CEP’s newest research report, released earlier this month, finds that nonprofits are assessing their performance, but lack the resources they need to do more.
The report, Assessing to Achieve High Performance: What Nonprofits are Doing and How Foundations Can Help, reveals that most nonprofits receiving funding from large foundations collect and use information about their performance, but many want to gather additional — or better — data, and only a minority report receiving support from their foundation funders for those efforts.
“Our findings suggest that nonprofits are committed to performance assessment, contrary to how they are often portrayed,” said report lead author and CEP Vice President, Research Ellie Buteau, in a press release. “Most nonprofits cannot do this all on their own — they have neither the infrastructure nor the resources necessary to do this work as well as they’d like. We hope our findings can help foundations understand what nonprofits are looking for, and how foundations can better support them in assessing and improving performance.”
The report, co-authored by Buteau and fellow CEP research team members Ramya Gopal and Jennifer Glickman, is CEP’s fifth publication to analyze survey data from the Grantee Voice panel of national nonprofit leaders. (Data was collected from leaders of 183 U.S.-based organizations with between $100,000 and $100 million in annual expenses that receive funding from foundations giving at least $5 million annually).
Almost all nonprofits surveyed reported making efforts to assess their performance. But many — 71 percent of respondents — cited a desire for more detailed data, a larger volume of data, or more frequently collected data to help them perform better in pursuit of their goals. The typical nonprofit in the study reported allocating two percent or less of its budget to performance assessment, and few dedicate any full-time staff to measuring performance. When it comes to funder support for helping grantee organizations measure their performance, a minority of the nonprofits surveyed report receiving support from foundations for their performance assessment efforts.
“For well over a decade, we’ve heard heightened foundation rhetoric about the importance of performance assessment,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan in the press release. “While some foundations have backed this up with resources to allow nonprofits to do this difficult work better, too many have not. We hope this report helps foundations better understand what nonprofits need to develop the data and insight that will allow for better progress toward the crucial goals nonprofits and foundations are working together to achieve.”
Ellie Buteau and Ramya Gopal introduced the report and its timely importance to the sector in a post on the CEP blog, and in subsequent weeks, several guest bloggers weighed in on the research’s findings, as well. Nancy Csuti, director of research, evaluation, and strategic learning at The Colorado Trust, contributed an especially honest reflection on her work with grantees and called on funders to rethink the ways in which they provide support for evaluation to the organizations they fund. And Johanna Morariu, director of Innovation Network, discussed five grantmaker and nonprofit practices that limit the ability of nonprofit organizations to fully engage in evaluation — as well as five changes that funders and nonprofits can make to change that.
Join Us for a Free Webinar on the Grantee Perception Report®
Join us for an interactive and informative session about the Grantee Perception Report (GPR). Don Matteson, chief program officer at the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, will discuss the foundation’s experience using grantee feedback to continually improve its work.
Tuesday, June 2nd
3-4pm EDT/12-1pm PDT
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CEP President Phil Buchanan appeared on a recent episode of Tiny Spark, an independent news program and podcast that reports on philanthropy, nonprofits, international aid, and social good initiatives. Be sure to listen to this great 15-minute conversation between Phil and host Amy Costello, “Why Philanthropy Should Push Back Against the Business Mindset.”
Laurene Powell Jobs is the final addition to the lineup of speakers for Leading Effective Foundations, the 2015 CEP Conference in San Francisco this May. Powell Jobs is the founder and chair of Emerson Collective, an organization that supports social entrepreneurs and organizations working in education, immigration reform, and social justice.
She is also the founder and president of the Board for College Track, an after-school program she founded in 1997 to prepare underserved high school students for success in college. Started in East Palo Alto, College Track has expanded to serve students in Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Aurora, Colorado. More than 90 percent of College Track high school graduates go on to college, and the program’s college graduation rate is more than double that of low-income students.
At the conference, Powell Jobs will discuss her work in a conversation with Fay Twersky, director of the Effective Philanthropy Group at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and CEP Board member.
The sold-out conference is now less than a month away! You can check out our entire list of speakers, sessions, attendees, and sponsors on our conference website. If you’re registered for the conference, we look forward to seeing you in San Francisco in a few short weeks! If not, you can still add your name to the waitlist in case spots open up due to cancellations.
New Faces at CEP
2015 has been a busy hiring period at CEP! In the past few months, we’ve welcomed several new staff members to our growing team. Mary Kay Leonard joined CEP in February as our first Director of Advisory Services (Kevin Bolduc welcomed and introduced her in this blog post). Former senior research analyst Mena Boyadzhiev returned to CEP in March as manager, advisory services, after earning her master’s degree in public policy at the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. CEP also welcomed three new research analysts: Luke Davis and Stephanie Benoit on the assessment tools team, and Charis Loh on the research team. The YouthTruth team grew, as well, with the addition of Sophie Beiers as YouthTruth program coordinator.
CEP became the first research organization focused on the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to join the Transparency Initiative, a program developed by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) to encourage organizations that conduct surveys to more broadly and effectively disclose research methods.
