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Effective Giving Matters: September 2019

Date: September 30, 2019

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New CEP Report Sheds Light on What Nonprofits Need Most from Major Individual Donors


The largest source of philanthropic support for nonprofits in the United States is giving from individual donors. Of the total charitable giving in 2018, individual donors contributed 68 percent. However, the recent decline in giving among small- and medium-gift givers means that major individual donors are becoming more critically important to nonprofits.

New research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) reveals that nonprofits largely seek to develop stronger relationships with major individual donors, and are looking for more long term, unrestricted gifts. The report, titled Crucial Donors: How Major Individual Givers Can Best Support Nonprofits, distills insights from nearly 200 nonprofit leaders from CEP’s Grantee Voice panel to learn what types of support nonprofits already receive from major donors, what major donors can do to support nonprofits better, and how nonprofits’ relationships with major donors differ from their relationships with staffed foundations.

Crucial Donors identifies three key findings regarding the ways in which major donors can most effectively support nonprofits: 1) Relationships matter; 2) There is an understanding gap; and 3) Nonprofits most need multiyear commitments, unrestricted gifts, and support beyond money. Our report also found that nonprofit leaders prefer to receive funding from major donors rather than from staffed foundations, as it’s easier to manage relationships with individual major donors and they provide more multiyear commitments and unrestricted gifts.

This research was supported in part by funding from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and Raikes Foundation.

You can download the report for free here.

CEP Global: An Update


Since the beginning of 2019, CEP has established a presence in Amsterdam, and we’ve rapidly expanded our work with foundations in Europe and beyond. Some highlights:

  • Thanks to our generous host, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, CEP led a deep dive in July with 35 foundation leaders in the United Kingdom into what constitutes a strong funder–grantee relationship, the power dynamics that comes into play in them, and the crucial role of program officers in facilitating a productive and respectful partnership.
  • The theme of “power dynamics” also came up during the Corporate Foundation Peer-Learning Network (CFPN) in London, where CEP’s Charlotte Brugman went to share about the Grantee Perception Report (GPR).
  • CEP attended multiple European philanthropic conferences over the past few months, including the European Foundation Centre/AGA conference in Paris and ARIADNE in Belfast. In November, CEP’s Charlotte Brugman will be on a panel at the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) conference at The Hague in the Netherlands.

CEP was recently awarded a general operating grant from Oak Foundation in Switzerland in support of CEP’s international expansion. We’re very grateful to our colleagues at Oak Foundation for their continued support of this new audience expansion.

Giving Done Right: In The News and On The Road

 _358_ THE NEWSGiving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count

has been making waves in both mainstream and philanthropic media since its publication in April, including in outlets such as The New York Times, Vox, Fast Company, Wired, The Financial Times, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Salon, to name a few. Most recently, Phil was interviewed for WBUR’s Radio Boston, WGBH’s Greater Boston, MarketWatch, and Worth about the Epstein-MIT Media Lab debacle and what questions nonprofits should be asking themselves before taking a donation. Check out this page for links to more of the latest Giving Done Right news.

CEP President Phil Buchanan is back on the road this fall, discussing all things #GivingDoneRight.

Giving Done Right – A Conversation with Phil Buchanan and Steve Seleznow
Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | 4:00-6:00PM PT
Arizona Community Foundation, 2201 East Camelback Road, Suite 405B, Phoenix, Arizona 85016

Giving Done Right – A Conversation with Phil Buchanan and Clint Mabie
Thursday, October 3, 2019 | 11:30-1:30PM PT
Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, 5049 East Broadway Boulevard, Tucson, Arizona 85711

Giving Done Right – A Conversation with Phil Buchanan, Gregg Croteau, and Yolanda Coentro
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 | 8:00-10:00AM ET 
UTEC, 17 Warren Street, Lowell, MA 01852

Sanford Institute of Philanthropy’s 2019 Philanthropy Summit: Philanthropy at a Crossroads
Phil will be the keynote speaker at this annual philanthropy summit, which convenes philanthropy experts and professionals across nonprofit and giving.
Thursday, October 29, 2019 | 8:00-4:00PM PT
Pleasant Hill Community Center, 320 Civic Dr, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Southeastern Council of Foundations’ 50th Annual Meeting
Phil will be leading a breakout session titled, “Failing Forward: Learning from Failure as a Regular Discipline.”
Thursday, November 14, 2019 | 11:00-12:15PM ET
Hyatt Regency Hotel, 265 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303

Check for more information, upcoming events, or order the book for yourself or for your staff, board, or donors at any of the booksellers highlighted at

Learning from Vital Feedback in 2020

If you’re thinking about collecting honest and actionable feedback from your grantees, staff, donors, or other stakeholders next year, now is the time to reach out about conducting a CEP assessment in 2020. Don’t miss out on the chance to learn from some of your most important partners — or to gain insights into your work by partnering with CEP on a customized advisory engagement. Contact CEP’s Austin Long to get the conversation started today.

In Case You Missed It: On the CEP Blog

Anna Cruz

, strategic learning and evaluation officer at Kresge Foundation, reflects on the session she led at CEP’s 2019 conference around racial equity in philanthropy, and shares what she learned on her personal journey of applying a racial equity lens to her work.

