From 2020

june 10, 2020

Leading Foundations Pledge to Give More, Hoping to Upend Philanthropy

James B. Stewart and Nicholas Kulish

The New York Times

Thousands of nonprofit organizations — from community theaters to food pantries to small rural hospitals — are fighting for their survival. A study released this week by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that 90 percent of nonprofit groups surveyed had to cancel or postpone fund-raising events and 81 percent had to reduce programs or services. At the same time, more than half said that demand for their services had increased.

Many of those groups rely on foundations as a major source of funding.

“Frankly, the house is on fire right now, and if they don’t save the nonprofits, they’re going to have to rebuild the entire sector,” said Chitra Hanstad, executive director of World Relief Seattle, which provides services to refugees, asylum seekers and others. Its funds running low, the group is planning a round of layoffs….>Read more.

june 8, 2020

Undocumented Immigrants Affected By Pandemic To Receive Soros Aid Almost Two Months After $20 Million Grant’s Announcement

Beth Fertig

In March, as the coronavirus pandemic swept through New York, 48 year-old Maribel lost her job cleaning houses. Her husband lost his job at a restaurant. And their oldest son, who works as an electrician, was also out of work.

Maribel, who doesn’t want us using her full name because she’s an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, said her family of four soon fell behind on the $1,500 monthly rent for their two-bedroom apartment in Staten Island. Without legal status, they didn’t qualify for unemployment or a federal stimulus check.

To get by, Maribel relied on weekly grocery packages from a community organization called La Colmena. She also kept herself busy with her women’s group Mujeres Liderando, making masks for first responders with fabric donated by La Colmena….>Read more.

june 7, 2020

Civil rights groups receive a flood of corporate donations

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Courtney Weaver

Los Angeles Times

U.S. civil rights groups have received a surge of corporate donations since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, transforming the fortunes of some of the organizations hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.

A Financial Times review of statements from U.S. companies found more than $450 million in pledges to groups focused on social and racial justice, which typically depend more on individual donations, often from people in disadvantaged communities.

Walmart and its foundation promised to put $100 million into a new racial equity center; Warner Music and Sony Music announced $100-million funds with few details attached; and Nike pledged $40 million to various organizations….>Read more.


june 2, 2020

How to Decide Where to Donate Money and Make an Impact Right Now

may 27, 2020

A Virus Attacks Philanthropy

Leslie Lenkowsky

Wall Street Journal

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to nonprofit organizations, the roughly two million groups that form the backbone of American community life. Some, such as hospitals and food banks, have had unprecedented demands for their services. Others, including schools and museums, have stopped operating, lost large amounts of revenue, laid off skilled staff, and in some cases face the possibility of closing altogether. As the economy contracts, individual donations are expected to fall, as they did during the financial crisis a decade ago….>Read more.

may 13, 2020

Nine in 10 Foundations Say They Provide Aid for Advocacy Efforts

Alex Daniels and Dan Parks

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Nine in 10 foundation leaders say their foundation seeks to influence public policy through their grant making and other activities, although their boards and legal counsel often are skeptical of such activities, according to a study of more than 200 grant makers released Wednesday. What’s more, nearly three-fourths of those foundations have increased their policy efforts during the past three years, most frequently at the state and local levels.

“Most foundation leaders view efforts to influence public policy as an important way to achieve their goals,” says the report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy. “These efforts are not new but have increased in recent years.”

As one foundation leader told the researchers: “Good public policy helps our grants go further, and bad public policy undermines our grant making.” Another foundation CEO stated: “Public policy can have significantly more impact on the issues we care about than our grant dollars alone can.”…>Read more

may 1, 2020

The obscure rule that is discouraging billionaires’ foundations from going big on coronavirus

Theodore Schleifer


“There’s a norm and a default to a way of working. There’s a conservatism,” said Phil Buchanan, who along with eight other foundation leaders released an open letter pushing for foundations to at least think about giving away substantially more. “This really is a different moment, requiring questioning of norms that might’ve made a lot more sense in a different context.”

The upshot of all of this is stark. If foundations don’t have access to more money from a living donor like Skoll, and won’t increase their payout rate, they’re left with two options: do nothing substantial on a once-in-a-century pandemic or try to rejigger their existing commitments, meaning that some nonprofits and causes will miss out on expected money.

