November 22, 2019
The Dalios should heed the lessons of education philanthropy failures
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.
The Dalio Foundation is pursuing the effort through the public-private Partnership for Connecticut. The Dalios and foundation and state leaders involved would be wise to be sober and humble about the size of the challenge before them. A good place to start is by learning from four common mistakes of other big donors who have set their sights on public education…>read more
November 22, 2019
Is Politics Changing How People Are Giving?
Brian Burnell with Phil Buchanan and Kate Guedj
This Week in Business on NECN
How is the nation’s political climate affecting how much and where people are giving? Phil Buchanan, CEO of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and Kate Guedj, SVP and Chief Philanthropy Officer of The Boston Foundation, weigh in. >watch here
November 22, 2019
Making the Most of Your Charitable Giving
Brian Burnell with Phil Buchanan and Kate Guedj
This Week in Business on NECN
How to make the most of your philanthropic dollars and charitable giving with Phil Buchanan, CEO of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and Kate Guedj, SVP and Chief Philanthropy Officer of The Boston Foundation. How can you give in a way that reflects your values, life and experience. >watch here
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?
- Max Larkin, WBUR Edify reporter. He tweets @jmlarkin.
- Justin Peters, columnist for Slate. His most recent column is “The Moral Rot of the MIT Media Lab.” He is also the author of “The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet.” He tweets @justintrevett.
- Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of “Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count.”>listen 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
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
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
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
December 3, 2019
Trust in Grantees, Not Command and Control
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Instead of giving their grantees marching orders, John Esterle and Pia Infante rely on the nonprofits they support to measure progress and define success.
The San Francisco grant makers are on a mission to share their trust-based approach to philanthropy with the foundation world. Esterle and Infante jointly run the Whitman Institute, a foundation that plans to spend down its assets by 2022. They’re using the institute’s last few years in business to demonstrate how foundations can move away from a command-and-control-style relationship with the nonprofits they support and give grantees more decision-making power.
Organizations that receive grants from the Whitman Institute don’t have to file year-end reports chronicling their progress. If they’ve written updates and evaluations for other foundations, Infante and Esterle will take a look. But groups don’t have to adhere to a strategy cooked up in the San Francisco grant maker’s offices, and they won’t be hectored about missing the mark on their goals.
Instead, grantees — at a time of their choosing — sit down with Esterle and Infante for an in-depth conversation.
During the talks, they ask grantees basic questions: What does success mean for you? How are you incorporating what you’re learning into your work? What are you excited about? How’s it going?
“Our approach to dialogue is that it’s grounded in curiosity and empathy,” Esterle says. “There’s not a specific protocol.”
In some ways, Esterle and Infante are opposites. He’s a white, male boomer; she’s a queer, Philippine-born Gen-Xer. Infante says she’s more of an extrovert, used to being “in the front of the room,” and a fast-talker while Esterle listens longer before speaking up.
After the foundation decided to spend down by 2022, the board decided that its concluding mission would be to share its experiences with trust-based philanthropy — a term developed from grantee responses to a Center for Effective Philanthropy survey — with other grant makers. Infante, who had been consulting with Whitman for years, was named co-executive director to help define the practices put in place by Esterle and founder Fred Whitman (who died in 2004) and spread the word….>read more
November 18, 2019
San Francisco Foundation Shares Findings From CEP Reports
Philanthropy News Digest
The San Francisco Foundation has shared findings from a Grantee and Applicant Perception Report and separate Donor Perception Report commissioned from the Center for Effective Philanthropy as well as steps it is taking to address issues raised by the reports.In a survey of SFF grantees, respondents said that they spent a relatively limited amount of time responding to the foundation’s grant requirements; that the foundation has done a good job of funding work that grantees were already doing or planning rather than pressuring them to modify their priorities; and that grantees understood and connected with the foundation’s focus on racial equity and economic inclusion. Areas where there was room for improvement relative to SFF’s peer foundations included understanding grantees’ goals, strategies, and contexts; its responsiveness to grantees’ questions and comments; and the clarity of communications about its goals and strategies, especially around its grantmaking focused on equity and inclusion…>read more
October 17, 2019
More Foundations Are Engaging in Public Policy — and Experimenting With Different Legal Structures to Do It
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
More foundations are starting to engage in public policy, but to be successful, they need to take a broad approach and engage with a range of partners, grant makers said during a panel discussion at the Urban Institute on Tuesday. Some have adopted different legal structures to be able to engage in politics more directly than they could as a 501(c)(3).
