Foundation Leaders Can’t Afford to Overlook These Five Issues

BigIssuesSo much is constantly changing in the world around us, but for foundation leaders, what are the trends that truly matter most to effectiveness? Sifting through all the buzzwords and silver bullets that have come to dominate discourse in the sector, what should foundation CEOs and board members be paying the most attention to in 2016 and the years to come?

These are the types of questions CEP President Phil Buchanan explores in his new essay: Big Issues, Many Questions. The essay lays out five pressing issues that are especially relevant to U.S. foundation leaders:

  1. Fundamental questions about the role of philanthropy as the so-called establishment comes under fire
  2. Questioning the traditional approach to endowment management
  3. An evolving notion of what good strategy and measurement look like in philanthropy
  4. The embracing of — or return to — aligned action among funders (and with other actors)
  5. A new sophistication in considering how to support nonprofits effectively

“There are some forces that are particular to this moment in time that foundations need to pay attention to if they want to be as effective as possible,” Buchanan writes. “The fundamentals may be the same, but the dynamics are different and pose new challenges, opportunities, and questions.”

Download the essay for free to dig into each trend and learn why these five are especially crucial for funders at this moment in time. We hope you will use this essay as an entry point for conversation with your staff and trustees. What do you think? What’s missing? Share your reactions and weigh in with a comment on the CEP blog.


Watch Foundation Leaders Reveal Their Stories of Grantee Feedback

When foundations commit to assessing their work by opening themselves up to feedback from their grantees, the resulting stories of learning and change can be powerful ones. In our new video, leaders from several foundations (Ford Foundation, Barr Foundation, and Einhorn Family Charitable Trust) share their stories about collecting grantee feedback through the Grantee Perception Report (GPR). It’s a quick three-minute video that provides valuable insight into what it actually looks like for a funder to listen to the voices of those they work most closely with — and make meaningful changes based on what they learn.


Sounding the Call for Support of Nonprofit Infrastructure Organizations

Infrastructure_logos3“An economy needs roads, bridges, and train stations to thrive. A community needs schools, parks, and houses of worship to ensure the flowering of human potential. And civil society needs infrastructure to ensure that nonprofits and foundations can act with integrity and impact.”

So states the letter CEP and 25 other nonprofit infrastructure organizations sent to more than 1,400 foundations earlier this month. The campaign, called “Investing in Infrastructure,” makes the case for foundations to invest in the organizations working to help foundations and nonprofits be as effective as possible in tackling the most challenging social problems. As a guideline, the letter suggests that foundations consider directing 1% of their grantmaking budgets to support infrastructure.

The campaign has drummed up a robust conversation in the sector about the importance of foundation support for those organizations that help the sector to be effective in its work (and about the many unique roles that these organizations play). To point to a few responses: Phil Buchanan told CEP’s story; GuideStar President and CEO Jacob Harold talked about what’s driven him in his career’s work to build the “plumbing for smart philanthropy;” Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers President and CEO Dave Biemesderfer discussed the distinctive role of regional philanthropy associations; and Lindsay Louie and Fay Twersky of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation shared their views from the funder side of the table.

The campaign also garnered in-depth coverage in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The NonProfit Times. See here for GuideStar’s roundup of a full list of blog posts and articles in response to the campaign.



CEP’s 2015 Year in Review

From the publication of three research reports, to assessment and advisory work with more than 75 funders, to a national conference in San Francisco, CEP’s 2015 was a busy and productive year. Catch up with our activities through our 2015 Annual Report, which we’ve just published on our website.


What’s Hot on the CEP Blog

EFCT_logoA high-touch approach to grantmaking typically involves frequent engagement with grantees, iterative and time-consuming application and reporting processes, and intensive evaluation requirements. Sometimes, funders with this approach believe that challenged relationships with grantees are the necessary collateral damage. But, as CEP Senior Writer Ethan McCoy writes in a feature on the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust (EFCT), the data from EFCT’s Grantee Perception Report (GPR) shows that this need not be the case. This post takes a deep look at what EFCT heard from its grantees, and breaks down elements of the Fund’s approach to its work, including how its executive director, Jennifer Hoos Rothberg, thinks about relationship-building with grantees, intensive — yet helpful — selection and reporting processes, and an ingrained practice of non-monetary support.

In the wake of the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, CEP Vice President, Assessment and Advisory Services, Kevin Bolduc reflected, “This is what philanthropy is for. It’s for solving our most pressing and intertwined problems. It’s for choosing and sticking with potentially controversial issues and for taking risks when others can’t or won’t. It’s for giving voice to our optimism that we can always be better.”

Bolduc also shared a post reflecting on the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “100&Change” Initiative and how transparency about the decision-making process could be a tremendous learning opportunity for the field.

In a guest post, Fred Smith, president of The Gathering, shares how he thinks about a foundation sunsetting not as “closing the doors,” but as a process of “dissolution” through which a funder’s work lives on in the lifeblood of its community.

CEP Vice President, Programming and External Relations, Grace Nicolette discusses why giving and receiving feedback effectively can benefit us all in our work lives, our personal lives, and in the field of philanthropy.

YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Vorse Wilka breaks down three key factors for teachers, administrators, and education funders to consider to get the most out of student feedback.

And throughout the month of May, CEP excerpted Phil Buchanan’s Big Issues essay on the blog.


Focus on Advisory Engagements


Check out stories from our recent advisory services newsletter to see how individual foundations, groups of funders, and affinity groups have worked with CEP through custom projects to improve their effectiveness.


CEP in the News

“If you are working in a foundation, you live in a bubble. No matter how down to earth you are, you do not hear the candid truth. We’ve tried to pierce the bubble.” Be sure to check out this interview with Phil Buchanan in Nonprofit Chronicles’  feature on CEP by journalist Marc Gunther.

Buchanan was also interviewed and quoted in this Stanford Social Innovation Review article about the Fund for Shared Insight’s Listen for Good initiative, and he appeared last month on a segment of The Business of Giving on New York City’s AM 970 The Answer.

Elsewhere, CEP’s report on foundation transparency released earlier this year,Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency, was covered on Stanford PACS’ “Markets for Good” blog.


New Faces at CEP

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CEP has welcomed new staff members on four different teams in the past few months. In CEP’s Cambridge office, Ying Tao joined as associate manager, programming and external relations, along with two new analysts: Tayo Ilegbusi on the research team and Emily Radwin on the assessment and advisory services team. And in the San Francisco office, La Trell Brice is newly on board as administrative assistant.


Save the Date for CEP 2017

SaveTheDate_CEP2017_NLIf you haven’t already, please block off April 4-6, 2017 in your calendar for the 2017 CEP Conference in Boston! Stay tuned for announcements about registration and speakers, and sign up for our mailing list to receive updates as they become available.

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