Indeed, Buchanan said he has heard from some nonprofits that have been told by their funders that they will not be receiving as much as they expected due to the funder’s need to pivot for Covid-19 relief….>Read more

may 1, 2020

april 27, 2020

Covid-19 exposes American philanthropy’s strengths and weaknesses

Aryn Braun

The Economist

Still, there are lessons to be learned from philanthropists’ response to the global financial crisis. According to an analysis by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), a watchdog, grant-making by America’s 1,000 biggest foundations dipped by 5% in 2008 and then by 14% in 2009, and stayed down by 10-15% until 2014, when funding climbed back to 2007 levels. Given this precedent, it seems likely that grants will again contract as falling markets shrink foundations’ endowments, and thus their capacity to keep giving at the same rate.

The NCRP and the Centre for Effective Philanthropy, a similar outfit, are urging private foundations to take measures now to maintain their funding levels—even if the covid-induced downturn is even deeper and longer than feared. There are three ways, the groups say, to help non-profit groups through the crisis.

First, foundations can increase annual payout rates from the 5% of the value of their assets, the minimum level mandated by America’s Internal Revenue Service. During the financial crisis, for example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation increased its payout rate from 5% to 7%. The Gates Foundation, however, aims to spend down its vast $46.8bn endowment within 20 years of its founders’ deaths. Other foundations, that are meant to exist for ever, are wrestling with the need to respond to the current crisis while making sure they can survive it. Crystal Hayling, executive director of the Libra Foundation in San Francisco, says the organisation will double its grant-making in 2020, while acknowledging worries that a recession may eat into its $500m endowment….>read more

april 27, 2020

Coronavirus: Nonprofits face economic woes as needs for services rise: Survey

A.J. Martelli

Poughkeepsie Journal

Nonprofit organizations across the mid-Hudson Valley have had to decrease staff and delay or halt projects amid an economic crunch created by the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s according to the results of a survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which included responses from 215 nonprofits across Dutchess, Ulster, Putnam, Orange, Sullivan, Greene and Columbia counties.

Of those polled, 60% said they may not be able to continue operating under these conditions past the next six months….>read more

april 20, 2020

Charity is off the charts amid the coronavirus. Is that a sign of America’s strength or weakness?

Laurence Darmiento
Los Angeles Times

The coronavirus outbreak has shut down entire school districts and turned bustling commercial corridors into ghost towns, but there’s one sector of society that’s busier than ever: philanthropy.

The charitable acts have come in all shapes and sizes. Small checks to food pantries, foundations issuing emergency grants to desperate nonprofits and, most conspicuously, billionaires doling out big-dollar gifts with all the attendant publicity.

Large charitable gifts from corporations, foundations and individuals, including faith-based and other sources, hit $7.8 billion worldwide last week, with about two-thirds originating in the United States — an amount that dwarfs records set after other disasters such as Hurricane Sandy….>read more

april 16, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis: Philanthropy faces a major dilemma as need increases but endowments shrink

april 6, 2020

How will COVID-19 impact foundation grants?

William Worley


Foundations are largely stepping up to the unprecedented challenge presented to NGOs by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to experts.

Despite the recent financial downturn, some funding restrictions have been relaxed and an atmosphere of understanding among many donors is currently prevailing, with new funds and initiatives also being created in response to the outbreak.

But insiders said this response has not been universal, with some funders withholding planned grants amid the economic chaos sparked by the pandemic….>read more

april 2, 2020

Another Foundation Doubles its Grants Budget, Another Call for Philanthropy to Step Up

Ruth McCambridge
Nonprofit Quarterly

Early in the COVID response, a group now reaching nearly 500 foundations pledged to stop conducting business as usual with their grantees, who have been faced with profound challenges of crisis and opportunity. Over the past three weeks, echoing a call to action originally made by Vu LeNPQ has been urging philanthropy to step up to the times by doubling their payout rates. That call is now attracting more voices—both among funders, who have put their money on the strategy, and from organizations that support or advise philanthropy in some way.

Around a week ago, we published a statement from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation declaring its commitment to doubling down. And yesterday, the San Francisco-based Libra Foundation announced that it also has boldly elected to double its grantmaking from last year’s $25 million to $50 million in 2020, encouraging others to do the same.

