At CEP, we take great pride in recruiting amazingly talented staff, giving them training and tools and opportunities, and watching what they can do. CEP staff “alumni” include Sarah Di Troia, partner at New Profit, Judy Huang, consultant at Bridgespan, and a host of others making a difference in the nonprofit sector who we are proud to point to as part of CEP’s network. One of the former CEP staffers who I especially like to remind people got his start in philanthropy at CEP is Ron Ragin, currently an Associate Program Officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Ron joined CEP right out of Stanford. He had learned of us through a class he took at the Business School — even though he was an undergraduate — in which CEP Board member Alexa Cortes Culwell, then CEO of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, was a guest speaker. Alexa emailed me that we should take a close look at his application to be a research analyst because he asked more — and better — questions than many of the business school students. He pretty much bowled us over during our screening process and, soon, he was analyzing data and contributing to our discussions about philanthropy, and singing (loudly, but well) in the halls of CEP.
As a research analyst at CEP from 2005 to 2008, Ron contributed enormously to both our assessment tools and to our research on foundation strategy. He was a co-author of our 2007 report, Beyond the Rhetoric: Foundation Strategy in which we categorized approaches to foundation decision making, based on our analysis of the data we had collected, along a continuum from “Charitable Banker” to “Total Strategist.” That report remains among CEP’s most referenced, and Ron’s contributions to it were significant.
I worked closely with Ron on several assessment tool relationships and knew that he was looking for an opportunity to work in a job that was more closely connected to his passion for arts, and that would not include travel that would interfere with the rehearsal and performance schedule of a singing group he was helping to put together. He found it. As an Associate Program Officer in the Performing Arts Program at Hewlett, Ron is in a unique position: his experience analyzing data from surveys of tens of thousands of grantees while at CEP gives him a broad perspective on what it’s like to be on the other side of the table that few program officers possess.
We asked Ron to “return” to CEP as a guest blogger to share some of his thoughts from his new perspective — and his posts will not disappoint.