bedrock for our work towards achieving our shared goals in a complex environment. To keep us even more grounded, we find it important to step back occasionally and ask our grantees what they honestly think of the job we’re doing.

The Grantee Perception Report

Every three to four years since 2003, McKnight has contracted with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), a nonprofit research organization, to administer an independent and confidential grantee survey that becomes the Grantee Perception Report (GPR)> read more

September 19, 2016

Clinton Global Initiative Ends With Some of Shine Worn Off

Margaret Talev and Bill Allison

When the Clinton Global Initiative opens Monday for its 12th and final annual meeting, it’ll be a little less global, lighter on initiative and absent one Clinton.

The event in New York, for years considered a prime forum for movie stars, captains of industry and global leaders to put their good names to good works, is ending its run with a formidable list of accomplishments but burdened by the political complications of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president and the attendant scrutiny of the family’s ties to wealthy interests.

Some well-known supporters of CGI, notably President Barack Obama, are missing from the guest list for this year’s meeting, when the door will close on an institution that’s won praise for reshaping philanthropy but also drawn derision for an atmosphere of pay-for-access.

“If Breitbart and Fox are going on and on and on about how laced with controversy this organization is, that’s going to sound alarms to companies that are very risk averse,” said Susan McPherson, a CGI member and CEO of McPherson Strategies, which advises corporate clients on philanthropic giving. “When you couple that with the presidential race, it makes it even riskier for them. They don’t want to be seen as pay-to-play if Hillary Clinton becomes president, and that has certainly had an effect this year.”> read more

August 5, 2016

Embracing Openness to Increase Effectiveness

Trevor Pollack
Barr Foundation Blog

Barr joins funder collaborative to increase openness and effectiveness in philanthropy.

In research released in February of this year, The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) found that both foundation and nonprofit leaders characterize transparency as “representing the values of clarity, openness, and honesty,” and 86% of foundation leaders surveyed believe transparency is necessary for building strong relationships with grantees.

And yet, the report continues:

“There is significant room for improvement in the degree to which foundations’ practices match the beliefs of their leaders about what is important to increase foundation effectiveness,” in particular when it comes to sharing how they assess their performance or their lessons learned. While this may not be news to many, it is one that is increasingly discussed, clarified by research such as CEP’s, and needs to be addressed> read more

August 1, 2016

The Nonprofit Times Power & Influence Top 50 ’16: Making The A, B And C-Suite Work Distinguishes These Executives

Paul Clolery
The Nonprofit Times

If you ask nonprofit executives the one thing about which they feel certain during 2016 the answer surely would be uncertainty. Here’s the list: A presidential election that probably will resemble Ali v. Frazier I; Bond and stock exchanges moving inversely to their historic norms; and, Rapid and some might offer rampant change in the C-Suite, with marquee names coming and going.

Managing a nonprofit, let alone innovating, is a tall order. Mastering that balance between sustainability and change is why these 50 executives have been selected for the 2016 NPT Power & Influence Top 50…> read more

July 5, 2016

Improving Philanthropy: An Interview with Melinda Tuan

Nell Edgington
Social Velocity

In today’s Social Velocity interview, I’m talking with Melinda Tuan, project manager for Fund for Shared Insight (Shared Insight), a collaborative effort among funders to make grants that improve philanthropy. In that capacity, Melinda plays a key role in guiding and facilitating Shared Insight’s activities including operations, communication, grantmaking, and evaluation.

Melinda is an independent consultant who works with the senior leadership of philanthropic organizations to develop strategies for effective philanthropy. Prior to starting her consulting practice in 2003, Melinda was managing director of REDF(formerly The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund) – a social venture capital fund she co-founded.

You can read interviews with other social change leaders here.

Nell: One of the reasons the Fund for Shared Insight was established was to encourage more foundation transparency. Recent research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) demonstrated that there is still much work to do to make foundations more transparent, particularly about their strategies and impact. How do you think we get more foundations to be more open about these things?…> read more

June 10, 2016

Funding Infrastructure: A Smart Investment for All

Lindsay Louie & Fay Twersky
Stanford Social Innovation Review

Recently, we were talking with a philanthropist who sits on the board of her local community foundation. She was expressing frustration at the difficult relationships the community foundation had with its grantees and was especially upset that the foundation’s leaders seemed unaware of how dysfunctional some of the relationships were. As we spoke, we shared some suggestions for where she might get help; surveying the foundation’s grantees in an anonymous fashion, for example, could bring fresh, candid perspective to the foundation’s leadership.