Ninety percent of foundations in a recent Center for Effective Philanthropy survey reported they are advocating for policy changes, and they say this advocacy is crucial to achieving their goals, according to Phil Buchanan, president of the center, who moderated the discussion. The report on the survey has not yet been released…>read more
October 11, 2019
Bill Gates Under a Microscope
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
What is the relationship between business success and philanthropic aptitude? Recently, we’ve witnessed a clash of two starkly different responses to that question. The dominant one for most of the last decade is best captured by the newly coined term “philanthrocapitalism,” the title of an influential 2008 book (though the idea itself has much deeper historical roots), whose subtitle neatly sums up its argument: “How the Rich Can Save the World.” How? By “apply[ing] to their giving the same talents, knowledge, and intellectual vigor that made them rich in the first place.” In other words, entrepreneurialism was presented as a quality whose value was fully transportable to the realm of philanthropic practice.
In the past few years, a range of critics have pushed back on this view. In his recent book, Giving Done Right, for instance, Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, points out the many reasons that running a nonprofit requires a different set of skills than running a for-profit company…>read more
September 9, 2019
Jeffrey Epstein’s philanthropy unleashes soul-searching over ‘third rail’ donors
Philanthropy was already in the grip of some serious soul searching, but the revelations about Jeffrey Epstein’s donations to the MIT Media Lab are forcing nonprofits to take an even harder look at the ethics of how they raise money.
“My sense is that every nonprofit leader and board is saying, ‘What are our third rails, what are the gifts that we won’t accept?’ It’s a really difficult conversation,” said Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of “Giving Done Right.”
The #MeToo movement, today’s charged political climate, and the growing public scrutiny of America’s very wealthy means institutions must vet their donors more carefully than ever. “It’s not just how much money you get, but who you get it from and the values that expresses,” said Michael Nilsen, vice president of marketing, communications and public policy at the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
“Every gift is a value extension of the donor and by extension, if the organization receives money from that person, that organization expresses those values,” he added. “You’re under a microscope more than ever before.”
The MIT Media Lab’s director resigned last week after reports that lab officials tried to conceal Epstein’s role in $7.5 million in donations, sometimes by listing them as “anonymous” or by keeping Epstein’s name out of correspondence about the gifts. (Some of the money was donated directly by Epstein; some of it was solicited by him, The New Yorker reported.)…>read more
August 6, 2019
Looking forward to upcoming Reich-Buchanan debate about whether giving by wealthy is a good thing or not
Michael E. Hartmann
Rob Reich and Phil Buchanan have agreed to a debate about whether giving by the wealthy is a good thing or not, and this is a good thing. Given the participants and the degrees to which they’ve thought and written about the subject, it certainly promises to be informative and enlightening interchange. It is not a conventional left-right argument, moreover, which sure might make it refreshing.
A Stanford political-science professor and author of the self-explanatorily subtitled Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better, Reich is part of a group of progressives who have been harshly critiquing the very formation, structure, and practice of American establishment philanthropy overall, but most of this establishment is liberal. As president of The Center for Effective Philanthropy, Buchanan—author of Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count—has essentially become part of the country’s liberal philanthropic establishment.
To a conservative, quoting J. Wellington Wimpy (about Bluto versus Popeye), there’s a little bit of “let’s you and him fight” about all this.
