CEP in the News

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

Devex

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

 


From 2019

december 31, 2019

Philanthropy Awards, 2019

Staff

Inside Philanthropy

Best Philanthropy Book of the Year: Giving Done Right

Anyone with a pile of money who wants to make the world a better place shouldn’t start writing checks until they’ve read Phil Buchanan’s Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count….>read more



December 13, 2019

Nonprofit Leaders Express Worries Over Tax Law and Possible Recession

Dan Parks

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

 

Fifty-eight percent of nonprofit leaders believe tax-law changes have hurt giving to their organizations, according to a new survey. Nonprofit leaders are also deeply worried about the potential for a recession and a lack of preparedness for an economic downturn, the poll found.

The survey, conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, gathered responses from 419 nonprofits with annual expenses ranging from $100,000 to $88 million. The surveys were completed by CEOs, development directors, or finance directors. The organizations had received at least one grant from a foundation that gives $5 million or more a year.

The 2017 federal tax overhaul roughly doubled the standard deduction, resulting in millions fewer households itemizing their income-tax returns. Those households no longer have a financial incentive to donate to charity. Estimates on the potential impact on giving varies, but one recent study estimated charities would lose $19.1 billion annually….>read more 


September 24, 2019

Cultivating Major Donors Is Growing More Important, Study Suggests

Maria Di Mento

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

 

Nonprofit leaders are placing a much greater focus on building stronger relationships with wealthy individual donors than in previous years, and they expect that trend to continue, according to a new report by the Center for Effective Philanthropy released Tuesday.

The heads of charities have good reason for the shift: Donations from modest and midlevel donors have dropped recently, according to Giving USA’s most recent “Annual Report on Philanthropy,” and nonprofits have been relying on big donors to pick up the slack….>read more

 


September 19, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein’s philanthropy unleashes soul-searching over ‘third rail’ donors

Leslie Albrecht
MarketWatch

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


SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

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

Greater Boston
WGBH

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?…>listen here


SEPTEMBER 9, 2019

Moral Crisis at MIT’s Media Lab

Radio Boston
WBUR

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?…>listen here


August 6, 2019

Looking forward to upcoming Reich-Buchanan debate about whether giving by wealthy is a good thing or not

Michael E. Hartmann
Philanthropy Daily

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

Carol Hoffman
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
Philanthropy Daily

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

Hilary Pearson
The Philanthropist

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.”[1]  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


June 2019

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

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