The Libra Foundation’s latest docket, in fact, awards $22 million to 57 grassroots groups led by—and for—low-income communities of color. This aligns with the foundation’s guiding principle that those closest to the issues understand those issues the best. They are not only the best equipped to build solutions; they are the most effective at implementing those solutions…>read more

april 2, 2020

9 Leading Nonprofit Groups Urge Foundations to Dig Into Endowments to Support Charities

Alex Daniels

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

A group of nine philanthropic membership and advocacy organizations called on foundations to increase their giving in response to the coronavirus pandemic, even if their endowments take a big hit.

“The strength of a funder’s grantees at the end of this crisis will be a much better measure of the significance of a foundation than the size of its endowment,” the letter says.

The letter notes that the Cares Act, the recently enacted $2 trillion federal stimulus law, will benefit nonprofits and the people they serve, but accessing government assistance may be difficult for nonprofits.

The groups signing the letter are BoardSource, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Council on Foundations, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Independent Sector, National Center for Family Philanthropy, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and United Philanthropy Forum….>read more

march 17, 2020

Experts Urge Charities to Communicate Their Needs Clearly to Their Donors

Maria di Mento

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Nonprofits should also communicate with their grant makers.

Fundraisers at charities helping those most in need should consider requesting adjustments to existing grants, said Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Fundraisers at charities hardest hit by the pandemic can certainly ask foundations to increase their grants. But there are other things grant makers can do to give nonprofits more flexibility and that would not take additional money, Buchanan said. One of the most helpful: Allow charities to use any project grant dollars they have received for other, more urgent needs. Another is to extend any deadlines a grant maker may have placed on a charity.

“There are a lot of ways [foundations] can provide flexibility both by releasing grantees from obligations under existing grant agreements and by providing additional funding,” he said….>read more

february 27, 2020

Most Nonprofits Lack Recession Plan

Michael Theis

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Two-thirds of nonprofits don’t have a plan to deal with a recession, according to survey data from the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

And the vast majority of nonprofits — 96 percent — say the foundations they rely on for funding have not talked with them about how a recession would change the way they support those nonprofits. But nonprofits appear very eager to have those conversations; 89 percent say they would like their supporting foundations to discuss recession planning.

Since the end of the Great Depression, the typical American economic expansion cycle has lasted an average of about five years. The current economic expansion is entering its 11th year since the Great Recession, causing economists and nonprofit officials alike to wonder when the next downturn will hit….>read more

February 26, 2020

Nonprofits Decline Gifts With Too Many Strings or Misaligned Values, Survey Finds

Michael Theis

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Forty percent of nonprofits have declined a gift, according to a new survey, and the most common reason cited by those nonprofits (39 percent) was that it came with too many strings attached.

Asked for examples, one nonprofit official said a donor wanted the organization to start a program that did not align with its mission. Another said it declined a donor who wanted too much control over the organization.

The data is from a survey by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

The second most common reason listed for denying a donor (27 percent) had more to do with the practicality of the contribution: the gift would have been too hard to liquidate or would have been a liability. One respondent declined a gift of property because the land could not be redeveloped and the existing building was too expensive to renovate. Another respondent declined a “collection which would have cost more to archive and clear out than it would have brought in for the organization.”…>read more

february 4, 2020

The elephant in the room: Why is Memphis’ nonprofit leadership so white?

Jane Roberts
The Daily Memphian

The inequity is a “huge problem” and nearly as old as philanthropy itself, says Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which has offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and San Francisco.

“There is an overemphasis on recruiting board members who can be major donors and perhaps an under-emphasis on recruiting board members who bring relevant life experience to the table,” he said.

While Buchanan says he would never suggest people from one background can’t help people of another, “I can tell you this: Nonprofit leaders themselves don’t believe their boards are as diverse as they should be from an effectiveness point of view. And they don’t believe their staffs are as diverse as they should be either.

“Somehow, we are not there. The challenge is to finally do something, but more than in a tokenistic way,” he said….>read more

february 4, 2020

Nonprofits Weigh In on Pros and Cons of Donor-Advised Funds

Michael S. Fischer

Think Advisor

Donor-advised funds are the darlings of the philanthropic sector in the U.S. According to National Philanthropic Trust’s annual report released in November, they are the country’s fastest-growing charitable giving vehicle, the number of DAF accounts having grown by 55% between 2017 and 2018.

