Building Through Collective Experience

Philanthropy tends to work on big problems, where the way forward isn’t necessarily clear and even the end point is up for debate. Given that ambiguity and the scope of work required to make meaningful progress, it can be hard to know where to start or how to keep yourself focused on moving forward.

Here at CEP, one of our key tenets is that data has the power to inform and improve our work. And while that data requires careful analysis, it helps focus philanthropy on results, and allows us to experiment thoughtfully. Thankfully, we have been lucky enough to work with a cohort of foundations who share our passion for driving decisions with data.

Over the last decade, we have collected a vast store of survey results on behalf of over 200 funders. That data and the insight gained by seeing it in a comparative context allows foundations to identify strengths—and areas of weakness—to more directly address unrealized opportunities.

Still, turning knowledge of strengths and weaknesses into organizational change is hard. It requires sustained effort that relies as much on organizational context as it does comparative data. I think that’s why one of the more frequent requests from users of CEP’s assessment tools is to be introduced to others working on the same issues or to get groups together to share stories and tips on driving change with data.

We’re excited to once again provide an outlet for just such an exchange of ideas through a preconference seminar for CEP assessment tool users during our 2013 CEP National Conference in Detroit. For leaders with the responsibility of translating their data into action, this four-hour seminar will illuminate possible solutions and foster conversations about the challenges of implementing those approaches.

CEP will begin Tools Day by highlighting the principles of effectiveness and change management that we see as critical no matter what the size or scope of your philanthropy.

Professor Lynn Perry Wooten, an expert in organizational strategy and management from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, will share her expertise on change management, providing practical advice on how organizations can devise strategies for advancing their work, engaging others throughout the organization in driving that change, and creating the accountability to make that change stick.

Some of the best insights come from colleagues, so participants will then have the chance to discuss the implications of Professor Wooten’s insights and brainstorm strategies to drive change together. Topics will be determined by the interest of the attendees, but could include cross-cutting topics such as providing assistance beyond the grant, creating clear and consistent communications, nonprofit reporting and evaluation, or working with declined applicants.

With facilitation from leaders on CEP’s Assessment Tools team, the focus of these self-selected breakout sessions will be on creating space for meaningful interactions between tool users learning about or working on similar issues.

We will close with these breakout groups reporting back to the full audience with specific examples of innovative practice, major success or failure, and recommendations for the group, based on real-life foundation experience on how to practically approach the issue they discussed.

By the end of the afternoon, we believe that every attendee will be able to leave the seminar with some concrete ideas and colleagues who they can turn to as resources, now and in the future. Join us as we learn and sharpen our skills together.


Kevin Bolduc is Vice President of Assessment Tools at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. You can find him on Twitter @kmbolduc and be a part of the conference conversation at #CEP13.

2013 Conference, conferences, foundation strategy, goals, performance measurement, Tools Day
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