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New Study Finds Range of Responses by U.S. Foundations to Shift in Presidential Administration

Date: April 25, 2017

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

Cambridge, MA — The reactions and responses of U.S. foundations to the recent shift in national political context vary widely, reveals a new study released today by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). Based on survey responses from 162 CEOs of independent and community foundations in the U.S. giving at least $5 million annually, Shifting Winds: Foundations Respond to a New Political Context finds that 48 percent of respondents believe the change in presidential administration will have a negative effect on their ability to achieve their goals, while about a quarter say they anticipate a mix of positive and negative effects, and 17 percent say it is too soon to tell.

CEP President Phil Buchanan shared findings from the study earlier this month at the 2017 CEP Conference in Boston, video of which is available here.

The survey, which was fielded between February 21 and March 10, also asked foundation leaders about the extent to which they are making changes in their goals, strategies, grantmaking budgets, and practices. Overall, almost three-quarters of foundations responding to the survey report making, or planning to make, some change in their work. Additionally, about two-thirds of CEOs report planning to increase their emphasis on at least one practice as a result of last year’s election. The most frequently cited areas for increased emphasis are collaborating with other funders, advocacy/public policy at the state and/or local level, and convening grantees.

“We have been asked repeatedly about how foundations are responding to this new landscape,” said Buchanan. “The results of the survey provide the answer and show that, while responses vary, most foundations are changing their practices or shifting their emphases.”

Though nearly half of CEOs surveyed for the study anticipate that the new political context will make progress toward their goals more challenging — for reasons including administration positions that are at odds with those of their foundation, potential reductions in funding for certain social issues, and possible changes in tax code — many of those foundation leaders also see opportunities in this moment, responses to open-ended questions in the survey revealed. For example, those foundation CEOs frequently mentioned increased engagement and activism as opportunities that have arisen due to the shift in Washington.

“As foundations consider whether and how to adapt their work to new realities, we hope it’s helpful to see the ranges of changes their peers are making,” Buchanan said.

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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