Whether you’re reading a blog, scrolling through Twitter, or attending a conference, you’ll soon be reminded that talk about transparency is everywhere in the foundation sector. But in all this conversation, it’s not always clear what funders and grantees feel is most important for foundations to be transparent about — or how that stacks up against the current state of practice in the field. Our hope is that our newest research report, Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency, just released earlier this week, will add some important data-based context and clarity to this dialogue.
Based on analysis of survey data from 145 foundation CEOs and more than 15,000 grantees, as well as systematic reviews of more than 70 foundation websites, our research team found that foundations see grantees and potential grantees as the primary audiences of their transparency efforts, and both funders and grantees alike believe a funder’s transparency about the substance of its work — rather than about financial disclosures or governance — matters most to effectiveness.
But are funders currently being transparent about important parts of their work? Our findings suggest that foundations are most open about their grantmaking processes and their goals and strategies. But practice lags behind belief in other key areas — such as being transparent about performance assessment and lessons learned. As a result, both funders and grantees are missing opportunities to learn and improve.
“We hope our research will help foundations to target their transparency efforts in areas that are really crucial to effectiveness rather than engaging in ‘checklist transparency’ that involves making public information of little value or relevance,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan in a press release.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy covered the release of the research, which was made possible by support from the Fund for Shared Insight. On the CEP blog, Ellie Buteau, CEP vice president, research, and co-author of the report, reflected on the report’s findings — and what they mean for the field — and Lindsay Louie, program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, discussed why improvement for foundations in key areas of transparency will take serious work.
“It’s time for a more nuanced conversation about transparency in philanthropy,” Buteau writes. “Transparency is clearly important — especially about what is and isn’t working. There is real room for improvement in this area, and it’s crucial that foundations do better on this. Foundations and grantees alike want to learn more from foundations about what has and hasn’t been effective so they can do their work better. That’s transparency that matters.”
Along with Buteau, the report was co-authored by members of CEP’s research team: Associate Manager Jennifer Glickman, Analyst Matthew Leiwant, and Analyst Charis Loh. You can download the report for free here.
Sign Up for CEP’s Webinar on Transparency!
CEP is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, March 23rd from 1-2pm EST in which we’ll answer questions and discuss our transparency findings with foundation leaders. Phil Buchanan and Ellie Buteau will be joined for a discussion by Cathy Self, president and CEO of Baptist Healing Trust, Peter Dunn, president and CEO of the Central New York Community Foundation, and John Tyler, general counsel for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. You can register for the webinar here.
Join the CEP 2017 Conference Mailing List!
Save the date — the 2017 CEP Conference will be held at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston on April 4-6, 2017!
Already confirmed to speak is Doug Stone, co-author of Thanks for the Feedback: the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, and Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Be sure to sign up for our conference mailing list to receive updates and announcements about registration, speakers, and more as information becomes available. In the meantime, you can watch videos from last year’s conference in San Francisco, and it’s never too early to start looking forward to some of the best things to do around Boston in the springtime.
CEP on the Road
It’s currently a busy time for CEP staff hitting the road and delivering talks or leading sessions at conferences and convenings across the country. Where will we be in the coming months?
Director, Assessments and Advisory Services, Austin Long will lead “Charting a Course to Success: Working with Grantees to Achieve Outcomes and Overcome Challenges,” a preconference session for program officers at the Grantmakers in Health 2016 Annual Conference in San Diego on March 9.
Manager, Assessments and Advisory Services, Naomi Orensten will be in New Orleans March 14 for the Grants Managers Network Conference will lead a workshop for attendees about funder practices that matter in creating high-quality interactions with grantees.
Earlier this week, Phil Buchanan spoke at the CEO & Board Dialogue and Dinner at the Florida Philanthropic Network 2016 Statewide Summit on Philanthropy. Additionally, video of Phil’s plenary last fall at the Southeastern Council of Foundation’s 46th Annual Meeting, titled “Foundation Effectiveness: What Is It and Why Is It so Darn Difficult?” is now available to watch on CEP’s YouTube channel!
On the Blog
Phil Buchanan contributed several widely read posts in January. In “Drawing Inspiration from What Has Worked,” Buchanan stresses the importance of looking at the good, along with the bad, from 2015, so as to learn from what has worked in taking on the toughest social problems in 2016. And in “Slow, Steady, and Humble,” he looks at the education field to discuss how, to be effective, hard work and perseverance must come before hero leadership and ego.
Also on the blog:
Mena Boyadzhiev describes how CEP’s advisory services team worked with one funder to help them in the process of making a major grantmaking shift to providing more grantees with general operating support.
CEP Board Member Nadya Shmavonian shares her thoughts on several key pieces of data on foundation boards from the CEP report, Benchmarking Foundation Governance.
