New CEP Report Finds U.S. Nonprofits and Foundations Aligned in Concern over Tax Law

U.S. nonprofits and foundations alike are concerned about reduced charitable giving in response to new tax legislation passed by Congress late last year — and both believe that foundations can play a role in supporting nonprofits in this moment of uncertainty.

Those are the headline findings of Bracing for a Downturn: Nonprofits, Charitable Deduction Worries, and How Foundations Can Help, a new report released last week co-authored by CEP Vice President, Assessment and Advisory Services, Kevin Bolduc and Vice President, Research, Ellie Buteau.

The worries about a decline in giving stem from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which provides significant tax reductions for both individuals and corporations. After the bill went into effect on January 1, CEP surveyed nonprofit and foundation leaders to better understand how they are viewing the implications of this new legislation — and what role funders can play in helping grantees respond to it.

Based on survey responses from 170 nonprofit CEOs and 187 foundation staff who hold the highest level of responsibility for programmatic work at their foundations, the report finds that 53 percent of nonprofits — and the same percentage of funders — are concerned about charitable giving being adversely affected by the new tax law. And while both groups suggest that in this moment of uncertainty foundations can provide advice and assistance to support nonprofits’ fundraising and financial sustainability efforts, as well as play an educational role with nonprofits and donors about the effects of the legislation, some nonprofit leaders — but no foundation leaders — also suggest foundations can help by broadly promoting the importance of the nonprofit sector to donors and the general public.

While the actual implications of this new legislation remain to be seen, the findings “suggest a real opportunity for funders and nonprofits to work together to ensure there’s ongoing funding for crucial work that both groups care about deeply,” said Buteau in a press release. “We hope that sharing these findings helps stimulate important conversations about joint approaches to preparing the charitable sector for whatever effects this legislation will ultimately have on giving.”

On the blog, Bolduc and Buteau introduce the study and share what findings confirmed their suspicions — and which ones surprised them — in a post. A number of guest bloggers are weighing in with their reactions to the findings as well. Amy Cheney, who leads the Cincinnati-based nonprofit Crayons to Computers, discusses the ways in which she believes funders and nonprofits can “continue to work in tandem to ensure that good things are happening in our communities and our country.” Dave Biemesderfer, president & CEO of the United Philanthropy Forum, emphasizes the importance of a strong philanthropic voice to champion nonprofits and their work in such an uncertain time. And Greater Milwaukee Foundation President and CEO Ellen Gilligan discusses donor-advised funds and their role in how donors can effectively navigate the current philanthropic environment.

Stay tuned in to the blog for more commentary on how funders can support nonprofits as the uncertainty of the tax bill’s impact looms. You can also read more about the study’s findings in this Chronicle of Philanthropy piece.

Announcing a New Partnership between CEP and GEO

CEP is now offering Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) members a 10 percent discount off their first time participating in any of CEP’s assessments: the Grantee Perception Report (GPR), Staff Perception Report (SPR), and Donor Perception Report (DPR) for community foundations.

If you’re a GEO member that hasn’t worked with CEP before, contact CEP’s Austin Long to learn more about how CEP can help you assess and improve your grantmaking practices. (Austin talks more about the partnership and CEP’s resources in this recent blog post.) And if you’re a funder that isn’t one of the more than 5,000 grantmakers around the world that is part of the GEO community, what are you waiting for?

Partner with CEP on a Custom Project in 2018

Did you know CEP works with funders through a wide range of custom projects, in addition to the GranteeDonor, and Staff Perception Reports? Our team works closely with funders to conduct focus groups, interviews, custom surveys, and other advisory projects that help them strengthen their effectiveness.

One powerful custom survey we conducted recently was with the Community Foundation Sonoma County and Napa Valley Community Foundation. Following the Northern California wildfires in October 2017, CEP worked with the two community foundations to survey local nonprofit leaders to help better understand how nonprofit organizations and the populations they serve in Napa and Sonoma counties had been affected by the natural disasters. (Read about findings of the survey in the Napa Valley Register and Sonoma Valley Sun, or see the full report here.)