AAPOR is the leading organization of public opinion and survey research professionals in the U.S. The Initiative is designed to make it easier for organizations that conduct surveys to both be transparent about their research methods and encourage the disclosure of methodological information from polls and surveys. CEP joins more than 30 other charter members of the Initiative, a wide range of both public and private organizations including Gallup, Pew Research Center, and The Washington Post.
CEP’s Vice President, Research, Ellie Buteau announced the membership in a March blog post, “Taking the Guesswork out of Judging Research.” “All of us who publish data from surveys – or from any type of research – with the intention of influencing practice through our work have a responsibility to provide the relevant information that allows readers to judge the quality of the research for themselves,” Buteau writes. “We at CEP share this value, and we’re excited to be a charter member of such an important and necessary movement.”
On the CEP Blog
Remember, you can sign up for our subscription service to have CEP blog posts sent directly to your inbox as soon as they’re live. Sign up for this service using the box on the right-hand side of the blog, and never miss a post again!
Recent posts on the blog include:
Phil Buchanan contributed a popular and widely-shared post on the release of The Performance Imperative, writing that nonprofits’ pursuit of “high performance” is challenging work that requires hard work and commitment from both grantees and their funders, but that “it must be done – that the performance imperative is nothing less than a moral imperative.”
Phil also drew on his experiences both planning and attending countless conferences across the sector to pen a post sharing some lessons for making a conference worth attending.
With the CEP Conference fast approaching, speakers have been contributing posts explaining the context and themes of their upcoming sessions: Fred Blackwell, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, described the increasing barriers to equal opportunity in the Bay Area; Ben Kerman and Barbara Kibbe contributed a co-written post about how terminal evaluation at sun-setting foundations can accelerate impact; and Melinda Tuan wrote about how listening to beneficiaries can help create more effective funders.
Dave Biemesderfer, board chair for the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the president & CEO of the Florida Philanthropic Network, discussed how the Forum Network and Foundation Center are teaming up to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the ways in which foundation data is gathered, reported, and understood around the country.
Dana Raviv of Catchafire described how encouraging skills-based volunteer programs can be a powerful method for funders to support their grantees.
And following up on CEP’s 2014 research report, Hearing from Those We Seek to Help: Nonprofit Practices and Perspectives in Beneficiary Feedback, Ramya Gopal, CEP associate manager, research, shared profiles of Lifetrack and Crittenton Children’s Center, two nonprofit organizations rated extremely well as understanding their beneficiaries, as well as a post with the top three characteristics that nonprofit leaders cited as setting apart foundation funders that understand the needs of their intended beneficiaries.
CEP in the News
Assessing to Achieve High Performance was covered on its release day in a story in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. CEP’s Ellie Buteau, the lead author of the report, was interviewed for the article. “Nonprofits are really trying and making an effort, but they can’t do it alone,” Ellie said in reference to nonprofits’ performance assessment work. “They need and want more help from foundations, and they’re looking for other types of support, not just the money.”
Other responses to the report upon its release included posts in “Giving Thoughts,” the blog of The Conference Board, Philanthropy News Digest, the blog of Fluxx, and Nonprofit Chronicles, a new blog venture from journalist and author Marc Gunther.
Also on Nonprofit Chronicles, CEP’s and YouthTruth’s work in beneficiary feedback was featured in the post, “Learning from Uber and AirBnB.” In the post, Gunther cites YouthTruth as an example of the kind of vital work the Fund for Shared Insight is seeking to accomplish, and he quotes “Listening to Those Who Matter Most, the Beneficiaries,” the 2013 Stanford Social Innovation Review cover story by Phil Buchanan, now-CEP Board member Fay Twersky, and YouthTruth founding director Valerie Threlfall.
On the site’s Impact blog, the Huffington Post re-posted a Q & A from a discussion between Phil and members of Harvard’s Effective Altruism group back in August.
Phil’s popular January Chronicle column, “Technology Start-Ups Don’t Hold All the Answers for ‘Broken’ Nonprofits,” was followed up with a recent Letter to the Editor in the Chronicle, “Stop the Tech Arrogance about Nonprofits,” from nonprofits consultant Theresa Nelson.
In a “Transparency Talk” blog post for Glasspockets about social media use for foundations, Sally Crowley of the John R. Oshei Foundation cited the Grantee Perception Report® (GPR) as an important first step for the foundation in benchmarking itself against peers to better understand the social media landscape among peer funders.
And on PhilanthroFiles, the blog of Exponent Philanthropy, CEP research and the GPR were cited in a post about the importance of grantee feedback.
Phil Buchanan Moderates Closing Plenary at Global Philanthropy Forum!
Phil Buchanan moderated the closing plenary last Friday at the 2015 Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington, D.C., a panel discussion entitled “Living Philanthropic Values; Maintaining a `Listening Ear’.” The plenary discussed the spirit of giving and learning, and examined how philanthropic values are transmitted within families, businesses, communities, and society as a whole.
Phil and Ellie Buteau will also be speaking at Associated Grant Makers’ 46th Annual Meeting on June 17, where they will facilitate a dialogue on moving from rhetoric to best practice in philanthropy.
You can keep track of CEP’s upcoming speaking engagements and webinars on the “Upcoming Events” page of our website.
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