At the same time — and probably not unexpectedly — critics of DAFs have emerged, and their complaints have become more voluble in recent years.

While proponents emphasize that with DAFs giving is easier and allows donors time to make considered decisions about their charity, critics knock the vehicles as not sufficiently transparent and for delaying donations to nonprofits, according to Hannah Martin, associate manager of research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy….>read more

January 29, 2020

44 Percent of Nonprofits Say Donor-Advised Funds Hurt Relationships With Supporters

Dan Parks

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Forty-four percent of nonprofits say that donor-advised funds hamper their ability to build relationships with donors, according to a new survey.

Nonprofits also cited benefits of donor-advised funds, with 22 percent saying they impose lower administrative burdens, according to the survey, conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

“There is usually no cumbersome grant application or reporting requirement,” said one nonprofit that was surveyed.

Said another: “We receive one large check, rather than many separate smaller checks.”…>read more


January/february/march 2020

How Funders Can Get Better at Getting Better

Lowell Weiss

Washington Monthly

Governments receive constant feedback from constituents in the form of calls, emails, visits, polling, and votes. For-profit companies solicit feedback from their customers in many ways—from focus groups to surveys to sales. Philanthropy, in contrast, has “no built-in systemic forces to motivate continuous improvement,” in the words of philanthropy giants Joel Fleishman and Tom Tierney.

Consider a recent unpublished regression analysis produced by the nonprofit Center for Effective Philanthropy. Looking across tens of thousands of data points from 15 years of grantee surveys, CEP discovered that, on the whole, foundations are not improving in the eyes of their grantees.

CEP is the pioneer of a survey called the Grantee Perception Report. Because the survey is anonymous, grantees get a rare opportunity to speak truth to power. They rate their funders on a wide range of measures, including how well the funder understands its grantees’ work, how much value the funder adds beyond its checks, and how much influence the funder has on public policy. When you look at foundations that have commissioned GPRs for the first time recently, the results look almost identical to those from first-time GPR users 15 years ago. There’s no upward trend.

But CEP’s data shows that one group of funders is making consistent improvements over time: those who survey their grantees repeatedly. According to Ellie Buteau, CEP’s vice president of research, “We see a strong and clear association between more positive grantee experiences and funders who receive regular feedback from their grantees.” In other words, when donors listen, they become more effective….>read more

January 22, 2020

Report finds abundant strengths, pressing challenges in MetroWest

The Boston Globe


“Many of our neighbors are facing a lot of challenges here,” said Caroline Murphy, the foundation’s director of programs. “That may be difficult to see when there are so many positives within our communities. . . . This is not a picture of perfect suburbs everywhere. There’s a lot of work to be done to address inequality.”

The foundation, which supports initiatives by nonprofits and municipalities in the MetroWest region, undertook the project as a meaningful way to mark its 25th anniversary this year.

Salerno said the hope is that the data will provide “a much clearer understanding of what the opportunities for investment are in the community and also what we think we need to do to ensure the quality of life and character of the community stay as good as it is for the next 25 years.”

The Center for Governmental Research compiled the information for the foundation, much of it from US census data. The foundation plans to update the data every two years.

“This kind of data is incredibly valuable in informing nonprofits, donors, and policy makers about what’s going on in communities, who lives there, so that the right programs can be prioritized,” said Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, a Cambridge-based group….>read more

January 16, 2020

Data-Driven Program Evaluation Hurts Equity Efforts, Say Critics

Alex Daniels

The Chronicle of Philanthropy


Ellie Buteau, vice president for research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy, believes that focusing on equity would be major shift for most foundation evaluation professionals. But she suggests that foundations aren’t necessarily wed to their current practices. More than three-quarters of foundations that responded to a 2016 survey conducted by the center said it is a challenge to produce evaluations that are helpful for the field or that provide useful lessons for grantees or meaningful insights for the grant maker itself.

She adds: “It’s not like foundations are saying the current methods they’re using are overwhelmingly successful and helpful for understanding how their work is going.”…>read more