This is just one example of how CEP partners with foundations, groups of funders, and regional associations on custom projects. Learn more about our advisory offerings here, and contact Mena Boyadzhiev if you’re interested in learning more.


New YouthTruth Analysis Shines Light on Student Perceptions of School Safety

Just over half of students feel safe at school, according to a new analysis of more than 35,000 student perceptions by YouthTruth — the latest in its Learning from Student Voice series. The study also finds that less than two thirds of students report that adults at their schools try to stop bullying and harassment, and about a third of students report that students get into physical fights and feel they must be ready to defend themselves.

In a time where hundreds of thousands of students across the country are raising their voices to demand that people in power take action to ensure school safety, listening to student voice is essential.

“We need to be asking questions and actively listening to all students consistently — about how safe they feel in school, about the prevalence of bullying, and about overall school climate,” writes YouthTruth’s Jimmy Simpson, Jr. in an Education Post piece discussing the study’s findings. “Students are in classrooms every day and have a unique perspective on what is working and what’s not.”

Read the report here. And if you’re interested in learning more about YouthTruth, contact Sachi Takahashi-Rial, YouthTruth’s manager of partnerships.

YouthTruth is Hiring!

We currently have two open searches for new members of our YouthTruth team, both based in San Francisco. The YouthTruth analyst will provide school and district leaders, principals, and teachers with data-driven insights based on student feedback to enhance their effectiveness, while the marketing and external relations coordinator will help shape and execute a marketing and PR strategy to further YouthTruth’s mission.

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.

On the CEP Blog

Kevin Bolduc shares an important reminder about how when seeking feedback, it’s vital to listen to all voices — not just the most disgruntled or loudest ones. “Those that might otherwise go unheard often provide crucial insight about where and how we should choose to act,” he writes. “If we’re not careful, the most memorable extremes can crowd out the reality of the typical experience.”

In another (slightly more tongue-in-cheek) post, Bolduc makes an impassioned argument for why nonprofits are more like Clydesdales than unicorns.

Wilburforce Foundation founder and sole donor Rose Letwin describes how she decided to make a temporary surge in giving to best support grantees in a moment of new challenges and opportunities. Rose’s story is an instructive one about how a funder can step up and make a strategic decision to seize an opportunity when it presents itself.

Is philanthropy ready for “new power?” In her review of Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms’s new book, CEP Vice President, Programming and External Relations, Grace Nicolette explores several challenges that this ascendant phenomenon could present for the philanthropic sector.

On the occasion of sending out CEP’s 100th Donor Perception Report (DPR), Senior Analyst, Assessment and Advisory Services, Hayden Couvillion reflects on CEP’s work with community foundations — and why listening to the donor perspective is so powerful for community foundations that are committed to being leaders and creating impact in their communities.

Miriam Heyman, program officer at the Ruderman Family Foundation, describes the intersections between disability and philanthropy, and explains how building a mindset of inclusion can be a key first step for funders to incorporate disability inclusion into their culture and grantmaking practices.

Tim Delaney, president & CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, highlights a Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed by Tamara Copeland as a prime example of how research and analysis can be an effective form of nonprofit advocacy.

Vuyiswa Sidzumo, program officer in the Ford Foundation South Africa Office and chair of the Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group Steering Committee, reflects on the program officer role and the nature of relationships with grantees.

And last month, we kicked off a new series on the CEP blog that shares collections of posts on key topics that are crucial to foundation effectiveness. First up: feedback and transparency.

New Faces at CEP

CEP and YouthTruth have welcomed aboard several new staff members recently. In the San Francisco office, Alice Mei is a new analyst on the assessment and advisory services team, while Jimmy Simpson, Jr. has joined YouthTruth as partnerships lead. Working out of Cambridge, Administrative Assistant Kevin Quigley is ensuring everything in CEP’s offices is running smoothly. Welcome Alice, Jimmy, and Kevin!

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 617-674-0763.