The 2017 CEP Conference is less than Six Weeks Away!

TOPZakimCEP2017_imageIt feels like just yesterday that we were sending out save-the-dates, but the 2017 CEP Conference is now only 39 days away! On April 4th, 400 foundation leaders, trustees, and major donors will come together at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel for three days of thought-provoking plenaries, small and focused breakout sessions, and ample time to connect with peers to share best practices and reflect on what’s working — and what isn’t — when it comes to the pressing issues that the foundation sector seeks to tackle.

What’s on tap? Plenary talks and panels will include:

  • Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy, will kick off the conference on the evening of April 4th by sharing his experiences fighting for the poor and the incarcerated in the United States criminal justice system.
  • CEP President Phil Buchanan will begin day two by sharing findings from new CEP research, including a survey of foundation CEOs on the new political realities, in an interactive session on effectively leading foundations in complex times.
  • Doug Stone, co-author of two New York Times bestsellers (Difficult Conversations and Thanks for the Feedback), will then discuss how communicating effectively, listening well, and being open to — and acting on — feedback is key to achieving greater effectiveness.
  • Tony Award-winning playwright and performer Sarah Jones will present a can’t-miss piece over dinner challenging the audience to consider the numerous perspectives that influence and impact the work of foundations.
  • On day three, award-winning economist Raj Chetty will share data-driven insights from his research on pathways to upward mobility that can help inform funders’ work combatting inequality. He’ll then join a panel of foundation and nonprofit leaders, including Tiffany Cooper Gueye of BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), Risa Lavizzo-Mourey of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kyle Peterson of the Walton Family Foundation, and Hilary Pennington of the Ford Foundation, to discuss.
  • Another panel will focus on what philanthropy can learn from various perspectives on — and critiques of — foundations. The panel, moderated by Barr Foundation President Jim Canales, will include The Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, nonprofit blogger and Rainier Valley Corps Executive Director Vu Le, The Boston Globe Reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, and Linsey McGoey, author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift.
  • And award-winning designer, author, and theorist Jessica Helfand will close the conference by questioning the way we think about design in foundation philanthropy, suggesting that it is not just a “skill” but rather “an exploration of our humanity.”

The conference will also feature three slots of breakout sessions to choose from on topics ranging from beneficiary feedback to evaluation to internal foundation culture, to name a few. Additionally, on the opening night of the conference, attendees can view an exclusive screening of the not-yet-released documentary Sacred Cod, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. This timely film about cod fisheries off the coast of New England raises important questions about tensions between workers and those charged with protecting the environment.

Already registered? Take a look at the full schedule to decide which breakouts you’ll want to attend, and check out the list of attendees to see which colleagues you can reconnect with — and which folks you can look forward to meeting for the first time! Also, don’t forget to tweet with #CEP2017 to keep up with everything going on in the lead-up to, and during, the conference.

Not yet registered? Remaining seats are limited! You can register for the conference here. We cap attendance at the conference to optimize interactivity and audience discussion, so please do not delay if you are considering joining us and 400 of your colleagues in Boston!

It’s a beautiful city, and we hope you’ll join us.

New CEP Research on Limited Life Foundations Out Next Month

In March, CEP will be releasing new research on foundations that choose to limit their lives rather than exist in perpetuity. The concept of the limited life foundation has been around for a century, but there’s been increased interest in the topic in recent years, from the public wind-down of The Atlantic Philanthropies to the recent announcement in December from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation that it intends to spend down within the next 10 years.

But spending down still remains a practice about which there is plenty of uncertainty. For example, CEP research on the future of foundation philanthropy last year found that almost one in five foundation CEOs do not have a clear sense of the level of promise that spending down holds for increasing foundations’ impact. Given all this, we decided to undertake a study of limited life foundations, with the support of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. We interviewed leaders of 11 limited life foundations, discussing topics ranging from why they decided to spend down, to how they are staffing for the spend down, to how they are approaching their relationships with their grantees in the context of the spend down.

The report will share what we found in these interviews, shedding light on nine key aspects of the limited life approach. We’re excited to share this report with you soon and hear your thoughts and responses. Stay tuned.


Paul Beaudet Elected to CEP Board of Directors

PaulGeaudetHeadshot2Wilburforce Foundation Executive Director Paul Beaudet is the newest member of CEP’s Board of Directors, CEP announced last month. Beaudet has been with Wilburforce, a Seattle, WA-based foundation that supports land, water, and wildlife conservation efforts in western North America, since 1999, and he assumed the office of executive director on January 1. He had served on CEP’s advisory board since 2008.

“I have been continually impressed by the quality of CEP’s data-driven reports and research, and by the amazing team that does the work,” said Beaudet in a press release. “It is an honor to step into a new role with CEP as it helps shape our sector’s thinking about how we can do our work more effectively.”