Reich and Buchanan are to be complimented for engaging with each other’s positions in this way, of course, as are those sponsoring and presenting the event—Philanthropy New York (PNY), SeaChange Capital Partners, and Baruch College’s Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management. It will be held on September 19 at PNY, after its 40thannual meeting and as part of its “PNY at 40: Reframing Philanthropy Series….>read more
July 16, 2019
What We’re Reading: Giving Done Right by Phil Buchanan
The Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Foundation Blog
In Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, Phil Buchanan educates his audience by offering practical advice for all levels of giving.
As President of the Center for Effective Philanthropy for nearly 20 years, Buchanan deeply understands the charitable giving sector and what issues confront donors when they are making contributions, large or small. He also believes that a push for “business thinking” has taken over the discussion of effective philanthropy in recent years, and that it’s time for “thoughtful givers and nonprofit leaders… to stand up and make clear that their work is uniquely challenging – and uniquely valuable – and as such requires its own approach and discipline.”
“Giving done right” according to Buchanan requires understanding the organizations you want to fund, and the people and communities you seek to affect. It also requires humility and patience.
In his book, Buchanan writes about many different aspects of the nonprofit world and charitable giving. For this blog post, I am focusing on his examination of personal giving and some of the things you need to know when deciding to make a donation.
Buchanan says every giver needs to answer the same question, “How do I channel my giving effectively to make the greatest difference?” He points out that the majority of households give to many local charities – such as schools, religious organizations, community foundations, food banks, or homeless shelters. When considering giving, he recommends carving out a significant portion for where you feel it will do the most good…>read more
June 26, 2019
It Is All About Collaboration, Not Competition – Review of Phil Buchanan’s Giving Done Right
Dr. des. Hanna Stähle
Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE)
“‘I just want to know we made a difference’, one multibillionaire philanthropist, in her sixties, told me”, writes Phil Buchanan in the introduction to his recently released book “Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count”. How to make a difference, how to be most effective and achieve the greatest impact is at the core of the book. Buchanan, founding executive director of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, takes us to the inner circles of nonprofit and philanthropy leaders, their successes and failures, their ambitions and unfulfilled aspirations. An essential read for donors and foundations who seek to improve their giving strategies and learn from other’s experiences…>read more
June 25, 2019
Realism vs. radicalism: the practice and promise of philanthropy
Michael E. Hartmann
Phil Buchanan’s new book Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count capitalizes on his almost two decades of experience as a consultant to many of the largest grantmaking organizations in the American philanthropic establishment through his leadership of the Center for Effective Philanthropy. The book’s introduction was written by Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, which has relied on the Center’s work and would have to be considered at the top of that establishment.
Giving Done Right shares much common-sensical wisdom that would benefit givers who are or might someday be part of that establishment. It’s also valuable for those with less money to give away or institutional heft to sway. Overall, for any type of giver—of any size, or ideology—Buchanan’s advice is refreshingly measured. With notable discipline, it is almost always properly qualified with realistic, everyday practicalities.
Buchanan’s most-pointed criticism is of a giving mindset that is too business-oriented. Too much of philanthropy, in his opinion, thinks and talks about grants as “investments” and doesn’t take into account the differing natures of business and philanthropy. This occurs among both liberal and conservative givers. He recommends recognizing the difference, and making grants in accordance with that recognition.
Buchanan’s other good guidance in Giving Done Right includes, among other things, to:
- seek reasonable performance metrics, realizing the difficulty and cost of generating the necessary data;…>read more
June 20, 2019
Book Review: Giving Done Right
The act of giving is defined in deceptively simple terms by any dictionary: “to grant or bestow by formal action; to accord or yield to another; to put into the possession of another for his or her use.” I think it is fair to say that most of us do not think deeply about the meaning of the act of giving. It is a familiar action that happens every day in multiple ways and among multiple entities. One of the merits of this excellent new book about giving, by Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) President Phil Buchanan, is that it engages the reader in a deeper reflection on what may seem on the surface a simple act. Giving isn’t simple. Indeed, reflection demonstrates how much there is under the surface. Giving involves both heart and mind. It can be spontaneous and generous. But it can also be calculated or deceitful. It can be altruistic or selfish. It can create trust or establish dominance. It can be about equality. Or it can be about power.
