CEP Research on Transparency Underway

Transparency is a hot topic. But what does it mean in philanthropy — both to foundations and to grantees? How transparent do grantees find their foundation funders when it comes to grant selection processes, possible changes in future funding, and the sharing of best practices and failures? How important is transparency to funder-grantee relationships and grantees’ perceptions of foundation impact? What can foundations do to be more transparent with the foundations they fund?

These are some of the key questions CEP is digging into in our current research project on foundation transparency, made possible by support from the Fund for Shared Insight. To explore current foundation practices related to transparency, and to learn more about the attitudes of both foundation and nonprofit leaders toward the topic, we’re surveying foundation CEOs and leaders of grantee organizations, analyzing foundation websites, and interviewing funders rated highly by their grantees for their transparency.

Findings will be published in early 2016.

Sign up for a 2016 Assessment Tool and Receive a Discount!

Considering commissioning one of CEP’s assessment tools next year? Sign up for one of our three 2016 survey rounds by October 16 to receive the greatest available discount. Contact Kevin Bolduc, vice president, assessment tools, to learn more about CEP’s offerings and to discuss your foundation’s assessment needs.

“Foundation Staff Matter” Series on the CEP Blog

Phil Buchanan took to the CEP blog to challenge recent critiques that large, staffed foundations are plodding along on the fast path to extinction while newer, “lean” foundations are ushering in the future of philanthropy. For two weeks beginning at the end of August, in a series of eight posts titled “Foundation Staff Matter,”  Buchanan dug into data from CEP research and stories of foundations working diligently to create real positive change. His posts highlighted the important role that staff play as foundations work with grantees to accomplish shared goals.

Throughout the series, Buchanan articulated four primary points to counter what he calls “the overhead myth, foundation style:”

  1. It’s not actually clear that the new foundations being heralded for their slim staffs will be so thin five or 10 years from now — or even that they’re particularly slender now!
  2. The small size and great diversity of nonprofits often requires larger foundations to have enough staff to be able to interact with many different entities and to be knowledgeable enough to make good decisions about who to fund.
  3. CEP data and analysis of tens of thousands of surveys of grantees of nearly 300 foundations shows the benefit — to grantees — when foundations have sufficient numbers of staff for the goals and operating strategies they’ve chosen.
  4. It’s not just about numbers — the quality of staff and of staff culture matters, because what happens inside a foundation’s walls ripples outside those walls.

The series generated lively conversation on Twitter and in the comment section of the blog, including a back-and-forth between Buchanan and Inside Philanthropy’s David Callahan, whose writing Buchanan challenges in his posts. You can read every post in the series here, and we invite you to weigh in on the blog’s comment section or on Twitter with your reactions and ideas.

YouthTruth Dives into Data on College and Career Readiness

Many students feel insufficiently prepared for college and career. That’s the sobering news for education funders, districts, and school leaders revealed in July when CEP’s YouthTruth initiative released some vital findings from its aggregate dataset of student perception data.

Analyzing data collected from more than 165,000 high school juniors and seniors, YouthTruth found that while the vast majority of high school students want to go college (87 percent), only 45 percent feel positively about their college and career readiness. In terms of careers in particular, students tend to feel less prepared than they do for college – only 49 percent of students say their school has helped them navigate steps to career readiness. Furthermore, the study found that students are not taking advantage of their schools’ support services to prepare them for their futures. For example, only a third of surveyed students reported using services like college exam preparation or counseling for how to apply for and pay for college, and only 36 percent of high schoolers said they used counseling about future career possibilities.   

YouthTruth released these findings in a press release on July 30, which then gained traction in several major online publications, including Education Week, EdSource, and Politico‘s Morning Edition. YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Vorse Wilka also discussed the data on the CEP blog.

“Education funders can learn a great deal from listening to those they seek to help,” said CEP President and YouthTruth co-founder Phil Buchanan. “YouthTruth data helps us understand what’s really going on. We see more and more districts working with YouthTruth but still need support from funders to build out this initiative and more deeply mine our unique dataset.”

Dick Ober Becomes CEP’s Newest Board Memberboard-ober

New Hampshire Charitable Foundation President and CEO Dick Ober was elected to CEP’s Board of Directors for a three-year term. Ober has led NHCF since 2010 and has devoted his entire career to community-focused work in New Hampshire, including roles with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Monadnock Conservancy. He has written and lectured widely about community philanthropy and civic life, and he is also the author of The North Forest, a book focusing on the vast wooded regions of the northeastern United States and the lives of those who call them home. Read more about Ober, and all of CEP’s Board members, on our website.


Jen Vorse Wilka Named YouthTruth Executive Director

Jen Vorse Wilka was promoted to executive director of YouthTruth this August. Wilka has been a part of YouthTruth since 2011, most recently as director of partnerships, and will now lead the growing YouthTruth team based in CEP’s San Francisco office. “Jen is a key reason why YouthTruth is what it is today,” said Phil Buchanan in a press release. “She is a passionate advocate for really understanding the views of those who should matter most – the students whom public schools are designed to serve. She is also a great leader and manager, someone who combines passion, smarts, an incredible work ethic, and great vision.”


Phil Buchanan Named to The Nonprofit Times “Power & Influence Top 50”

For the second consecutive year, and for the fourth time overall, CEP President Phil Buchanan was named to The NonProfit Times‘ 2015 “Power & Influence Top 50.” The list recognizes exceptional leaders in the sector who “made decisions every day that changed lives for the better.”

