December 23, 2019

Opinion: If the economy is booming, why is charitable giving in trouble?

Phil Buchanan
The Boston Globe

Philanthropy is in trouble. Giving USA reported a decline in giving by individuals in 2018, likely driven by changes in the tax code to dramatically reduce the number of itemizers who benefit from the charitable deduction. An end of year drop in the stock market that year probably didn’t help, either. Meanwhile, data from a variety of organizations tell us the proportion of households that give has declined over the past decade, that even the very wealthy are donating at a very low level relative to their assets, and that young people are contributing at low rates. While it is true that a majority of Americans still give — and donation levels are high relative to other countries — the warning lights are flashing…>read more

November 26, 2019

Opinion: Four Mistakes to Avoid in Giving to Improve Public Education

Phil Buchanan
The CT Mirror

The pledge made earlier this year by hedge fund investor and billionaire Raymond Dalio and his wife, Barbara, to commit $100 million to promote public education and economic opportunity for young people in Connecticut has rightly generated attention, praise, and also some concern. This commitment, which is to be matched by another $100 million in public money and possibly another $100 million in matching philanthropic gifts, is a meaningful effort in a state that is notorious for the gap between rich and poor — and for socioeconomic and racial disparities that are both manifested in, and perpetuated by, inadequate funding for schools in the poorest areas…>read more

November 4, 2019

How Foundations are Looking to Increase Impact

Justin Miller with Phil Buchanan
Critical Value (Podcast)

Institutional philanthropy is in a remarkable era of expansion and experimentation. Foundations are looking to increase their impact in innovative ways and also contending with the implications of their increasing influence. Host Justin Milner speaks with Arnold Ventures President Kelli Rhee, Hudson Webber Foundation President Melanca Clark, Center for Effective Philanthropy President Phil Buchanan and Urban researcher Ben Soskis to survey the emerging landscape. >listen here

October 23, 2019

The joy & complexity of giving w/ Giving Done Right author Phil Buchanan

Grant Oliphant with Phil Buchanan
We Can Be (Podcast)

In 2018, Americans gave $427 billion to charities of their choice. Phil Buchanan, founding chief executive of The Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of “Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count,” is working to make certain people have the best possible information to ensure those hard-earned dollars do the most possible good.

Phil has his father to thank for his sense of empathy, and his urge to give where it can be most impactful. An ardent social justice and worker’s rights activist, Phil’s father “sought to build relationships with people whose lives and experiences were vastly different from his, all in effort to understand them and create genuine connections.”

Those lessons became a cornerstone of Phil’s being, driving him to found The Center for Effective Philanthropy in 2001 and continue to serve as its president ever since. The center does research for many of the most-recognized names in the giving community, including Ford, Hewlett, MacArthur, Packard, and The Heinz Endowments.  His on-the-ground experience culminated in his 2019 book “Giving Done Right.”

Host Grant Oliphant’s conversation with Phil covers the “heart-versus-head conundrum” about giving that both individuals and philanthropies must wrestle with, the dangers of taking tainted money from donors with dubious – or worse – reputations, and why America’s nonprofit leaders are “our country’s unsung heroes.” >listen here

September 17, 2019

The MIT-Epstein Story Spurs A Debate About Dirty Money In Philanthropy

Jim Braude with Tina Opie and Phil Buchanan
WGBH News: Greater Boston

A bombshell report from The New Yorker this month detailed how MIT’s Media Lab continued to accept donations from Jeffrey Epstein after his 2008 conviction for soliciting minors, going to considerable lengths to conceal his gifts to the school as anonymous. Now other large schools, including Harvard and Stanford, are now also facing questions about their ties to the now-deceased Epstein. The development has spurred larger debate about how charities, foundations, and other powerful institutions should handle donors. Whose money is too tainted to take?

Jim Braude was joined by Tina Opie, an associate professor at Babson College and currently a visiting associate professor at MIT, and Phil Buchanan, the president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.>watch here

September 9, 2019

Moral Crisis at MIT’s Media Lab

Tiziana Dearing, Max Larkin, and Zoë Mitchell with Phil Buchanan
WBUR: Radio Boston

MIT’s Media Lab appears to be in a moral crisis.

The President of MIT said the university will bring in an outside firm to investigate the connections between the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and the Lab. This comes after Media Lab Director Joi Ito resigned after a New Yorker piece revealed how he had concealed his connection to the financier.

Where does MIT go from here?