Buchanan has been working with givers for close to 20 years. His platform has been the CEP, a research and consulting non-profit organization of which he is the founding president. CEP provides data and insights to what it calls “philanthropic funders” with the goal of increasing their effectiveness and impact. In practice, this means that CEP works most closely with institutional givers, or grantmaking foundations. Over the years, Buchanan has interacted with hundreds of these givers, which allows him a unique perspective on the work of giving. Indeed, there are relatively few vantage points such as the CEP in the United States and even fewer in Canada outside of the intermediary organizations such as Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC), which support the field of organized philanthropy and foundations…>read more
Book Review: Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count
Paul G. Putnam, Ph.D.
The Foundation Review
Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count (2019) is grounded in the perspectives of author Phil Buchanan and his talented team at the Center for Effective Philanthropy, led by Buchanan since its founding in 2001. “This book,” he writes in the introduction, “is for givers at all levels who struggle with how to make the most difference.” While readers with a baseline of knowledge in the field may find the going a bit slow at the outset, they should persist. Think of the first few chapters as appetizers, providing a shared understanding of the table upon which organized philanthropy in the United States has been set and currently operates. The main course is an exploration of the art of giving…>read more
May 27, 2019
Philanthropy is undergoing a massive backlash. A new book argues it’s gone too far.
American philanthropy has faced criticism basically since its inception.
The founding of the Rockefeller Foundation, the first institution of its kind in the US (and the benefactor of this section of Vox), was met with controversy and calls for Congress to disallow the group’s creation.
But the past couple years have featured the biggest backlash against elite philanthropy in decades. Three books — Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All, Rob Reich’s Just Giving, and Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Philanthropy — made the case that giving by wealthy elites can be undemocratic, a distraction from the unjust ways that wealth is created, and do more good for the givers than the receivers.
Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective Philanthropy professionally advises large foundations and other philanthropic institutions, and he thinks this backlash has gone too far. In his new book Giving Done Right and in several accompanying op-eds, he’s argued that the critiques, particularly that of Giridharadas, paint with too broad a brush and risk discouraging valuable donations….>read more
May 23, 2019
The first time I read the phrase “bearing witness” was in Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” recounting the horrors of the Holocaust and the responsibility he felt never to forget or allow others to dismiss what happened there. Over the years, the phrase has come to mean more. We bear witness by standing up for something in danger of being overlooked or discounted. We use it to defend unpopular causes and ideas. I would describe Phil Buchanan’s new book, “Giving Done Right” as bearing witness to the too often dismissed best intentions of both non-profits and philanthropy in a time when both are suspect……>read more
May 23, 2019
Philanthropy in the Spotlight
Civil society in South Africa has, in the past, been criticised by the government in particular as being ‘foreign agents’ and other nasty epithets. However, its role has been recognised within the country as critical to a thriving democracy, rather than a hindrance to change.
Having just gone through an election where the focus has been on political parties and power, with a significant focus on who funds political parties and demands for greater transparency, it could therefore be opportune to explore other points of power in our society such as civil society organisations, with their relationship to philanthropic funding that has provided support, particularly since the formation of our democracy…>read more
May 16, 2019
Walking a Mile in Our Grantees’ Shoes
Barr’s director of grants management shares what we learned and some of the changes we’ve made after staff went through our own grant application process.
May 9, 2019
What Wall Street Gets Wrong About Giving
Phil Buchanan grew up in Portland, Ore., attending anti-nuclear demonstrations with his father, a professor of philosophy at Portland State University who, as the son puts it, was “a pretty hard-core left-wing activist.”
As a child during the 1970s, the younger Buchanan recalls wearing a poster board protesting the B-1 bomber and hearing stories about his dad getting arrested while laying on the train tracks to protest the nuclear warheads on their way to Washington state.
“My dad drove around in a 1964 Plymouth Valiant with two bumper stickers on it. One said Nuclear Freeze Now and the other said U.S. Out of El Salvador and Nicaragua,” he remembers.
