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Effective Matters: June 2021

Date: June 29, 2021

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NEW Resource from CEP – Persevering Through Crisis: The State of Nonprofits

Nonprofits faced enormous challenges during the crises of 2020 but generally emerged stronger than they feared they would thanks to stepped up philanthropic and federal support, according to results of a new CEP survey.

Persevering Through Crisis: The State of Nonprofits draws on the experiences of members of CEP’s Grantee Voice panel, which is carefully assembled to be representative of nonprofits that receive at least one grant from foundations giving $5 million or more annually. The report’s key findings:

  1. Most nonprofit leaders report that the COVID-19 pandemic has had negative impacts on their organizations and has affected their programming, revenue, demand, and costs. Arts and culture organizations have experienced more negative effects from the pandemic, while community and economic development organizations experienced fewer negative effects.
  2. Increased financial support from foundations, individual donors, and the government — including Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding — helped nonprofits to fare better through 2020 than their leaders had originally anticipated.
  3. Many nonprofits report that their foundation funders were flexible, responsive, and communicative in 2020. However, nonprofits led by women and nonprofits serving certain communities experienced somewhat less flexibility, responsiveness, and communication than other nonprofits.

Read the full report here.

Join the Conversation

On July 20, from 2-3:15pm ET, join us for an interactive discussion of the report findings and hear from nonprofit and philanthropic leaders on their experiences of the past year and their advice for funders going forward.

Register Now

On CEP’s Blog

Report authors Kate Gehling and Hannah Martin kick off the release of CEP’s latest resource, Persevering Through Crisis: The State of Nonprofits, which aims to track how nonprofits are faring as the pandemic wears on.

Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) members Sharon Bissell, Richard Cristel, and Michael Jarvis examine the repercussions of a funder exit from a collaborative grantmaking strategy.

McKnight Foundation’s Kara Carlisle contemplates CEP’s latest report findings, and calls on the sector to continue to prioritize equity in meaningful ways moving forward.

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Lindsay Louie reflects on her eight-year term as a Program Officer and the importance of listening and seeking out diverse perspectives in order to be most effective.

Responding to report findings about decreased funding for the arts during COVID-19, Company Theatre One’s Karthik Subramanian and Shawn LaCount share how their organization has fared during the pandemic.

Eileen Heisman, president and CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) considers how CEP’s latest research mirrors NPT’s experience working with donors, particularly DAF holders, as they sought to respond to the compounding crises of 2020.

WATCH: CEP and BoardSource’s Webinar on Purpose-Driven Board Leadership

It’s time for a wholesale reconceptualization of foundation governance — that was the spirit of May’s lively virtual conversation on purpose-driven foundation and nonprofit board leadership. Moderated by CEP President Phil Buchanan, the conversation featured Boardsource President and CEO Anne WallestadKofi Appenteng, a trustee of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and Jim Canales, president and trustee of the Barr Foundation.

The session used Wallestad’s groundbreaking Stanford Social Innovation Review article as the basis for a conversation about the ways in which traditional approaches to governance limit the potential of foundation boards.

Confronting Common Challenges of Strategic Reviews

In 2020, the William Penn Foundation commissioned CEP to help them understand how peer funders approach their strategy review processes. CEP interviewed and fielded a short survey to the presidents, evaluation directors, program directors, and other senior staff from 13 funders to understand the planning, structure, implementation, and outcomes of their most recent strategy reviews.

Though this group of funders used varied methodologies and timelines for their reviews, common components and challenges emerged. For example, nearly all interviewees described the value of seeking input on their work from a diverse group of stakeholders — including grantees, community leaders, other funders, and field experts — and transparently sharing what they learn.

Read the public summary here, and learn more about the project from the report authors Mena Boyadzhiev and Alina Tomeh here.

CEP in the News

In the past several months, CEP has been cited in a number of media outlets covering how philanthropy and nonprofits have experienced and responded to COVID-19 and a renewed focus on racial equity nationally. In CEP President Phil Buchanan’s recent op-ed for The Hill“Givers and the Government Stepped Up to Support Nonprofits,” he lifts up the critical work of the nonprofit sector, particularly during this time of great crisis, and the ways in which increased giving from donors and government kept many nonprofits afloat.