August 28, 2019

Be Honest, Be Direct

Phil Buchanan and Tiffany Cooper Gueye with Sandy Cyr
The Nonprofit Experience (a podcast of Philanthropy Journal)

Nonprofits often feel pressure to put on a show of positivity, especially in front of funders. In this episode of The Nonprofit Experience, Phil Buchanan from the Center for Effective Philanthropy and Tiffany Gueye of Blue Meridian Partners talk about the importance of sometimes brutal honesty about nonprofits’ needs, inequities and barriers to equal treatment in the sector, and fighting for a work-life balance.>listen here

August 10, 2019

EP 90: Why People Don’t Donate (and What You Can Do About It) (with Phil Buchanan)

Phil Buchanan with Joan Garry
Nonprofits are Messy with Joan Garry (Podcast)

There are so many people out there who want to make a difference in the world. Your nonprofit is a vehicle for them to do just that. So why can it be so hard to get people (or foundations) to open their checkbooks?

One reason comes down to a simple word… trust. If they give you their hard earned money, how can they trust it will do the most good? How can you show potential donors why your organization is the perfect vehicle to satisfy their desire for impact?

Is it simply about providing more data? Showing a graph of donations spent on programs versus overhead? (Hint… it’s not).

Phil Buchanan, founding chief executive of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) tells us that defining high performance within nonprofits has a bit of a template. In this podcast hear more about strategic giving and why you don’t necessarily need to be business savvy. Learn how you can achieve long term flexible commitments in an organization and communicate effectively so donors are confident they will see their dollars go farther.

Whether it’s data systems to track outcomes or finding ways to be in close touch with your mission, the importance of benefiting from knowledge that is widely available and educating your donors will help you execute your organization’s philanthropic goals.>listen here


July 8, 2019

A Conversation with Phil Buchanan

Michael E. Hartmann
Philanthropy Daily

Michael E. Hartmann talks to the president of The Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of “Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count.”…>read more

June 26, 2019

The Link Between Thoughtful Leadership and Effective Philanthropy with Phil Buchanan

Phil Buchanan with David Nelson
The Discovery Pod (Podcast)

The less we understand what philanthropy is all about, the less our ability to have the impact that we want. Guest Phil Buchanan, the President of The Center for Effective Philanthropy, greatly advocates for the importance of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector and helps foundations and individual donors to maximize their impact. On The Discovery Pod, Phil dives deep into the link between thoughtful leadership and effective philanthropy, giving advice to leaders who are being pulled into starting their own organization. He lays down the difference between social profit and philanthropy and shares his perspectives on the “right” indicators of performance, the importance of “getting proximate” to the people within and without the organization, and the challenge of creating an organizational culture and processes to identify and pursue the best ideas.>listen here

June 26, 2019

Making Fundraising Less Ackward

Phil Buchanan
Moolala: Money Made Simple with Bruce Sellery (Podcast)

Host Bruce Ellery talks to the president of the Center For Effective Philanthropy, Phil Buchanan as he takes listeners through some fundraising etiquette tips.>listen here

June 13, 2019

Do we know best what others need? Podcast with Phil Buchanan

Phil Buchanan with Michael Alberg-Seberich
Wider Sense Podcast

In this issue, Phil Buchanan, Chief Executive of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), and Michael Alberg-Seberich discuss why business methods might not work best in the world of giving, why in philanthropy strategy has to be shared, how the most effective organizations in philanthropy work. And, of course, they talk about CEP’s work and Phil’s latest book “Giving Done Right – Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count”.>listen here


June 11, 2019

Giving Done Right

Phil Buchanan
KATU’s AM Northwest

Americans like to pitch in when they see a need. In fact, a majority of households give to charity in some form or another. But givers of all levels – from the middle-class family giving to their local community foundation to the heads of major foundations – often worry about how to truly make an impact. Phil Buchanan, author of the new book Giving Done Right, joined AM Northwest to discuss ways to make sure your money does the most good.>listen here.


May 31, 2019

5 Mistakes Mackenzie Bezos and Other Mega-Donors Should Avoid

Phil Buchanan

Mackenzie Bezos’ recent announcement that she’d take the Giving Pledge and dedicate at least half of her $35 billion in net worth to philanthropy has sparked attention, partially because her ex-husband, Jeff Bezos, wouldn’t sign the pledge. Her commitment to the Giving Pledge, spearheaded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010, should be lauded, especially in light of the current cynicism about the giving of mega philanthropists.

“My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful,” she wrote in her letter announcing the pledge. “It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait.”