The elder Buchanan didn’t live to see his son study government at Wesleyan University and get an MBA at Harvard. Phil Buchanan went on to join Parthenon Group, a management consulting firm.
When in college, Buchanan often thought his dad would have difficulty with his studies if he were alive. “And then I went off to be a strategy consultant in the corporate world and I thought, Oh boy, now he’d really be cringing,” Buchanan says, only half kidding.
Eventually his skills took Buchanan back to something more in line with his untraditional upbringing’s focus on making the world a better place. In 2001, he became the first chief executive of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, where he remains today. Buchanan is the author of the newly released Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, which details the lessons he’s learned in his more than a decade of philanthropic work…>read more
May 8, 2019
Rescuing Philanthropy from Business
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
In 1990, Peter Drucker’s Managing the Nonprofit Organization acknowledged the differences between what he called “the social sector” and business, arguing that nonprofits actually had much to teach business, such as the importance of paying attention to “customers.” But Drucker, an enormously influential business-management expert, also contended that for too long management had been “a very bad word in nonprofit organizations” because of its association with business. Most nonprofits, he wrote, “believed that they did not need anything that might be called ‘management.’ After all, they did not have a bottom line.”
In his book, Drucker tried to show how appropriate management “principles and practices” could make nonprofits more effective.
If nonprofits largely shunned “management” back then, it has now become all the rage in the nonprofit world. Countless books and articles have appeared on every conceivable aspect of it. Professional and academic programs, as well as consulting firms such as Bridgespan, have proliferated, often led by people with training in business or economics. New philanthropies, endowed by high-tech entrepreneurs, have sought to apply business practices to their giving, as have some venerable grant makers; in some cases, rather than establish foundations, donors have set up corporations to pursue their social concerns. Terms rarely used in connection with nonprofits in the past, such as “evidence-based programs” and “impact investing,” have become increasingly commonplace.
On the surface, Phil Buchanan looks like someone who would champion greater managerialism in philanthropy, and, in fact, he has. He holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Business School, one of the most fertile sources of management advice for nonprofit groups. He founded and has spent his career running the Center for Effective Philanthropy, a research and consulting organization that advises foundations on their grant making. He writes a column for professionals in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and speaks frequently at conferences of nonprofit leaders.
But his new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count,reveals he has more than a few reservations about businesslike thinking in philanthropy. Taking issue with ideas developed by some of his own teachers and others, Buchanan argues, as Drucker did, that improving management must start with understanding how the nonprofit world differs from the corporate one…>read more
April 26, 2019
Book Recommendations – May 2019
So What Faith
The 10 best books published in 2019 that I read during the month of April are
- (5.0) Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count by Phil Buchanan (Public Affairs, 2019)
- (5.0) Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight by Cameron Trimble (Chalice Press, 2019)
- (4.5) One Coin Found: How God’s Love Stretches to the Margins by Emmy Kegler (Fortress Press, 2019)
- (4.5) Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall (Harvard Business Review Press, 2019)
- (4.0) The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God by Christine Aroney-Sine (IVP Books, 2019)
- (4.0) Great Leaders Have No Rules: Contrarian Leadership Principles to Transform Your Team and Business by Kevin Kruse (Rodale Books, 2019)
- (4.0) Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians by Amber Cantorna (Westminster John Knox Press, 2019)
- (4.0) Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s challenge and a Model for America’s Futureby Pete Buttigieg (Liveright, 2019)
- (4.0) Neighborhood Church: Transforming Your Congregation into a Powerhouse for Mission by Krin Van Tatenhove and Rob Mueller (Westminster John Knox Press, 2019)
- (3.5) Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn’t the American Dream by Brian Fikkert and Kelly M. Kapic (Moody, 2019)
This month’s top two authors are chief executives of organizations that contribute to the advancement of their respective fields. Mr. Phil Buchanan is the founding chief executive of the Center of Effective Philanthropy – a nonprofit that conducts research and advises many of the largest foundations in the United States. Rev. Cameron Trimble is a United Church of Christ pastor who serves as the chief executive of the Center for Progressive Renewal – a nonprofit that seeks to renew Christianity by providing resources to enable renewal in existing progressive churches and the birthing of new progressive ministries…>read more
April 26, 2019
Notre-Dame Donation Backlash Raises Debate: What’s Worthy of Philanthropy?