In the Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group, we regularly get inquiries from new philanthropists. Questions range from broad to specific, across topics such as strategy, evaluation, monitoring, learning, specific issue-areas of work, approaches to collaboration, foundation administrative spending—you name it! Sometimes they come from new donors themselves, other times from new staff members working with donors…> read more

 June 2, 2016

“Big Issues, Many Questions” by CEP: A Response Focusing on Corporate Foundations

Alice Korngold
The Conference Board Giving Thoughts Blog

In his essay on pressing issues facing U.S. foundation leaders and boards, Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, recommends that foundations become more relevant in serving society. Corporate foundations are in a strong position to meet this demand, since they are influenced by market forces.

When corporate philanthropy is purposefully designed to support the business mission and goals, it is in the best position to improve the lives of employees, suppliers, customers, and members of the community. Quite simply, it’s bad for business when there’s poverty, violence, and poor education and healthcare in regions where you’re building your workforce, and promoting your business. CEOs understand this…> read more

May 23, 2016

Closing the Feedback Loop

Kristin Wong
Stanford Social Innovation Review

In a late winter afternoon, the sun is going down quickly on a working-class neighborhood south of San Francisco. School is out, and it’s getting chilly. But instead of cozying up to the TV, dozens of students are clustered around computers at a clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. With furrowed brows, they’re fiddling with elementary code, editing video, and adjusting the sound on some R&B tracks.

It would be easy to simply assume that after-school programs such as these are beneficial—and indeed, data collected from students by the Clubs’ two-person evaluation team show an overall positive impact. But that’s not enough for Peter Fortenbaugh, the Clubs’ executive director. “I’m a huge believer in the importance of using data to inform good decision-making,” he says. “We capture a ton of data, but it’s not as good as it could be.”

So when Fortenbaugh heard about Listen for Good, a program that funds US nonprofits to ask the people they serve to weigh in on their programs, he jumped at the chance to participate. A project of the Fund for Shared Insight, Listen for Good offers nonprofits $60,000 each—$40,000 from Shared Insight and $20,000 from one of the nonprofit’s existing funders—to administer a standardized survey to a large swath of their clients…> read more

 May 17, 2016

Nearly 2 Dozen Groups Urge Foundations to Spend More to Strengthen Nonprofits

Suzanne Perry
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

More than 20 nonprofit organizations and associations have signed a letter asking grant makers to step up their spending on groups that help charities and foundations do better at solving social problems by offering services in areas like training, research, technology, and advocacy.

“An economy needs roads, bridges, and train stations to thrive,” says the letter, sent to 1,400 foundations that award at least $2.5 million in grants annually. “A community needs schools, parks, and houses of worship to ensure the flowering of human potential. And civil society needs infrastructure to ensure that nonprofits and foundations can act with integrity and impact.”

The move — spearheaded by Jacob Harold, chief executive of the information-services group GuideStar, and Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy — reflects mounting concern that grant making to support “nonprofit infrastructure” has not kept pace with the growth and increasing complexity of the philanthropic world…> read more

May 17, 2016

Foundations Pushed to Give 1% To Infrastructure

Mark Hrywna
The NonProfit Times

A coalition of nearly two dozens nonprofits issued a plea for foundations to consider directing at least 1 percent of grant-making budgets to support the infrastructure of the nonprofit sector.

The May 13 letter addressed to “foundation colleagues”was signed by leaders of 22 self-described “infrastructure organizations,” including the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), National Council of Nonprofits and the Council on Foundations.

“The infrastructure that supports this nonprofit sector can collectively magnify or diminish this shared work for social good,” the authors wrote in the two-page letter. “We ask that you invest out of hope. A hope that we can build a civil society that is capable of tackling the great challenges of our time. A hope that foundations and nonprofits alike can be more effective in pursuit of their goals.”> read more

May 8, 2016

Phil Buchanan: “We’ve Tried to Pierce the Bubble”

Marc Gunther
The Nonpr
ofit Times

If, as a chief executive or senior program officer of a big foundation, you have the power to disburse large sums of money, people are likely to let you know, in ways both subtle and direct, that you are wise, witty, good-looking and an all-around swell human being. Modest and self-aware you may be, but it is hard to resist flattery. Someone has to come along, like the child in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, and speak the truth.