Caroline Fiennes of Giving Evidence highlights findings from a recently-published case study about the reporting and evaluation processes of the Inter-American Foundation, which was twice the highest-rated in that category among all funders who have used the Grantee Perception Report (GPR).
Gabi Fitz from IssueLab checked in at the end of 2015 to reflect on the progress being made toward greater openness and knowledge sharing in the social sector.
Our series of international perspectives on philanthropy continued with two posts from Europe. Michael Alberg-Seberich and Isabel Bleienheuft from Beyond Philanthropy in Berlin discuss how foundations, volunteers, and social enterprises in Germany are responding to the refugee crisis. Boris Strečanský of the Centre for Philanthropy in Bratislava focuses on Slovakia to show how for a post-communist country in Central Europe, understanding historical context is crucial when analyzing the state of philanthropy and generosity in the country in 2016.
Trista Harris of the Minnesota Council on Foundations shares three steps for funders to help them think ahead to the future.
What is emergence and what does it mean to philanthropy? Marilyn Darling of Fourth Quadrant Partners breaks down the theory and previews an upcoming study of how emergence is contributing to the long-term impact of complex social change initiatives.
Katherina Rosqueta and Kyle Sherman of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy pose three questions that funders should consider when asking themselves the key question, “Am I ready to fund?”
Angela Brown, director of programs at The Hyams Foundation, discusses how Hyams used a bottom-up approach to engage grantees in creating and rolling out The Foundation’s new strategic plan.
CEP’s Emily Giudice shares a list of podcast recommendations for those interested in philanthropy.
We put up new posts on the blog every week. We also know you’re busy. Use the box on the right side of the page to join our blog subscription list, and we’ll email you every new post as soon as it goes up.
CEP in the News
CEP and its work has been widely referenced and discussed in recent weeks.
In a Chronicle of Philanthropy column from Community Wealth Partners about the importance of organizational culture to foundations’ abilities to effectively tackle social problems, the authors cite CEP’s findings about how internal culture at foundations ripples out and is experienced by grantees in meaningful ways.
Also in the Chronicle, Phil Buchanan is quoted in a story about the exciting announcement of Blue Meridian Partners, a 10-funder grantmaking collaborative that will fund high-performing charities serving low-income youth. “The history of philanthropy teaches us that real progress on really tough challenges almost always necessitates deep collaboration among funders and other organizations,” Buchanan says in the piece.
Following the widely-read New York Times feature on accounts of lavish spending by the Wounded Warrior Project, Mike Quinn at Social Venture Partners points on the SVP blog to Phil Buchanan’s calls for a deeper discussion about overhead and measuring effectiveness at nonprofits.
In addition to her CEP blog post about the Inter-American Foundation, Caroline Fiennes also expanded on what can be learned from the funder’s exceptional GPR results for reporting and evaluation on the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) blog.
And funders continue to make results of their assessments public and share thoughtful reflections from leadership on their websites. Recently, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, and Kenneth Rainin Foundation all shared publically about results from their respective 2015 Grantee Perception Reports.
CEP is Hiring!
CEP is currently searching for new members to join our growing team in several capacities in both our offices! Know the right person? Spread the word! Is that right person you? Apply! Click the links below for full job descriptions and submission instructions.
- Administrative Assistant (San Francisco)
- Analyst, Research Team (Cambridge)
- Analyst, Assessment and Advisory Services (Cambridge OR San Francisco)
New Faces at CEP
CEP has welcomed four new faces to the assessments and advisory services team in 2016: Manager Charlotte Brugman and Analyst Jordan Metro joined CEP’s San Francisco office, while Analyst Hayden Couvillion and Executive Assistant Carly Marchioni are on board in Cambridge. And though he’s not a new face to us, Graphic Designer Jay Kustka joined the programming and external relations team after assisting with design projects throughout much of last year.
Grace Nicolette Promoted to Vice President, Programming and External Relations
CEP announced the promotion of Grace Nicolette to vice president, programming and external relations, in January. Nicolette has been with CEP since 2011 and previously served as a manager on CEP’s assessment and advisory services team and, most recently, as director of programming and external relations.
“Grace is a key member of the senior team and has made tremendous contributions during her nearly five years here,” said Phil Buchanan in a press release. “Her promotion to vice president reflects her leadership role and the importance to CEP of the area she leads. It also reflects her outstanding performance, including the planning and execution of the most successful and highly-rated conference in CEP’s history.”
An assistant district attorney, a performing artist and documentary filmmaker, a director of business development at a startup nonprofit, and a National Park Service employee from Alaska walk into a bar. What do they have in common? They all once worked at CEP, of course! We recently launched a page on our website with profiles of CEP alumni to offer just a small taste of what former employees are up to now, and how their time at CEP helped them get there.
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