The New York Times
As flames engulfed Notre-Dame, people from around the world opened their wallets and began making donations. Within two days, nearly $1 billion was raised to help pay for the restoration of the 856-year-old cathedral in Paris.
The charitable response was a reflection of Notre-Dame’s stature as a cherished monument of French cultural heritage. Some benefactors pledged more than $100 million each, including François-Henri Pinault, whose wealth comes from luxury brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and Bernard Arnault, the richest person in Europe and chief executive of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.
But the outpouring met with resistance as critics wondered why tragedies like the incineration of the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in September did not receive the same degree of support. And it rekindled class resentment in a city already racked by the so-called Yellow Vest movement, a populist response to economic inequality in France that tapped into a rising global movement against the concentration of wealth…>read more
April 24, 2019
Tech titans donate $50M+ in stock to one nonprofit. Here’s what I think it means for the rest of us.
A recent headline in the New York Times asks a provocative question: “A Charity Accepts Uber Stock as Donations. Then Uses it to Pay Staff Bonuses. Is that O.K.?”
Elite entrepreneurs — largely from the “unicorn” companies valued at $1B or more — have pledged at least 1% of their equity to charity: water, a nonprofit bringing clean and safe drinking water people in low-income countries. These donated shares have an unusual restriction: When these companies are sold or go public with an IPO, the entrepreneurs will pay out a portion of their stock to charity: water, 80% of which will fund salaries and office rent, and 20% will pay bonuses to charity: water staff.
One of the founding members called it “an exploration into the future of philanthropy.” Others see it as a controversy over whether the employees of a nonprofit should benefit. Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, says“It’s very strategic to structure gifts this way, but the issue of enriching employees of the charity is potentially problematic.” He would be familiar with the critics, as a foundation leader who earns more than a million dollars annually.
I agree with Mr. Walker: There are a few good reasons why this giving plan is strategic. And before I dive into where I see the problematic issues, I want to clarify that enriching employees, based on their performance results, is not one of them.
The strategy is smart because nonprofit employees deserve to be paid well. Our society is uncomfortable paying nonprofit staff, but we don’t blink an eye when professionals in the for-profit sector take home a pretty good paycheck. Brigette Bugay nailed this point in her Medium response to the Times article. Why shouldn’t high-performing nonprofit employees have good salaries, quality health insurance, paid parental leave, short and long-term disability coverage, a 401k match, and access to professional development? Everyone should — including those who work for a better world. And yet, so often funders say, “We don’t fund overhead.”
So there are three areas I’d like to see discussed further, by not only the nonprofit and funders piloting this model, but by all of us who want to be effective philanthropists, at any level.
First, I question the recruitment message behind this strategy. In the Times article, charity: water’s CEO talks about his effort to recruit people who would otherwise take jobs at Facebook, Google, and Amazon. “How do we compete with massages and Michelin stars,” he asks, alluding to the insane perks that these companies offer, including free food every day. These perks are enviable on a surface level, but my answer is: nonprofits compete by having a strong mission, flexible work culture, and fair compensation.
It’s time we stop seeing for-profit talent as the ultimate coup. There is brilliant and underestimated talent in the nonprofit industry, where we have learned how to turn measly resources into formidable change. In the new book Giving Done Right, Phil Buchanan, CEO of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, argues that nonprofit leaders are often unsung heroes, “balancing a range of responsibilities that can make a corporate CEO’s job feel like a walk in the park.” We need to focus on cultivating and retaining this type of talent, not attracting tech employees…>read more
April 23, 2019
When it’s OK to say ‘no’ to charities
It was once safe to assume that giving money to charity was perceived as a worthy act, but in recent years a growing debate has gnawed away at that idea.
