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New CEP Report Profiles How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help

Date: December 12, 2017

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Media Contact: Grace Nicolette, Vice President, Programming and External Relations: (617) 492-0800 x236

Cambridge, MA — A new report released today by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) profiles five foundations’ efforts to develop understanding of their beneficiaries’ needs and incorporate that understanding into their work. The report, titled Staying Connected: How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help, includes interviews with foundations rated highly by their grantees for their understanding of their beneficiaries’ needs. These foundations have a range of focus areas, from students to children and adults in need of affordable health care.

“CEP’s research over the last few years showed us that foundations recognize the importance of learning from those they seek to help, but both funders and grantees alike don’t always see this learning happening,” said Ellie Buteau, CEP’s vice president, research, and co-author of the report. “The profiles in Staying Connected illustrate why it is so important for foundations to understand the needs of those they are ultimately trying to help — and incorporate what they learn into their grantmaking priorities.”

The five foundations profiled in the report are: Nord Family Foundation in Amherst, OH; Helios Education Foundation in Phoenix, AZ; the Duke Endowment in Charlotte, NC; the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation in Owing Mills, MD; and SC Ministry Foundation in Cincinnati, OH.

Each ranked among the top 15 percent of foundations that commissioned a Grantee Perception Report (GPR) between 2016 and 2017 when it comes to how their grantees rated them on questions related to their understanding of intended beneficiaries’ needs. CEP conducted in-depth interviews with CEOs and program staff at these foundations, as well as with leaders of three nonprofits funded by each foundation.

Across these interviews, CEP found three common practices among the five foundations: 1) listening to and learning from grantees as the experts doing the work on the ground; 2) recognizing the importance of going out into the fields and communities being served by the work they fund; and 3) hiring staff from the fields in which they fund.

“In the eyes of nonprofit leaders, it’s critical that foundations understand the end beneficiaries of the work they are funding if they are to build a strong relationship with their grantees,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan. “The insights and practices that these foundation leaders share in this report are important lessons that funders of all types can learn from and apply to their own work listening to — and acting upon — feedback from the people they seek to help.”

The Fund for Shared Insight provided funding for this report.

You can download the report here.

About the Center for Effective Philanthropy

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide data and create insight so philanthropic funders can better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness and impact. CEP received initial funding in 2001 and has offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California. For more information on CEP’s work, including its research, programming, and assessment and advisory services, see

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