Upcoming Free Webinars this October

We’re hosting a pair of free webinars in which we’ll discuss the power of grantee and donor feedback! On October 22, we’ll chat with Baptist Healing Trust President and CEO Catherine Self and Program and Communications Officer Jennifer Oldham about the Trust’s experience using the Grantee Perception Report to improve its work. The next day, October 23, we’ll be talking with Arizona Community Foundation Chief Business Development & Brand Officer Megan Brownell about the Foundation’s experience using the Donor Perception Report twice to continually learn and improve. These webinars are great opportunities to hear first-hand how collecting and acting upon feedback can lead to increased effectiveness, and to ask questions to those who have gone through the feedback process. Sign up for the GPR webinar here, and the DPR webinar here.

New Faces at CEP

CEP has welcomed several new staff over the past few months. Kris Sanda joined CEP as senior accounting & operations coordinator, while over at YouthTruth, the team has more than doubled as the initiative continues to grow. Whitney Ivie, who worked with YouthTruth in its initial phases, has returned to the team as associate manager of client services. And in the month of September, YouthTruth welcomed Sachi Takahashi-Rial as associate manager – business development, Jeremy Gormley as senior research analyst, and two New Sector Alliance Americorps fellows: Hannah Bartlebaugh, marketing and community engagement fellow, and Josh Ho, research fellow.

On the CEP Blog

In one of the summer’s most-read CEP blog posts, guest blogger and streamlining guru Jessica Bearman offered suggestions for making grant reporting more manageable and useful for both funders and grantees — an alternative to funders feeding reports “to a giant fiery furnace.”

In another cogent and insightful piece, David C. Colby used examples from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s work to discuss how foundations can deploy multiple-intervention approaches to strategically tackle widespread, entrenched problems.

Maggie Osborn, president of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, described her wishes for philanthropy to be more like jazz music in a creative and perceptive piece.

From CEP staff, Kevin Bolduc continued the conversation on foundation staff by discussing further how a foundation’s internal culture can ripple out and affect grantees in meaningful ways. Assessment Tools Manager Naomi Orensten contributed a post about keeping the qualities of productive and helpful relationships in mind when forming effective consulting partnerships. And Writer – Development and Communications Ethan McCoy shared highlights from a chat with The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation’s Don Matteson about The Foundation’s experiences learning from grantee feedback.

Phil Buchanan authored several widely-read posts, including one titled “Making History” about the importance of new donors learning from past successes and failures. He also added posts on impact investing and negative screening at large private foundations, which reflected upon CEP’s research report on the topics released in May.

Additionally, Buchanan and CEP Research Analyst Jen Cole looked at the numbers on African American representation among CEOs at the nation’s 100 largest foundations.

Several series on the CEP blog rolled on, as well. Our blog series of international perspectives on philanthropy continued with a post on philanthropy in Chile — the series’ first post on a South American nation — courtesy of Magdalena Aninat, founder and director of The Center for Philanthropy and Social Investments at Universidad Adolfo Ibañez. Another series, “Providing Assistance Beyond the Grant,” continued with a post about S.H. Cowell Foundation’s work providing non-monetary assistance to its grantees.

CEP also kicked off a new series of “Rewind” posts on the blog, in which we’ll share exceptional posts and data points from our archives that we feel can add important layers of context and insight to current debates across the field. Thus far, we’ve shared posts from Caroline Altman Smith, senior program officer at The Kresge Foundation, CEP Board member Crystal Hayling, and CEP’s Kevin Bolduc.

Remember, you can sign up for our subscription service to have CEP blog posts sent directly to your inbox as soon as they’re live. Sign up for this service using the box on the right-hand side of the blog and never miss a post again!

CEP in the News

Buchanan continued his opinion pieces in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, writing a popular column in July titled, “In Search of the Magic Formula for Philanthropy,” in which he writes: “Let’s stop looking for the one ‘new’ (it almost never is really new) model or formula that works ‘best.’ It all depends on the goals and context; ‘Best’ for one situation may not be ‘best’ for another.”

And on CNN.com, Buchanan was quoted in an article checking in on the ALS Association a year after the viral sensation “the ice bucket challenge” swept the country. In the article, Buchanan applauds the organization for its transparency and thoughtfulness in determining the most effective way of deploying the $115 million raised last year.

CEP’s findings on impact investing were cited in a Chronicle piece about new IRS regulations and the potential for the number of dollars in impact investing to grow. The research was also mentioned in an article on The Motley Fool, the popular financial news and advising site, and traversed borders and oceans, as the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business blogged about the findings.

The Inter-American Foundation, which scored particularly well on its 2014 Grantee Perception Report, has been gaining notoriety lately for how highly it is thought of by its grantees. Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther wrote about the funder, and also interviewed Phil Buchanan, while Caroline Fiennes discussed the IAF’s GPR findings and previewed Giving Evidence’s upcoming case study to help better understand what IAF is doing to be viewed so favorably by its grantees.

And CEP Board Member Hilary Pennington of the Ford Foundation was interviewed in Alliance Magazine.

Set Aside Time to Watch Videos from the 2015 ConferenceConfPhotoCollageforNL222

With busy schedules, it can be hard to find time to watch and learn from a talk or lecture in its entirety. But if you do make time to search for insights and inspiration, there’s no better place to look than videos from the 2015 CEP Conference. We’ve posted videos of several plenaries from the conference, including those by Van Jones and Henry Timms, as well as a panel discussion among leaders of many of the country’s most influential funders.

See all our conference videos on CEP’s YouTube channel.

Stay Tuned In via Social Media!

Are you following CEP in your social media networks?

twitter-outcome facebook-mode linkedin-yielding

We’re on Twitter, as are members of our staff; Facebook; and LinkedIn. We’re sharing new content from ourselves and the world of philanthropy every day. Give us a follow to stay up to date with what’s happening and to join in the conversation.