A Note From Phil Buchanan:

As we enter the final stretch of an incredibly busy year, I am pleased to share the latest news from CEP. I hope you’ll take a moment to find out how CEP’s research is informing and shaping the debate about effective philanthropy. You’ll also find information here about CEP’s new, interactive online reporting system for our assessment tools, which is helping better position funders to act on results about how they are viewed by crucial constituencies.






Working Well with Grantees Strikes a Chord

Building productive relationships with grantees isn’t easy, and data-based resources are scarce.

In June, CEP released Working Well with Grantees, a comprehensive guide for foundation program officers seeking to build stronger relationships with grantees. Based on an analysis of 10 years’ worth of grantee and declined applicant survey data and interviews with high-performing program officers, the guide has been enormously well-received.

During a webinar hosted by CEP in October, Ellie Buteau, CEP’s Vice President for Research, discussed the report’s key findings, and two highly rated program officers – Amy Berman, of the John A. Hartford Foundation, and Justin Laing, of the Heinz Endowments – answered questions on building strong relationships with grantees from an audience of nearly 100 participants. CEP’s Grace Nicolette and Austin Long presented on the findings at the Council on Foundations Community Foundations Conference in San Diego in September.

Missed these opportunities to learn about what’s in the guide? Several upcoming events will offer opportunities to hear from CEP what it takes, according to our research and experience, to form productive relationships with grantees. Phil Buchanan will speak on the subject at the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference March 10-12, and Austin Long will discuss successful funder-grantee relationships at the Grants Managers Network conference in San Diego March 17-19.

For reactions from foundation staff, check out the CEP blog, where Susan McConnell, Director of Human Resources and the Higher Education program area at The Duke Endowment, responds to the findings and urges program officers to develop a clear understanding of what their foundation seeks to achieve. Otherwise, McConnell argues, they will not be able to clearly communicate funding opportunities open to grantees, which is “critical in developing successful working relationships with grantees.”


CEP’s Interactive, Online Survey Data Delivery Launched

The Rhode Island Foundation, The Whitman Institute, and New York State Health Foundation were among the first clients to receive CEP tools in their new online, interactive format. The new format  responds to feedback from regular users of our assessment tools who wanted to be able to control the customization and display of the data collected through our surveys. The new system allows foundation clients greater command of how the results are displayed, providing clients with the ability to instantaneously switch between various data segmentations, trends of ratings over time, and different comparative cohorts.

“We’re excited by the initial feedback from users of the online platform. They’ve told us they really appreciate the new opportunities they have to explore their results and answer questions as they arise,” says Kevin Bolduc, CEP’s Vice President – Assessment Tools.



Nonprofit Challenges: What Foundations Can Do Spurs Call to Action from Foundation Leaders

The latest report from CEP’s Grantee Voice panel – Nonprofit Challenges: What Foundations Can Do exposes some sobering statistics about the relative lack of support nonprofit leaders say they receive from their foundation funders. The report has sparked a call to action from several prominent foundation executives to provide the help their grantees are looking for.

On the CEP blog, Andrea Cohen Barrack, CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, argues that grants targeting “sustainability and capacity…[are] vital to helping us accomplish our goals.” Also on the blog, Linda Wood, Senior Director of the Haas Leadership Initiative at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, points out that the “selfless” culture of the nonprofit sector discourages leaders from investing in their own development.  Funders should therefore provide “dedicated funding for strengthening organizational leadership,” Wood argues.

Wood calls for funders to provide the specific types of support that their grantees really need. Look for more perspectives from nonprofit leaders as CEP continues, and expands, the Grantee Voice survey panel in 2014.



Coming Soon: New Research on Foundation CEOs’ Take on Progress

Look for our forthcoming research on how foundation CEOs judge progress – and their own foundations’ contributions – in reaching their most important goals. While those who attended CEP’s biennial conference in May got a sneak-peak at highlights of the research, the report offers a comprehensive look at the findings. In the meantime, be sure to visit our research page if you’ve missed a report or want a summary of our work on assessing performance, developing strategy, and the funder-grantee relationship.



