New Questions on DEI and Tax Reform Added to CEP Assessments

CEP has added new and timely questions to our assessments to help funders effectively respond to changes in the context for their work.

We’ve added a new core set of in-depth questions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to the Staff Perception Report (SPR). These questions explore the ways in which staff feel the funders they’re working for demonstrate a commitment to DEI internally and in their programs; have practices that reflect a commitment to racial, gender, and other types of diversity; and have leadership that exemplifies those values.

“Diversity and inclusion are linked to success,” CEP Vice President, Assessment and Advisory Services, Kevin Bolduc writes in this blog post introducing this important change to the SPR. “With these new questions, we’re excited to take another step to help foundations build the diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations that will enhance their effectiveness.”

With the Donor Perception Report (DPR), we’ve developed an optional set of questions to help community foundations better understand their donors’ giving plans in the wake of the new U.S. tax bill. There’s great uncertainty about how the changed tax code will impact charitable giving — an issue that is especially pertinent for community foundations. These new questions can help community foundations hear rapidly and systematically from their donors about these important changes in the context of their work. CEP Manager, Assessment and Advisory Services, Charlotte Brugman explains more in this blog post.

To learn more about these new questions — or to discuss participating in any of CEP’s assessments or a customized advisory services engagement — contact Director, Assessment and Advisory Services, Austin Long at (415) 423-3287 or The deadline for the May survey round is fast approaching, so get in touch with Austin soon if you’d like to learn more.

A Sneak Peek of CEP Research on the Horizon

CEP’s research team is hard at work on several exciting projects that will culminate in publications later this year. These projects span a number of topics central to philanthropic effectiveness:

  • A study of how foundations assess what has and has not worked in their programs or issue areas, how they use that information, and what they decide to be open about. This research will be accompanied by a series of profiles of foundations that share externally what has and has not worked in their programs or issue areas.
  • A look at how foundations and nonprofits are responding to the passing of the new U.S. tax bill.
  • A piece for individual donors on what nonprofits need from their funders.
  • A study of what nonprofit leaders want from their foundation funders in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • A study of what support, if any, foundations are providing to grantees to help strengthen organizations and their leaders, drawing from both foundation and nonprofit leaders’ perspectives.

Stay tuned throughout the year for the releases of these reports (you can find all of CEP’s research reports available for free download here). If you’re a funder and would like to learn more about supporting CEP’s robust research agenda, please contact Vice President, Programming and External Relations, Grace Nicolette at

Mark Edwards Elected to CEP Board

CEP is thrilled to announce the election of Upstream USA Co-founder Mark Edwards to the CEP Board of Directors! Upstream works to expand opportunity and mobility by reducing unplanned pregnancy in the U.S. Upstream partners with states to provide sustainable training and technical assistance to health centers so that all women have access to the full range of contraceptive methods, including IUDs and implants. Upstream’s approach empowers women to decide when and if they want to become pregnant, improving economic and health outcomes for parents, children, and society.

Edwards is a frequent speaker and commentator on the intersection of upward mobility and reproductive health care, and his work and perspective have been featured in a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, Vox, New York Magazine, and Politico, among others. Prior to co-founding Upstream, Edwards was the founder and executive director of Opportunity Nation.

“Mark Edwards is an evidence-driven and visionary nonprofit leader who also understands the need to inspire others in order to provoke needed change,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan. “As someone leading a path-breaking and rapidly expanding nonprofit, he will bring a crucial perspective on how funders can better work with nonprofits to achieve shared goals. I have known Mark professionally for more than two decades and am thrilled he will be a part of CEP’s future.”

Edwards was elected to a three-year term beginning July 1. He joins a Board that includes: Chair Grant Oliphant (President, the Heinz Endowments), Paul Beaudet (Executive Director, Wilburforce Foundation), Phil Buchanan (ex officio, President, CEP), Kathleen Cravero (President, Oak Foundation), Tiffany Cooper Gueye (former CEO, BELL, Building Educated Leaders for Life), Richard Ober (President and CEO, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation), Hilary Pennington (Executive Vice President for Program, Ford Foundation), Christy Pichel (former President, Stuart Foundation), Vince Stehle (Executive Director, Media Impact Funders), Kelvin Taketa (Senior Fellow, Hawai’i Community Foundation), Fay Twersky (Director of the Effective Philanthropy Group, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), and Lynn Perry Wooten (J. Nolan Dean and Professor of Management and Organizations, Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management).

Welcome, Mark!

On the CEP Blog

Too many foundation boards are failing in crucial areas, Phil Buchanan argues in two recent blog posts. The first post focuses on reviews of CEO performance, and the second on racial diversity in the boardroom.

Both posts respond to BoardSource’s latest Leading with Intent report on foundation governance. Reacting to the finding that 18 percent of the 111 foundation CEOs that responded to BoardSource’s survey reported never having been evaluated, Buchanan shares why well-constructed and regular performance reviews for CEOs — as well as board self-assessments — are crucial responsibilities of foundation boards.

Buchanan also highlights the fact that only 15 percent of board members responding to BoardSource’s study were people of color. “Foundation boards must do better. It’s just that simple,” Buchanan writes. “In an increasingly racially diverse country at a time of resurgent, open racism — and in light of this country’s history of racial oppression — it’s inexcusable not to have greater diversity in the boardroom.” As a first step, Buchanan advocates for enforced term limits for current board members to ensure turnover and create the opportunity to prioritize diversity in recruiting new ones.