Beaudet was elected to a three-year term and joins a board that includes: Chair Grant Oliphant (president of The Heinz Endowments), Phil Buchanan (ex officio, president of CEP), Tiffany Cooper Gueye (CEO of BELL, Building Educated Leaders for Life), Crystal Hayling (managing director for the Environmental Leaders Fellowship and senior advisor to the Aspen Philanthropy and Society Program at The Aspen Institute), Richard Ober (president and CEO of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation), Hilary Pennington (vice president, Education, Free Expression, and Creativity at the Ford Foundation), Christy Pichel (former president of the Stuart Foundation), Lynn Perry Wooten (professor of strategy and management & operations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business), Nadya K. Shmavonian (director of Nonprofit Repositioning Fund), Vince Stehle (executive director of Media Impact Funders), and Fay Twersky (director of the Effective Philanthropy Group at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation).

Welcome, Paul!

YouthTruth Passes Milestone of a Half Million Students Surveyed

YouthTruth hit a major milestone recently when it surveyed its 500,000th student! The initiative, which helps schools, districts, and education funders across the country gather and act on student feedback to improve outcomes, has now surveyed more than a half million students across 36 states and four countries in the eight years since it was founded through a collaboration between CEP and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This is an exciting moment that signals to us the growing hunger within the education community for actionable feedback from students,” said YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Wilka in a press release.

YouthTruth in the News

A new profile of YouthTruth on online education news site The 74 shows the power of hearing from beneficiaries. The article is especially relevant to education funders, but also has implications for any funder that is interested in how hearing from those you seek to help can shape your understanding of what the best strategies are to create meaningful change.

Listening to and learning from the experiences of beneficiaries is seen by foundation CEOs as the most promising way to unlock more impact, CEP’s recent research finds. YouthTruth offers a model of how it can be done — and the payoff.

What’s New on the CEP Blog

We shared essays from foundation CEOs, including the Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Kelvin Taketa, Arcus Foundation’s Kevin Jennings, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation’s Nicky Goren, and the Delaware Community Foundation’s Stuart Comstock-Gay, responding to findings from the CEP report, The Future of Foundation Philanthropy, published in December.

Phil Buchanan shares thoughts on how organizations seeking to influence philanthropic practice can — and must — do so responsibly.

Barr Foundation President Jim Canales writes on the funder-grantee power dynamic and the challenge of having frank conversations in foundation philanthropy, in preview of the plenary panel he will moderate at the CEP Conference.

CEP’s human capital team — Alyse d’Amico and Leaha Wynnshare steps CEP has taken to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are valued priorities in CEP’s work and culture, and reflect on what they have found to be most important to those efforts.

BoardSource President & CEO Anne Wallestad discusses a new, more holistic framework for measuring fundraising effectiveness, and shares three things foundation leaders can do to support the shift to this new approach.

In a preview of the breakout session she will moderate at the 2017 CEP Conference, consultant Nell Edgington breaks down where we stand with the “Overhead Myth,” and shares how funders can lead the effort to overcome it once and for all.

Consultant Valerie Threlfall discusses a newly-released paper that offers a consistent and practical definition of “perceptual feedback” — an important term that is often misunderstood.

CEP’s Kevin Bolduc ushered in the New Year by reflecting on the work of CEP’s assessment and advisory services team with 72 partners in 2016, and sharing what’s on the horizon in 2017.

Fund for Shared Insight Project Manager Melinda Tuan kicked off the New Year with a confession and a resolution when it comes to committing to making openness a priority in the philanthropic sector.

And guest bloggers continued to reflect on findings from Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices, the report CEP and the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI) released last fall. Amy Arbreton, evaluation officer in the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group, writes that when it comes to evaluations leading to meaningful insights, “it not just spending money that makes a difference, but spending time, too.” And Johanna Morariu, director of Innovation Network, shares three things foundations and nonprofits can do to improve their ability to get more from their evaluation efforts.

CEP on the Road

Join Kevin Bolduc and the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF) for a webinar conversation next Tuesday, February 28, from 2-3pm EST! In this free interactive webinar exploring how to build effective relationships with your grantees, Bolduc will share findings from CEP’s research and dive into what analysis of thousands of grantee perceptions shows to define a strong relationship between funders and grantees. He’ll then be joined by The Healing Trust President and CEO Kristen Keely-Dinger and Program and Communications Officer Jennifer Oldham for an interview about how they approach building relationships with their grantees.

Last fall, Phil Buchanan spoke at the Philanthropic Foundations Canada biennial conference in Vancouver about the pressing issues facing philanthropy in this day and age. You can now watch the talk in its entirety here.

New Faces at CEP


In January, YouthTruth welcomed Johnny Yeo to the team as data scientist.

CEP is Hiring!

We just launched a search for an analyst to join the assessment and advisory services team in either our Cambridge or San Francisco office! This is the perfect opportunity for a data-savvy and detail-oriented recent graduate or young professional who is passionate about helping grantmaking organizations better understand how they’re doing in creating social impact. Know the perfect person for the role? Is that person you? See the full job description here, and share with your networks or apply!

YouthTruth is also searching for an analyst to join the team in our San Francisco office. The YouthTruth analyst will create and administer online student surveys and generate data-driven reports for district leaders, school principals, and teachers seeking to enhance their effectiveness. See the full job description here.