“After the Leap” Conference in Washington D.C. to Focus on Driving Performance

CEP’s Phil Buchanan is among the featured speakers at the “After the Leap” Conference December 3rd and 4th in Washington, D.C. The conference, sponsored by the Morino Institute, will bring together experts in philanthropy to learn how successful practitioners are advancing outcomes measurement and performance management, and how to apply these lessons to individual organizations and communities.

Buchanan will join a panel of foundation leaders in asking: when it comes to understanding the resources nonprofits need to scale their impact, “Do Funders Get It?” Joining Buchanan on the panel are Carol Thompson Cole of Venture Philanthropy Partners, Denise Zeman of St. Luke’s Foundation, and Fay Twersky of the Hewlett Foundation, and the discussion will be moderated by Michael Bailin, former President of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. Buchanan and Cole will also speak about “walking the talk” when it comes to foundations funding the capacity-building necessary to drive intended results during the session, “Performance Management is Impossible without Organizational Capacity: Who Will Fund this Stuff?”

The conference is sold out, but you can add your name to the wait list and see the complete list of all speakers and sessions at www.aftertheleap.org.



On the CEP Blog

Debate and discussion featuring CEP staff and an all-star line-up of guest bloggers continues on the CEP blog on topics from overhead to investing in leadership.

In a powerful guest post, Gavin Fenn-Smith and Nicki Roth, co-founders of Saroga, The Nonprofit Leadership Forum, argue that “achieving the desired impact to affect social change does not occur without effective leadership.” In a similar vein, Linda Wood, Senior Director of Leadership and Grantmaking at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, argues on the blog that funders must view investing in nonprofit leadership development as a necessity instead of a luxury.

CEP staff are also weighing in on issues of importance to foundation leaders. Brian Hughes, CEP’s Director of Talent and Administration, poses the question, “What is the value to my organization in hiring a talent leader?” on both the CEP blog and the CommonGood Careers blog. Answering on behalf of CEP, Hughes presents a case for an intense focus on attracting talent in order to achieve the maximum possible impact.

In a two-part feature on the CEP blog, Phil Buchanan wades into the enduring debate on nonprofits’ overhead expenses and expresses strong support for the call to de-emphasize overhead in nonprofit evaluation efforts led by Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

But, in a separate piece for HuffingtonPost TED Weekends, Buchanan also presents a powerful rebuttal to the extremist views of a nonprofit sector critic who has taken up the overhead mantle in a much-discussed TED Talk. Buchanan implores readers to separate the often intertwined metrics of fundraising costs and investments in professional development and performance measurement.



Amber Bradley Named Director of Assessment Tools

CEP’s Amber Bradley was promoted to Director of Assessment Tools after three years as a manager leading CEP’s work with a wide variety of clients. In her new role, Bradley will continue to lead client engagements while also overseeing all assessment tools processes, including survey launch, data combination, online reporting, and team resourcing.

“Amber is an amazing member of our team and a fantastic colleague to everyone at CEP. She is always pushing us to improve – to maximize our impact on philanthropy and the utility we provide to clients. This promotion recognizes her significant leadership role in driving the effectiveness of our work,” says Kevin Bolduc, CEP’s Vice President – Assessment Tools.



Sonya Kendall Heisters Joins the YouthTruth Team as Associate Manager of Business Development

Sonya Kendall Heisters is a new associate manager with the YouthTruth Student Survey, leading key aspects of the development and expansion of the initiative, which is designed to gather comparative feedback from students about what is and isn’t working in schools nationwide. She is the former Associate Director of Engagement for the Presidio Graduate School, and also worked as the NorCal West Tutoring Program Manager for Kaplan Test Prep.

Sonya is a graduate of Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, and holds degrees in English Literature and Non-Profit Management with a focus on secondary education programs and curriculum.


CEP Is Hiring

CEP is currently looking to fill several positions. The Research team seeks a skilled and highly motivated Research Analyst with a desire to improve the performance of charitable funders and, through them, the nonprofit sector as a whole through rigorous quantitative and qualitative analyses of data collected from CEP surveys.

CEP is also seeking a hard-working, creative, and committed Director of Marketing and Programming to partner closely with the President on all aspects of the organization’s marketing and communications. With primary responsibility for external communications designed to promote CEP’s research, assessment tools, and programming resources, the Director of Marketing and Programming will oversee CEP’s website and blog, marketing materials, its social media presence, and its biennial conference.