Many publications have cited CEP’s series of 3 reports from December 2020, Foundations Respond to Crisis, about how philanthropy’s practices have shifted during the pandemic.

  • An Associated Press piece in April examined the trends in giving in 2020, citing the reports and wondering whether the changes will stick.
  • An opinion piece by Kris Putnam-Walkerly in The Chronicle of Philanthropy also cites the findings.
  • Public Source published a piece in May examining whether the increased efforts to focus on racial equity in 2020 have been successful.
  • In June, the Associated Press questioned the uncertainty surrounding giving in the wake of the racial reckoning since George Floyd’s death.

A Year in Review: Read CEP’s 2020 Annual Report

Seven research publications; 88 engagements with 78 partners; 7 major virtual webinars, and 1 new podcast season; 276,773 students and 69,903 family and staff surveyed across 23 states — these are several ways CEP’s staff worked to advance our mission last year, a year like no other. Learn more about CEP’s activities last year in our recently published 2020 Annual Report.

Selections From the CEP Blog

CEP partnered with Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE Funders) in a six part blog series on “Complicating the Narrative on Bridge Building and Division,” featuring posts from Kristen Cambell from PACE, Wendy Feliz of the Center for Inclusion and Belonging at the American Immigration Council, Andrew Hanauer of the One America Movement, Claudia Cummings of the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, David Eisner of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, and Eric K. Ward of the Western States Center.

Phil Buchanan praised Anne Wallestad’s vital SSIR piece on purpose-driven board leadership and considered its implications for foundations. In another post, he also describes “a sharp right turn” by the leadership of Philanthropy Roundtable arguing that the organization is “sowing division while claiming to do just the opposite.”

Crystal Hayling and Angie Chen highlight the importance of listening to frontline communities in climate philanthropy.

In The Art of Philanthropy, the Philanthropy of Art, Harvard’s Michael Sy Uy examines the power of evaluation in arts grantmaking.

Jen Vorse Wilka, Sonya Heisters, and Phil Buchanan describe the importance of listening well to students and stakeholders in the field of education.

Sonya Kowal unpacks how funders can use responsible investing in their toolkit for impact.

Larry Kramer, Sara Davis, and Charmaine Mercer describe the Hewlett Foundation’s work with CEP to collect useful demographic data on their grantees.

CEP’s Sae Allan Darling calls upon philanthropy to avoid complacency and prioritize transgender rights.

Nonprofit Leadership in a Time of Crisis

Before the pandemic hit, nonprofit leaders already had a job that “takes everything it takes to run an equivalent sized business and a whole lot more,” CEP president Phil Buchanan told nonprofit consultant Patton McDowell on an episode of McDowell’s podcast earlier this month — and then everything changed.

The crises of 2020 only made those difficult jobs tougher and more important and, on the podcast, Buchanan and McDowell discuss whether changes donors and foundations made last year will be sustained, why racial equity relates to pretty much every philanthropic and nonprofit objective, how business analogies trip up donors, and why Buchanan thinks his pandemic puppy may have increased his effectiveness.

New Faces at CEP

CEP has recently welcomed a number of new staff: Thelma Andree, Digital Marketing and Creative Content Lead, YouthTruth; Erin Fitzgerald, Analyst, Assessment and Advisory Services; Devin Hua, Software Developer, Data Systems, YouthTruth; Maria Lopez, Analyst, Research; Serena Meghani, Analyst, YouthTruth.

Reach out for a discount on your 2022 assessment!

Philanthropy needs to listen to its stakeholders — inclusively, regularly, and comprehensively. CEP’s assessments can help you reflect on your efforts. We’ve added new survey questions and approaches to ensure that funders hear candidly from important partners about the topics that matter most right now.

Contact CEP Senior Director, Assessment and Advisory Services, Austin Long today to learn more about how this crucial feedback can inform your work and to receive a limited-time discount on your 2022 assessment.

Support 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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