Data Point: What are Foundation CEOs’ Attitudes Toward Assessment?

One of the key findings in our recent State of Foundation Performance Assessment report was that CEOs place great importance on assessing their foundations’ effectiveness. Nearly three-quarters of foundation CEOs say assessment of foundation effectiveness is among their highest priorities.

The recent focus on foundation performance assessment has provoked some backlash, however. Some have raised questions – in op eds, blogs, and on the conference circuit – about whether there should be greater emphasis on “intuition” and less on data in philanthropic decision-making. Few CEOs who responded to our survey seem to agree with this way of thinking.

We gathered data from 173 CEOs of U.S. foundations with annual grantmaking of at least $5 million on their attitudes toward performance assessment. Only a small minority, 19 percent, believe that more emphasis should be placed on intuition.

That said, the majority of CEOs we surveyed see tension between the freedom to take risks on innovative ideas and a focus on performance assessment.

Although these CEOs believe foundations have greatly improved their practices in the past decade, they also feel that further progress is needed. More than 60 percent say that too few foundations understand their overall performance today.

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To read about current foundation CEOs’ attitudes toward assessment and what foundations are doing to understand their performance, see the report, The State of Foundation Performance Assessment: A Survey of Foundation CEOs published by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.


Ellie Buteau is Vice President – Research at the Center for Effective Philanthropy.



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