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New Research Reveals Keys to Community Foundation Donors’ Satisfaction

Date: April 22, 2014

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Media contact: Emily Giudice, Marketing and Programming Coordinator: 617-492-0800 x281

Cambridge, MA—A new research report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) reveals  what it takes for community foundations to satisfy their donors. The report also describes the consequences of having less satisfied donors: they are less likely to give in the future or to refer others.

The research comes as the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the community foundation. “The accomplishments of community foundations over the past century are significant,” said CEP Vice President – Research, Ellie Buteau, who co-authored the report, What Donors Value How Community Foundations Can Increase Donor Satisfaction, Referrals, and Future Giving. “However, community foundations today are operating amid much more competition for donor attention and resources.”

The report shows that donor satisfaction is high on average across community foundations, yet there is meaningful variation. “To have satisfied donors, it takes elements of basic customer service. But it’s also just as much about being able to make a meaningful mark on the community in ways that can be recognized by or communicated to donors,” said Buteau.

The research reveals that the strongest predictors of donor satisfaction are donors’ sense of the foundation’s level of responsiveness when they need assistance and donors’ perceptions of the foundation’s impact on the community. The report profiles three foundations rated particularly highly by their donors:  the Dallas Foundation; the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham; and the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.

“These three foundations are among the highest rated in our comparative dataset of more than 6,000 donors of 47 community foundations,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan. “We hope their stories are useful to other community foundations seeking to improve the way they work with their donors.”

CEP’s findings suggest that community foundation donors care more about community impact and community leadership than they do about areas such as administrative fees. “These findings should provide some encouragement that donors can – and do – value what community foundations are especially well positioned to deliver,” said Buteau.

The report is available for free download on CEP’s Web site.


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, publications, programming, and assessment tools, visit

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