I hope others—including Jeff Bezos as well as those who will earn fortunes from the recent initial public offerings of Lyft, Uber, and Pinterest and the potential IPOs of Slack and Airbnb—will follow MacKenzie Bezos’ lead. I hope they share her commitment to giving and her wisdom about the care such giving takes. Because it is anything but easy…>read more

May 28, 2019

Effective Giving & Being Positive About Philanthropy

Phil Buchanan
Giving Thought Podcast

In episode 50, we talk to Phil Buchanan- founding CEO of the Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of a new book: Giving Done Right: Effective Giving and Making Every Dollar Count. We discuss current debates about philanthropy and what we need to do to ensure a positive narrative about the value of giving in our society as we head into the future…read more

May 20, 2019

Critiques of Philanthropy Are Important, but Some Have Entered the Realm of the Absurd

Phil Buchanan
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Critiques of philanthropy and the nonprofits it supports have jumped the shark. It’s true that philanthropy, given its significant role in American society, deserves scrutiny and that there has often been too little of it in recent decades. But there has lately been a turn from helpful and thoughtful criticism to off-based generalizations and statements that veer into the absurd.

Even a stirring announcement Sunday at the Morehouse College graduation ceremony by Robert Smith – the billionaire investor who founded Visa Equity Partners – that he would pay off the debt of the graduating class was met with reflexive skepticism in some quarters. Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World was quoted in a New York Times article about the gift worrying that it “can make people believe that billionaires are taking care of our problems and distract us from the ways in which others in finance are working to cause problems.”

Perhaps no philanthropy critic is more ubiquitous today than Giridharadas, whose book rightly skewers those who believe (or maybe just pretend to believe, to serve their narrow purposes?) that business and market-oriented solutions will fix all of our most pressing problems. It also questions those who seem to have confused taking a job at McKinsey with signing up for the Peace Corps….read more

May 7, 2019

Make Your Donation Dollars Go Farther

Phil Buchanan
The Motley Fool Podcasts: Motley Fool Answers

Phil Buchanan, author of the book Giving Done Right, joins The Motley Fool Podcast to talk about philanthropy and charitable giving….> listen here

May 6, 2019

Getting Real About Nonprofit Performance Assessment

Phil Buchanan
Philanthropy Journal News

When it comes to assessing nonprofit performance, stereotypes and caricatures often get in the way of good practice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it said that nonprofits aren’t that interested in assessing their performance. This was definitely the prevailing view when I was a student at Harvard Business School two decades ago, and it remains so today – including, unfortunately, among some major donors and foundation staff. I hear donors talk about how nonprofit leaders don’t care about performance assessment – and need to be held to account by donors.

But this is wrong. Several years ago, my Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) colleagues and I surveyed foundation-supported nonprofits about their practices, and this is what we found:

  • Almost all nonprofits we surveyed report collecting information to assess their performance; still, many nonprofit leaders want to collect additional—or better—data.
  • The nonprofits surveyed are mainly using their performance information to improve their programs and services, inform their strategic direction, and communicate about their progress; to a lesser extent, they are using it to share what they’re learning with other organizations or to manage staff.
  • A minority of nonprofits report receiving support from foundations for their performance assessment efforts…> read more

April 30, 2019

Tuesday on Lake Effect: Giving Done Right, Ag And Climate Change, Police Craft

Phil Buchanan
Lake Effect on WUWM 89.7 with Mitch Teich and Joy Powers 

In this episode, Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of the new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count explains how you can ensure the money you give to charitable causes really makes the difference you hope.> listen here

April 29, 2019

Phil Buchanan
Mountain Money KPCW with Doug Wells and Roger Goldman

In the second half of the program, Doug and Roger visit with Phil Buchanan. Phil is the  author of Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count. In the book, Phil explores what it takes to make an impact on issues you care about – whether you have a little or a lot to give.>listen here.

April 29, 2019

Phil Buchanan
Wesleyan University Magazine

Philip Buchanan ’92, the president the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), has some tips on what to look for in an organization before you open your purse.

Charitable giving in the U.S. topped $400 billion in 2017. And more than half of American households give annually—more than vote in presidential elections. That giving supports a vast and diverse nonprofit sector that has been a defining strength of this country. Philanthropy has fueled progress—from reductions in teen smoking, to greater civil rights, to strong arts and culture organizations in communities both rural and urban. But givers often struggle to know how to give effectively, or whether their contributions are making a difference.

Too often, an understandable desire to quantify leads to a focus on dumbed-down measures that tell you little or mislead. Especially in the past two decades, we’ve seen a “biznification” of philanthropy that has pushed for universal measures—equivalents to metrics like return on investment or profit that allow those in the corporate world to compare by the same metrics companies in completely different industries. Philanthropy gets analogized to investing, nonprofits rebranded as “social enterprises,” and, along the way, crucial distinctions are lost…>read more.