Are there more radical ways to improve openness in ways that would benefit both funders and grantees? In exploring this question, Kevin Bolduc discusses a model gaining steam in the medical field called “OpenNotes,” in which doctors share their medical notes and lab results with patients. Bolduc considers what it might look like if applied to how funders share program officers’ grant write-ups and recommendations. “If we want to improve funder-grantee relationships,” he asks, “what better to share than these summaries about why a grant should be funded and what the risks are in doing so?” Be sure to stick around to read the discussion in the comment section, too.

Last year, CEP designed and added new questions to the Grantee Perception Report (GPR) to help foundations understand the specific ways in which their grantees were responding to the major shift in the U.S. political environment. Here, Bolduc shares what we saw in the response data.

In a popular post, guest blogger Rick Moyers makes the case that “checkbook philanthropy” isn’t necessarily the opposite of strategic giving — and shouldn’t be a pejorative. “Simply writing checks to effective organizations doing important work can be an honorable approach to philanthropy and doesn’t have to be mindless, haphazard, or ineffectual,” Moyers argues.

Katherine Fulton, formerly of Monitor Group, provides a comprehensive breakdown of the predicament of strategic philanthropy in another much-shared post. “Great philanthropy transcends business-like transactions and instead requires wisdom, imagination, and courage,” Fulton writes. “That is its challenge, and its promise.

Several bloggers responded to takeaways from the CEP report, Staying Connected: How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help, released last December. Gregg Croteau, executive director of UTEC, a community-based nonprofit that serves young adults with histories of incarceration or serious gang involvement in Lowell and Lawrence, MA, highlights how values-driven engagement with beneficiaries can help improve funding strategies and programs. Megan Campbell and Dennis Whittle of Feedback Labs explain how threads from the five funders’ stories in CEP’s report overlap with what they see in attributes of effective leaders in their own network.

Following CEP’s webinar last fall on building and maintaining strong relationships with grantees, several program officers featured in Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success address questions from attendees that the webinar panel was unable to get to.

In the first post of our new “Donor Stories” series on the blog, Helen LaKelly Hunt shares the story of the Sister Fund and how it works to listen to and learn from its grantees and beneficiaries by hiring them onto its staff and inviting them to serve in advisory and leadership capacities. This blog series seeks to highlight origin stories of funders that reflect upon themes and lessons we are seeing in current philanthropic debates.

CEP Manager, Assessment and Advisory Services, Mena Boyadzhiev introduces a story illustrating the transformative power of large, multiyear, general operating support grants.

YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Wilka explains several ways in which YouthTruth is partnering with education funders to help them use feedback to better understand the student experience and perspective about what’s working — and what isn’t — in schools.

Heather McLeod Grant and Kate Wilkinson of Open Impact detail findings from their recent report on the path that new donors in the Bay Area take in their “journey” to giving.

And Ava Kuhlen of the Taproot Foundation argues that empowering nonprofits and helping them create an infrastructure that supports technology success is an “often overlooked, but critically needed, opportunity for philanthropy.”

CEP is Hiring

We are currently searching to fill several job openings for analysts across our teams and offices. In our Cambridge, MA office, we’re searching for an analyst to join our research team. This is a great opportunity for a data-minded individual who is interested in using their research design and analysis skills to help create studies to improve the performance of philanthropic funders.

In San Francisco, we’re searching for analysts to join our assessment and advisory services and YouthTruth teams, respectively. The assessment and advisory services analyst will create reports to provide funders with data-driven insights to enhance the effectiveness of their work, as well as work with funders on customized projects focused on issues like strategy and performance assessment. The YouthTruth analyst will provide school and district leaders, principals, and teachers with data-driven insights based on student feedback to enhance their effectiveness.

To learn more about CEP’s core values of employment and our culture, and to see all our current job openings, visit our careers page.

Save the Date for the 2019 CEP Conference

We’re now a little more than a year away from CEP’s 2019 national conference on May 7-9, 2019 at the Hilton Minneapolis! We hope that you’ll mark your calendars and save the date. The conference will bring together more than 400 philanthropic leaders, trustees, and major donors to discuss the most pressing issues in the philanthropic field. We’re already hard at work putting together the program — stay tuned for more details and the opening of registration later this year!


Catch Phil Buchanan Speaking in NYC this April

Are you based in or around New York City? Don’t miss CEP President Phil Buchanan on Wednesday, April 11 as he delivers a talk on what it takes for foundations to do their work effectively. Hosted by Philanthropy New York, Buchanan’s talk will touch on how to think about effectiveness, how effectiveness and racial equity can go hand in hand, and how foundations can learn from failure. The event is free for Philanthropy New York members. Learn more and register here. Not in NYC? The event will be livestreamed, starting at 9 am EDT on April 11.

Support CEP

Have you benefited from CEP research? Are you a regular reader of the CEP blog? CEP has a significant earned revenue stream through commissioned assessments and advisory services engagements, but we also rely on grant support to pursue a number of our core activities, including our research, communications efforts, and making improvements to our assessments and YouthTruth tools. You can make a personal donation to CEP here. And if you’re a funder interested in providing grant support to CEP — unrestricted support, support for a specific research initiative, or support for our YouthTruth initiative — contact CEP Vice President, Programming and External Relations, Grace Nicolette at, or +1 (617)674-0763.