New CEP Research on Foundation Governance
How boards are structured, how they function, and what role they play in their foundation’s grantmaking remain much discussed topics. Yet, hard data on foundation governance can be difficult to find. We hope that CEP’s newest report, released in October and titled Benchmarking Foundation Governance, will help fill that void.
The publication is a straightforward reporting of data and infographics on topics like board composition, member expertise, involvement, and characteristics, which CEP collected from survey responses from CEOs at 64 private, U.S.-based foundations giving at least $10 million annually. For example, the study finds that relatives of a foundation’s original donor serve on 50 percent of boards at responding foundations, 95 percent of board members have program specific knowledge, and 46 percent of foundations compensate all board members.
“It’s often frustratingly difficult to get basic information on foundation boards: their size, their structure, and their composition,” wrote CEP President Phil Buchanan in a blog post discussing the report. “We hope this report can serve as a resource to foundations as they consider their own structures and practices.”
The report, which was co-authored by Vice President, Research, Ellie Buteau and Associate Manager, Research, Jennifer Glickman, is part of a larger operational benchmarking study funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, and survey questions related to governance were designed in partnership with BoardSource.
Following its publication, Phil, CEP Board Member Crystal Hayling, and BoardSource President and CEO Anne Wallestad all reacted to the new data on the CEP blog. The report was also covered in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The NonProfit Times, Philanthropy News Digest, and ThinkAdvisor.
CEP 2017 to Be Held in Boston!
We are thrilled to announce that the 2017 CEP national conference will be held in Boston on April 4-6, 2017! Stay tuned over the coming months for more details, but for now, relive moments from our 2015 conference in San Francisco earlier this year, and start looking forward to joining us in The Hub!
CEP’s West Coast Office is Moving…
…down the street! We’re still in San Francisco, but in a new space to accommodate our growing team at 131 Steuart Street, Suite 501, San Francisco, CA 94105. You can reach our west coast office at the same number: 415-391-3070.
In 2015, CEP worked with 74 different funders in 29 states and four countries. Ranging in size and scope — and including community foundations, family foundations, and healthcare conversion foundations, among others — the causes and missions our clients are working toward are varied. Thank you to these foundations and their respective boards and staffs in particular for their commitment to assessing and continually improving their vital work.
Foundation effectiveness is crucially important — but hard to define. After much discussion and iteration among CEP’s Board and staff, CEP has released a revised version of our working definition of foundation effectiveness. Our goal is for this definition to be a resource for foundations as they examine their own work. Phil Buchanan discussed the definition further on the CEP blog, and we welcome any feedback as we continue to think about and improve upon it.
CEP in the News
Where has CEP and our work been popping up in the media lately? All over, it seems!
Earlier this year, CEP, along with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), learned of a surprise $1.1 million commitment of unrestricted general operating support to each organization from a collaboration of six funders. The support recognizes CEP’s and GEO’s contributions to the foundation sector and indicates, “Here’s a vote of confidence; go do it some more,” as Larry Kramer, president of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, one of the six funders, put it in this article about the surprise grants in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
A powerful example of CEP’s advisory services work was featured in a Chronicle story about Citi Foundation’s shift to a new program of unrestricted, general operating support — a project that CEP helped advise on. The new $20 million program will provide support to organizations working to improve economic opportunities for low-income populations in six large American cities.
Phil Buchanan was quoted widely in the media this month following the exciting announcement from Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan that they would be committing 99% of their Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Phil discussed the pledge and its implications on “All Things Considered” on WNYC, New York Public Radio (you can listen to the segment in full here), and he was quoted in articles about the major announcement in the Associated Press and Reuters which were picked up in local and international publications like The Scotsman and Bharat Press in India.
Phil continued his columns for The Chronicle of Philanthropy with a popular opinion piece in October entitled, “The Leaner-Is-Always-Better Myth: One Size Doesn’t Fit All Foundations,” adopted from his “Foundation Staff Matter” series on the CEP blog. Phil also appeared on a segment of BBC World Service’s “Business Daily” podcast to discuss overhead.
Ellie Buteau was quoted in a Chronicle feature about the publication’s study of the American public’s confidence in charities and what they value most when considering a donation. In her comments, Ellie adds an important layer of context to the article by bringing CEP’s research on nonprofit performance assessment into the conversation.
CEP’s research report on impact investing from earlier this year gathered a great deal of press attention as the topic continues to be much discussed in the media. In The Denver Post, Bruce DeBoesky cited the report in a column about how a recent IRS change could make impact investing for foundations easier. Features about the hot topic in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Crain’s Detroit, and Impact Alpha, an investment news site, also cited the CEP report.
On the Blog
There’s been lots of great content and discussion on the CEP blog the past few months. We want to make sure you don’t miss a thing — subscribe to the blog using the box on the right-hand side of this page to get every post delivered to your inbox.
“Struck by duck.” “Pedestrian on foot injured in collision with roller-skater.” “Unspecified spacecraft accident injuring occupant.” What do these have to do with data and philanthropy? Lots (we swear), as CEP’s Kevin Bolduc explains in this popular post.
CEP Board Member Crystal Hayling, who recently returned to the U.S. after living in Singapore for five years, reflects on how her time away from the states made her appreciate even more the caring, inclusive, and unifying nature of the robust nonprofit sector back home.
Phil Buchanan weighs in on overwork and discusses what CEP is doing to confront it.
Our team has been hard at work in the latter half of 2015 to bring exciting updates to our assessment and YouthTruth online reports. CEP’s Amber Bradley and Jenny Goff break it down.
Baptist Healing Trust’s Cathy Self and Jennifer Oldham talked with CEP about what they learned from their GPR and how the Trust is already taking actions based on the feedback they received.
Fred Smith, president of The Gathering, an international association of grantmakers to Christian work around the world, asks if there might be a more effective and dignified way to deal with closing nonprofits in their final days.
Our blog series on international perspectives on philanthropy continued with interesting pieces on the practices, culture, and healthy debate surrounding philanthropy in several parts of the world: Atallah Kuttab writes on the Arab region, Maria Chertok on Russia, and Ronit Amit on Israel. We also wrapped up our series on exemplars of non-monetary support with this profile of the William Casper Graustein Memorial Fund.
Former CEP Board Member Pat Kozu discusses how important it can be for funders to support nonprofits in critical times of leadership transitions.
Funders that use our assessments often have questions about whether or not they should share their results — and what’s the best way to do so. CEP’s Grace Nicolette shares some insights into this.
New Faces at CEP
CEP has been excited to welcome several new staff members this fall! Three analysts joined the assessment and advisory services team: Della Menhaj and Zach Alexander in Cambridge, and Igor Geyn in San Francisco. Brian Postow, Ph.D., joined CEP as software architect, as well. In this role, Brian is in charge of designing, maintaining, and improving the software tools that CEP and YouthTruth staff work with to analyze data and produce reports for clients.
CEP on the Road
Phil Buchanan was up and down the East Coast speaking with regional associations about foundation effectiveness the past few months. In September, he delivered a talk called “Foundation Effectiveness: What It Takes and Why It’s So Tough” to the Delaware Grantmakers Association, and last month he addressed the Southeastern Council of Foundations Annual Meeting in Asheville, N.C. In 2016, Phil will escape the winter cold and head down to St. Petersburg, FL in February to address foundation CEOs and Board members at the Florida Philanthropic Network 2016 Statewide Summit on Philanthropy.
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