In the world of foundations, Phil Buchanan, the affable 46-year-old  president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), plays the role of the child, albeit in an exceedingly diplomatic way. Buchanan and his colleagues at the CEP prod foundations to set clear goals, become better listeners, measure their progress and share what they learn. The CEP has generated research and built feedback mechanisms — notably its Grantee Perception Reports — that work like mirrors, enabling grant-makers to see themselves as they are seen by others…> read more

April 28, 2016

Boards: 5 Trends That Require Serious Discussion

Mark Hrywna
The NonPr
ofit Times

Foundation board members should be having critical conversations and asking questions around five relevant trends to ensure their philanthropy is done well, according to a new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP).

The Cambridge, Mass.-based CEP today released “Big Issues, Many Questions: An essay on the pressing issues facing U.S. foundation leaders and boards,” in which the organization’s President Phil Buchanan lays out the five trends and related questions that board members should be asking.

In a letter accompanying the 32-page report, CEP Board Chairman Grant Oliphant of The Heinz Endowments described the piece “as a good discussion starter,” suggesting it be used for a board or senior leadership meeting or retreat…> read more

April 14, 2016

Policies, Processes and Protocols: Three Keys to Building a Diverse Workplace

Simone N. Sneed
Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog

The statistics are startling. According to the Center For Effective Philanthropy, more than 85 percent of philanthropic organizations have white CEOs. Only 7 percent of nonprofit chief executives and 18 percent of nonprofit employees are people of color, despite the fact that they make up nearly 40 percent of the US population.

With numbers like these, it makes sense that the most common approach to addressing diversity in the social sector has been through the lens of talent development. By focusing on recruitment, hiring, and retention, organizations have the opportunity to address a critical and highly visible challenge…> read more

March 21, 2016

The Theory of the Foundation

Melissa A. Berman
Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog

Just over 20 years ago, the iconic management expert Peter F. Drucker published an article in Harvard Business Reviewentitled “The Theory of the Business.” The essay called for leaders to stop focusing on what Drucker labeled “how to do” techniques, and instead think about three fundamental sets of assumptions related to the organization’senvironment,mission, and core competencies. Together, Drucker argued, these assumptions create a “theory of the business.” Importantly, he noted that all organizations, not just corporations, need a “clear, consistent, and valid” theory to succeed. He also pointed out that they need to regularly assess and adjust this theory in response to changing conditions…> read more

March 2, 2016

Transparency Chat: CEP on Sharing What Matters

Janet Camarena
Glasspockets Blog

Ellie Buteau, Ph.D., is the vice president of research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), which received a grant from the Fund for Shared Insight (FSI). FSI is a multi-year collaborative effort among funders that pools financial and other resources to make grants to improve philanthropy. Transparency Talk is featuring grantees in the FSI openness portfolio. Janet Camarena, Foundation Center’s director of transparency, and Ms. Buteau discussed the findings of CEP’s new report,Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency> read more

February 28, 2016

When Foundations are Uncharitable

Marc Gunther
Nonprofit Chronicles

When it comes to sharing what they know, foundations are, alas, uncharitable.

That is the most striking finding of a report on foundations and transparency published last week by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

The 52-page report, called Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency, is based on surveys with 145 foundation CEOs and more than 15,000 grantees, as well as reviews of more than 70 foundation websites. It’s thorough.

Foundations do a good job of sharing their goals, strategies and grant-making processes, the CEP researchers found. That’s all well and good. But…>read more

February 26, 2016

Foundation Leaders are Thinking About, Evaluating Transparency

Andy Segedin
TheNonprofit Times

Foundation CEOs are emphasizing transparency and have identified grantees and prospective grantees as a target audience instead of the likes of government policymakers, journalists and the general public. CEOs of independent foundations identified grantees and nonprofits considering applying for a grant as the intended audience for transparency in 95 and 84 percent of cases, respectively. Both groups are the intended audience for 96 percent of community foundations.

Government policy makers (57 percent for independent foundations and 76 percent for community foundations), journalists who report on philanthropy (46 percent and 67 percent) and the general public (45 percent and 72 percent) made up the bottom of the list. Donors were a target audience for 98 percent of community foundations, but were not offered as a potential answer to independent foundations’ CEOs…>read more

February 22, 2016

Grant Makers Applaud Transparency, but Most Don’t Practice it, Study Says

Alex Daniels
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Foundation leaders often tout the importance of reporting the results of their philanthropy to the public. But when it comes to actually sharing the pitfalls and failures of the programs they support, only a small share say they live up to the ideal of full transparency, according to a report released Tuesday.

Grant makers could become more effective if they revealed publicly what works and what doesn’t, suggests the report by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which is based on a survey of 145 foundation chief executives.