Even though Americans are giving more money than ever to nonprofits, like many aspects of American life, there’s a divide in philanthropy. Fewer middle-income and lower-income households are giving money to charity, while richer donors proliferate, making bigger and bigger donations.
Some critics mega-donations from people like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg as a troubling symptom of income inequality. Outsized philanthropic gifts let the wealthy advance their own self-serving agenda, they argue, while getting good press — and a tax deduction to boot. Meanwhile some of these philanthropists continue to contribute to the very social problems they claim to be solving, by say, heading companies that don’t pay their workers a liveable wage, critics say.
Phil Buchanan, the director of the nonprofit Center for Effective Philanthropy, addresses some of these critiques in his new book, “Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count.”...>read more
April 22, 2019
Stop trying to treat nonprofits “like a business”
In the United States, 1 in 3 people don’t trust nonprofits to spend their donations wisely. At the same time, both individuals and institutions are reluctant to contribute to basic costs like overhead, which limits groups’ ability to grow more sustainable and impactful. Both issues stem from the same major misperception. “Saying that nonprofits should operate ‘like a business’ is a meaningless phrase, but it’s one people use all the time,” says Phil Buchanan, the founder and president of the nonprofit Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). “They’re thinking of giving as analogous to investing when it isn’t, which leads to related mistakes like utilizing the wrong metrics [to grade success].”
At CEP, Buchanan’s team researches the performance of major funders, and advises some of the country’s top foundations how to make impactful change. But he believes many of the lessons they’ve learned are applicable to everyone–including the fact that nonprofits deserve to be treated differently than corporations. That’s something Buchanan expands on in his new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count. “Measurement is really important, but it’s got to be tailored to the particular strategy of the nonprofit,” he says. “In all kinds of different companies in different industries, we can ultimately judge them . . . by profits. Obviously there is no universal metric to compare the results of the nonprofit working on climate change to the nonprofit working on increasing graduation rates through mentoring at-risk kids.”…>read more
April 11, 2019
Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count
Philanthropy News Digest by Candid
Back in 2016, Bill Gates, in the context of his partnership with the Heifer Foundation to donate 100,000 chickens to people around the world living on $2 a day, blogged about how raising egg-laying fowl can be a smart, cost-effective antidote to extreme poverty. As Phil Buchanan tells it in Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, the idea, however well-intentioned, attracted scorn from some quarters, including Bolivia, where the offer was declined — after it was pointed out that the country already produces some 197 million chickens a year. The episode is a pointed reminder that being an effective philanthropist isn’t as easy as it might seem.
And Buchanan ought to know; as the founding CEO of the Cambridge-based Center for Effective Philanthropy for the past seventeen years, he has worked closely with more than three hundred foundations and scores of individual givers, exploring the landscape of American giving, distilling lessons learned (both successes and failures), and highlighting what works and what doesn’t…> read more
April 10, 2019
Foundations Say Communication Teams and Consultants Are Keys to Grant-Making Success
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Kenneth Rainin, a businessman who died in 2007, gave a short list of directions for his daughter when he asked her to lead his namesake foundation. He wanted the grant maker to focus on the arts, education, and medical research, “but within those areas it would really be up to me to decide how we focus,” said Jennifer Rainin, now the CEO.
With latitude to shape the grant maker, Rainin decided to focus on inflammatory bowel disease, “which was a no-brainer” because various members of her family, including herself, have it. She also wanted the foundation to have a local impact, so it invests in children’s literacy programs in Oakland. As for the arts, the grant maker has supported independent filmmakers, dance programs, and theater. Its track record for movies includes award-winners like “Sorry to Bother You,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and “Fruitvale Station.”
The foundation’s long list of grant making has led Rainin to think more about the foundation’s work as it approaches its 10th anniversary. What has she learned along the way that would help other grant makers? What does she wish she had known back then?
