From 2018

December 21, 2018


Malcolm Macleod
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:

  1. Foundations are not as in touch with nonprofits’ needs as they think
  2. Nonprofits most desire help in fundraising, staffing, and communications
  3. Both nonprofits and foundations have a role to play in closing the gap between the support nonprofits need and the support foundations provide
  4. 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


Mark Athitakis
Associations Now

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

While 65 percent of foundation CEOs say they understand what is working well in their programmatic efforts, 42 percent say their foundation is not investing enough time and money in further developing that understanding, a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds.

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


Mark Hrywna
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

Julian Wyllie
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

Jara Dean-Coffey
Linkedin Pulse

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

Larry Kramer
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

Rusty Stahl
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

Julian Wyllie
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.

Below, eight members of Forbes Nonprofit Council discuss how the nonprofit sector can better approach diversity and inclusiveness> read more

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

Andy Segedin
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

Alex Daniels
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

Julia Travers
Inside Philanthropy

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 2017in the 37th percentile.

Last month, Barr President James Canales and Vice President Roger Nozaki co-wrote a blog post about the results of the GPR outlining how the foundation is responding to the feedback> read more

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

Alex Daniels
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

Philip Rojc
Inside Philanthropy

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

Staff Writer
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

Travis Green
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

Gary Quakenbush
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

Jeff Polet
Philanthropy Daily

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
Exponent Philanthropy 

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?

Prentice Zinn
Exponent Philanthropy 

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

Tim Foley
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