A key barrier to greater openness, according to the study: a shortage of staff time and money devoted to such efforts…>read more

February 10, 2016

It’s Not Foundation Money but Culture and Talent That Can Change the World

Rachel Mosher-Williams, Sara Brenner, and Amy Celep
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

As the world’s challenges grow ever deeper — on issues like climate change, inequality, and terrorism — philanthropy faces a tremendous responsibility, and a new opportunity, to advance widespread social change that can help meet those challenges. Grant makers will potentially have at their disposal a lot more of the money needed to achieve that as Americans — especially those from the Silent Generation and the baby boomers — look to transfer their wealth to their children or to philanthropy. But a strong infusion of dollars may not be enough to make a difference unless foundations change their cultures.

At first blush, organizational culture may not sound like a big barrier to large-scale breakthroughs. Solving major social problems would seem to depend primarily on money, influence, and widespread shifts in norms or attitudes…>read more

February 1, 2016

10 Donors Join Forces to Make $1 Billion in Grants to Help Youth Charities Grow

Nicole Wallace
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and nine other donors have joined forces to create Blue Meridian Partners, a grant-making collaborative, with the goal of awarding $1 billion to expand the reach of high-performing charities that serve low-income children and youths.

“At a time when the urgent needs of children and youth are on the rise, it is deeply frustrating to me how hard it is for even the most successful nonprofit leaders to grow their organizations to meet these needs,” Nancy Roob, the foundation’s chief executive, wrote in a letter announcing the new collaboration. “We are woefully underinvesting in what works.”> read more

February 1, 2016

Evaluating Grantees: Learning from a Top-Performing Funder

Caroline Fiennes
Stanford Social Innovation Review

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny … ‘” So said Isaac Asimov.

“That’s funny … ” is exactly what I said upon learning that an unusual foundation received better feedback from its grantees on the helpfulness of its reporting and evaluation process—not once, but twice—than 260 other funders the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) analyzed. Whatever are they doing?

The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) is based in the United States, was set up by US Congress in 1969, and makes grants to support grassroots development across Latin America. On average, its grantees are tiny (with revenue about $225,000), and IAF provides nearly two-thirds of their budget for almost four years…> read more

February 1, 2016

Who’s Behind the Barr Foundation?

Patti Hartigan
Boston Magazine

A lot can be learned when the NEA comes to town.

In 1991—in the midst of the culture wars—U.S. Representative Chester Atkins ferried the National Endowment for the Arts director on a tour designed to highlight the agency’s good deeds around Boston. A few years later, Senator Edward Kennedy did the same, accompanying the NEA chairwoman to an elementary school in Roxbury, where they sat on teeny chairs and watched adorable tots perform a concert. These official visits were as carefully choreographed as a Swan Lake solo, and featured our biggest-name elected officials in their snazziest suits. So something was decidedly different last May when NEA chairwoman Jane Chu arrived on a whistle-stop tour and the host was the wholly unelected Jim Canales, president of the Barr Foundation—the state’s wealthiest and most influential privately funded philanthropy. Unlike previous visits, this time around the sights and speakers on the tour had a singular theme: They all received generous funding from Barr. Sure, folks from City Hall and the state arts council were on hand, but the picture was clear: Barr is in control…> read more

January 28, 2016

Is There a Philanthropy Establishment? And, If So, Who’s In It?

David Callahan
Inside Philanthropy

Who’s in charge here?

That’s a question an outsider might well ask about the curious world of philanthropy. Is there a clear group of leaders who are setting the direction of all this giving? Are there key institutions that knit these leaders together? Is there a shared set of norms and expectations that govern behavior? And is there rough agreement on where philanthropy should go?

The short answer to these questions is “no.” There is not a single philanthropy establishment. Rather, the philanthrosphere is becoming more fragmented all the time, with distinctive groupings of funders who operate in different ways with different goals and connect through different institutions. Nobody is in charge, and that’s mostly a good thing…> read more

January 12, 2016

Nine Predictions for Philanthropy in 2016

Jeff Clarke
Philanthropy Northwest

Welcome to 2016! Philanthropy’s core DNA is love for humanity and community. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we celebrate a unique philanthropic culture marked by optimism, generosity, civic engagement and stewardship. It rests upon our nation’s unique commitment to philanthropic freedom and donor intent. But above all, our big, diverse place defines us, from Alaska’s North Slope to southern Oregon, and the Pacific coast to eastern Montana and Wyoming. In other words, asAmerican farmer and writer Wendell Berry observed, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”

At the same time, our sense of place and our unique philanthropic culture energize us to support people and causes both close to home and across the globe. We are a creative community, employing many forms of capital – financial, human, intellectual, natural, social – to influence change…>read more