Rainin and other leaders from 14 foundations with at least $350 million in assets reflected on the earliest stages of their work in a new Center for Effective Philanthropy study intended to help leaders who are new to the world of big-time grant making. The study was qualitative so it gives answers to broad, open-ended questions…>read more
April 8, 2019
3 ways to prepare for the ‘new wave of innovation in philanthropy’
All too often, learnings at foundations end up in file cabinets, guiding the grant-making of these institutions, but not informing others beyond that. For the past 18 years, the Global Philanthropy Forum has worked to change that dynamic by providing opportunities for peer learning between philanthropists. “Everyone in this room and on this stage is part of a knowledge marketplace when it comes to the practice of philanthropy,” Jane Wales, founding president of the organization, said at the annual conference last week.
With a growing number of individual philanthropists in search of impact, including the rise of high net worth individuals in Silicon Valley and beyond, the Global Philanthropy Forum sees an urgent need to connect the supply of knowledge within foundations with the demand of individuals who want to learn while giving.
Devex collected insights from Wales and other experts at the Global Philanthropy Forum on how donors can work together to make their philanthropy more effective…>read more
December 21, 2018
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:
- Foundations are not as in touch with nonprofits’ needs as they think
- Nonprofits most desire help in fundraising, staffing, and communications
- Both nonprofits and foundations have a role to play in closing the gap between the support nonprofits need and the support foundations provide
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
Findings from new research release- Crucial Donors: How Major Individual Givers Can Best Support Nonprofits, CEP Global update, Giving Done Right in the news and on the road, recaps from the blog, and meet the newest members of CEP!>read more
Recap of CEP’s 2019 national conference in Minneapolis-St. Paul, findings from new research release- Greater Good: Lessons Learned from Those Who Have Started Major Grantmaking Organizations, CEP’s annual report is out, and share Giving Done Right with your board!>read more
Upcoming research release- Greater Good: Lessons Learned from Those Who Have Started Major Grantmaking Organizations, Giving Done Right launching in a few weeks, last call to register for the CEP conference, and meet some of our new staff members. >read more
Expanding CEP’s global presence, Giving Done Right due to release in April 2019, last call to register for the CEP conference, and CEP is hiring! >read more
September 16, 2019
Rihab Babiker Joins CEP as VP of Finance and Operations
Rihab Babiker has joined the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) as its first vice president of finance and operations. Babiker comes to CEP with nearly 15 years of finance and operations experience in the nonprofit sector. She will oversee all aspects of CEP’s finances and operations, ensuring accurate and useful financial reporting and modelling to guide CEP’s decision-making and contributing to CEP’s overall strategic direction.
Babiker’s hiring marks a new era in CEP’s 18-year history of helping funders to be more effective in pursuing their programmatic goals. The creation of this role responds to CEP’s steady growth to more than $10 million in revenue this year and a staff of nearly 50.
“After a long, intensive process and an incredibly strong pool of candidates, I could not be more pleased to name Rihab to this crucial leadership role at CEP,” said Phil Buchanan, President of CEP. “She has the right mix of finance and operations skills and the kind of analytical mind and strategic sense that I know will make her a key part of CEP’s leadership team.”…>read more
April 10, 2019
New CEP Research Reveals What It Takes for Early-Stage Grantmakers to Get Off the Ground
Cambridge, MA — While there is no single blueprint for those new to philanthropy to follow, it is vital that early-stage grantmakers learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before them so they can avoid common mistakes and position their grantmaking organizations for success. With more than 30,000 new private foundations established in the U.S. in the past 20 years, this rings true now more than ever.
That’s why the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), with support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, which marks its tenth year of grantmaking this year, is releasing a resource today that offers guidance for early-stage grantmakers getting their organizations off the ground. The report, titled Greater Good: Lessons from Those Who Have Started Major Grantmaking Organizations, distills insights for a new wave of philanthropic leaders seeking to build thriving grantmaking organizations that can best support nonprofits to achieve shared goals.
Findings in the report are based on interviews CEP conducted with 35 leaders — including trustees, CEOs, program staff, and operations staff — of 14 grantmaking organizations that were established, or that experienced significant growth, in the past 20 years and that hold at least $350 million in assets. Interviewees are quoted in the report anonymously…>read more