April 25, 2019

Effective Philanthropy with Phil Buchanan

Phil Buchanan
Successful Generations with Ellie Frey Zagel

In this episode, Ellie interviews Phil Buchanan, President of the Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of the new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count. Phil describes four dimensions of effective philanthropy and much more. > listen here

April 24, 2019

Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective Philanthropy Takes on the Naysayers

Phil Buchanan
Let’s Hear It Podcast with Eric Brown and Kirk Brown

Phil Buchanan, the President of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, has been helping foundations do their work better for almost two decades. But given that philanthropy is one step removed from the action, does that mean that Phil is helping people to help people who help people? What role do foundations and the organizations that support them play in improving people’s lives? And maybe most important, how can donors of all kinds figure out how to make sure their funding is as effective as possible?

In this episode of Let’s Hear It, Phil talks with Eric about how philanthropy can make a difference, and they discuss Phil’s new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count. Eric notes that Phil, a former door-to-door fundraiser, has gone from playing the kazoo in the subway to conducting at Carnegie Hall. > listen here

April 18, 2019

Phil Buchanan discusses his new book with Carol Massar and Jason Kelly on Bloomberg Businessweek Radio

Phil Buchanan
Bloomberg Businessweek Radio (Podcast)

Phil Buchanan joined Bloomberg Businessweek to discuss some of the main ideas in Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count with hosts Carol Massar and Jason Kelly. The segment featuring Buchanan begins around the 7:30 mark.> listen here

April 16, 2019

Phil Buchanan talks about his new book Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count on Moolala

Phil Buchanan
Moolala: Money Made Simple with Bruce Sellery (Podcast)

Phil Buchanan joined Bruce Sellery on Moolala to discuss some of the main ideas in Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count. The segment featuring Buchanan begins around the 20:50 mark.> listen here

April 15, 2019

Philanthropy’s blighted reputation threatens global giving

Phil Buchanan
Financial Times

Charitable giving worldwide supports a diverse and vital group of non-government organisations working on issues from disaster relief and global poverty to educational opportunities for girls. But today, at least in the US, it faces what experts warn may be the beginnings of a decline due to a recent trend of lower giving among small-gift givers. Initial projections show giving in 2018 in the US may have increased at a slower rate than inflation — Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact pegs the increase at just 1.5 per cent, down from a more than 5 per cent increase the previous year.

Decreases among everyday donors would be cause enough for concern on its own. But there is another looming, less discussed, threat: giving among the biggest donors worldwide may also fall as their charitable efforts are increasingly caricatured as self-protective ruses. In the case of the Sackler family, some of whom own Purdue Pharma — who appear to have used their philanthropy to burnish their reputations with one hand while fanning the flames of the opioid epidemic with the other — the shoe fits. The Sacklers have suspended their giving to UK museums, amid increasing wariness about being associated with the family name.

It’s tempting to portray the Sacklers as the norm, and many can’t resist. The very rich, once criticised for not giving enough of their fortunes away, are now being chastised for being too philanthropic. Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman made a viral splash at Davos when he took the World Economic Forum’s attendees to task, suggesting they should stop talking “about all these stupid philanthropy schemes” and “start talking about taxes”… >read more.

April 15, 2019

How Christians Can Better Support Nonprofits

Phil Buchanan and Grace Chiang Nicolette

In seeking to better steward their resources, Christians may sometimes wonder how their giving to the poor and marginalized might better reflect God’s ultimate gift and sacrifice. The truth is that giving well and wisely isn’t easy – as givers from Andrew Carnegie to Warren Buffett have observed – and it requires wisdom and its own set of skills.

Maybe you’re faithfully tithing to your church and also supporting other important ministries or nonprofits. Or maybe you’ve struggled to identify the right organizations beyond your church to which to give. Or maybe you’re just getting started with giving, period.

Regardless, the questions are the same: Now what do I do? Which organizations do I support?

April 14, 2019

Phil Buchanan discusses his new book with Denver Frederick on radio show The Business of Giving 

Phil Buchanan
The Business of Giving

Phil Buchanan, president of CEP, was recently interviewed by Denver Frederick, host of the radio show The Business of Giving.The program is the only show of its kind that focuses on solutions to today’s complex social problems. Each week, listeners hear from philanthropists, corporate  CEOs, nonprofit luminaries, celebrity ambassadors, government officials, and social entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of the transformative changes that are occurring around the world.> listen here

April 11, 2019

Keeping the Faith and Closing the Distance

Phil Buchanan
Giving Compass

Jason Hackmann comes from the small, rural town of Winfield, Missouri. He describes his childhood as ordinary, growing up in a lower-middle-class family. He graduated from his small high school—his graduating class had just sixty-eight students—in the spring of 1995.