Media Impact Funders Executive Director and CEP board member Vince Stehle illustrates the ways in which philanthropy-supported nonprofit media can expose injustice, highlighting the recent Supreme Court case of Curtis Flowers’ and the award-winning investigative podcast, In the Dark, that pushed it into the forefront of civic conversation.

CEP’s Vice President of Assessment and Advisory Services, Kevin Bolduc, shares the core components of a strong funder-grantee relationship, and the ways in which relationship-building in philanthropy should, and must, move beyond a nonprofit’s impact.

Tony Richardson, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation, emphasizes the privilege and responsibility the sector has to turn philanthropic potential into effectiveness, and shares several key questions that funders should ask themselves when deciding to fund a project.

In a post on storytelling in the social sector, Rachel Goble of Ethical Storytelling discusses the “ethical storytelling pledge,” a pledge that emphasizes the importance of telling stories that dignify its constituents, and values them first before donors or other outside parties.

Fred Smith of The Gathering reviews Phil Buchanan’s new book, Giving Done Right, calling it “…thoughtful and articulate in supporting not only the principles of effective giving but the value and contribution of effective nonprofits in our history and future as a country.”

Eight months into her journey to expand CEP’s global reach, CEP’s Charlotte Brugman writes about a recent CEP-led workshop for philanthropic leaders in the U.K. around stronger grantee-funder relationships, and the unique challenges and opportunities that face them.

Sachi Takahashi-Rial, director of partnerships at YouthTruth, shares a successful case study from one of YouthTruth’s learning communities where an education grantmaker in California was able to improve their grantmaking practices by integrating student and family feedback into their processes.

CEP’s summer fellow, Lisa Knichols, contemplates CEP’s first Innovation Week, and wonders what an investment in innovation and learning could do for the nonprofit sector. “We’ve heard that “innovation time” was how two of the world’s most used products were invented: Gmail at Google and Post-it Notes at 3M,” she writes. “What kind of comparable innovative solutions, then, could come out of the nonprofit sector?”

In a post about the value of learning from peers, David and Lucile Packard Foundation Program Officer Jeff Sunshine offers lessons learned after his program gathered feedback from peer funders working in the same program area and geographic region to better understand their overall impact.

In an excerpt from his new book Shrewd Samaritan: Faith, Economics, and the Road to Loving our Global Neighbor, economist and professor Bruce Wydick explores the subject of cash transfers within global philanthropic practices.

CEP’s Vice President of Research, Ellie Buteau, revisits key demographic data from our Grantee Perception Report (GPR) dataset to better understand where the nonprofit sector stands today in its decades-long effort to diversify its leadership.

Former Program Officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation, Jeff Tiell, reflects on his experience working at the Foundation, and the true meaning of partnership and belonging in the philanthropic sector.  “As grantmakers we like to think we know something. And often we do. And often we actually don’t know as much as we think we know,” writes Tiell. “We would be wise to listen and when we think we are listening to actually listen more.”

Andy Ho, U.S. Development Director at Salzburg Global Seminar, explains how philanthropy is uniquely positioned to convene people from across sectors, geographies, and generations to foster thoughtful collaboration and tackle complex social problems.

In these divisive and turbulent times, we reposted a popular piece about managing across differences by CEP’s Vice President of Programming and External Relations, Grace Nicolette.

While on break from his Giving Done Right book tour, CEP President Phil Buchanan caught up on some summer writing projects for the CEP blog.

  • His two most recent posts discuss foundation governance and leadership in Five Questions Every Foundation Should Be Discussing Right Now, and a repost of the highly popular post from 2012, Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Foundation Boards.
  • Phil pays tribute to Tia King-Fontánez, his assistant of 13 years who recently left CEP to take a Chief of Staff role at Junior Achievement of Northern New England.
  • In light of the recent Democratic Debates, Phil urges nonprofit and philanthropic leaders to speak more forcefully to the positive contributions of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector amid heaping amounts of criticism. “We should remain clear-eyed about the role philanthropy and nonprofits play in this moment, in particular – one in which the federal government has gone off the rails,” he writes. “Yes, we should welcome critique as healthy, but that doesn’t mean we need to accept it all as correct, or that we shouldn’t speak up for the crucial work that is being done every day.”

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CEP is Hiring!

We currently have active searches for two positions, one in our Cambridge, MA office and one in our San Francisco, CA office:

Learn more about CEP’s mission, vision, and values here. Do any of these roles sound like the right fit for you? Someone you know? Apply or help us spread the word!

New Faces at CEP

Over the summer, CEP welcomed a batch of new staff members across teams. We welcomed a new member to the senior leadership team, CEP’s Vice President, Finance and Operations, Rihab Babiker. The research team also welcomed two new members in the Cambridge office, Research Manager Satia Marotta and Analyst Kate Gehling. And Ayeko Vinton joins the finance and administration team in the Cambridge office as the senior coordinator.

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Will you consider a gift to CEP?

If you believe in CEP’s work, and if it benefits you and your organization as you seek to do yours, please consider making a grant or an individual contribution to CEP. Supporting CEP means supporting more effective philanthropy.

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