That’s also when his brother was killed by a drunk driver. The crushing loss of his brother fueled Hackmann’s ambition to be successful and to break free of the small-town life he’d grown up living. He built a successful career, eventually founding a life insurance agency in St. Louis that caters to wealthy clients. After his first child was born, in 2004, Hackmann began thinking about what really mattered to him. “It was at that time that I began my journey back to Christ,” he told me. His past giving, he confessed, had been made with “ulterior motives” related to his business interests.

It was on a vacation in Turks and Caicos in 2008 that his perspective changed. One day on the beach, Hackmann said to his wife, Jennifer, that he felt uninspired by the books he had brought on the trip. Jennifer pulled out a just-released book and suggested Hackmann read that. The book was called Jantsen’s Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace, by Pam Cope. It chronicles the author’s story and the link between her loss of her 15-year-old son to an undiagnosed heart ailment and her desire to help others, particularly to do something about child slavery in Ghana.

Hackmann connected with her story, reading the book in a day, and decided he, too, wanted to do something about the issue… >read more.

April 2, 2019

What Grant Makers Can Do to Help Small, Local Nonprofits Thrive

Phil Buchanan
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Julie Phelps grew up “really poor,” as she calls it, in rural Minnesota. In high school, she worked at the local Burger King, the best-paying job she could find. She was so organized, and such a natural leader, that she was promoted to night manager while still a teenager.

Phelps had always loved theater and the arts, particularly dance, even though her family could not afford formal lessons. But when she went to Macalester College in St. Paul, with the support of significant financial aid and scholarships, she majored in psychology. “I didn’t really know — and no one told me — that you could actually study the arts in college, that it could be a viable option,” she says.

But Phelps’s passion for the arts never left her. When she moved to San Francisco after graduating from Macalester, she worked in cafes and got involved in dance performances at local nonprofits. Today, at age 34, Phelps runs one of those organizations, CounterPulse, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. CounterPulse provides “space and resources for emerging artists and cultural innovators, serving as an incubator for the creation of socially relevant, community-based art and culture.” Its $1.2 million budget includes about $230,000 in ticket sales and other earned revenue, with the rest coming in contributions, primarily foundation grants.
Getting to CounterPulse’s door often involves navigating huddles of homeless, mentally ill, and drug-afflicted people — those desperately in need of services and help in the shadows of the gleaming towers of San Francisco’s financial district. CounterPulse stands as a pillar community arts organization in a neighborhood that desperately needs pillars.

As its leader, Phelps is among a legion of unsung American heroes: nonprofit executives running small, community-based organizations. While doing research for my forthcoming book Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, I interviewed some of these executive directors: of the health organization in Texas serving the desperately poor, of the youth organization in Massachusetts seeking to lure the most violent gang members out of gang life, of the legal-services organization in New York providing pro bono representation for undocumented minors…. >read more.

March 31, 2019

Disaster relief done right: 4 mistakes people make when trying to help after a disaster

Phil Buchanan

The cyclone that hit Southeastern Africa in mid-March and devastated regions of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe has taken at least 700 lives, left hundreds of thousands in need, and has escalated into an even bigger humanitarian crisis due to waterborne and infectious diseases. It’s been described by the UN as possibly the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere.

Yet Cyclone Idai and the havoc and suffering it has created has received less attention in the media than other terrible, but less catastrophic, natural disasters. This almost certainly means less giving will go to help those affected than would have been the case if this crisis received the attention that, in my view, it deserves. Indeed, one nonprofit leader I know involved in disaster relief globally told me matter-of-factly that there is “not much donor interest” in this event. I can’t imagine that would have been the case if a major natural disaster of this order had occurred in, say, Europe or Canada.

But, sadly, such is the nature of disaster-related philanthropy, which is largely driven by media attention, which of course is affected by whatever biases – implicit or otherwise – the media may hold…. >read more.

March 13, 2019

Giving Effectively More Difficult Than Getting, Expert Says

Phil Buchanan
Your Mark on the World

CEP president, Phil Buchanan, recently joined Devin Thorpe, on The Social Impact Podcast – Your Mark on the World with Devin Thorpe to share some of his insights about philanthropy. Devin is an author, educator, speaker, and founder of the Your Mark on the World Center, and has established himself as a champion of social good. Your Mark on the World Center seeks to solve the world’s biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.

In this podcast, Buchanan notes philanthropy is different from investing–in many ways more difficult–and requires a unique set of skills. He also argues that nonprofits must by their nature collaborate rather than compete…. >listen here.