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Cambridge, MA — What it takes for a foundation to be effective is difficult to master yet timeless; at the same time, however, there are several current trends that foundation leaders and boards must pay attention to if they want to be as effective as possible, argues Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) President Phil Buchanan in a new essay published today.

In Big Issues, Many Questions, Buchanan explores the five most pressing issues facing U.S. foundations at this moment in time:

  • 1.) The growing anti-establishment attitude of those who are disillusioned with institutions;
  • 2.) the role of the endowment;
  • 3.) strategy and metrics — and an evolving take on both;
  • 4.) collaboration and its crucial importance to effectiveness and impact; and
  • 5.) how best to support nonprofits.

Buchanan delves into each trend and explains their significance to foundations and their ability to do their work effectively. For each trend, the essay includes a series of critical questions for foundation CEOs and their boards to discuss.

“We had a healthy debate at our board meeting about these issues,” said CEP Board Chair and The Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant. “Whatever your take, and whether you agree or disagree — or likely a mix of both — this piece will be a good discussion starter. I hope foundation leaders might use it as a pre-read for a board or senior leadership meeting or retreat.”

The essay is available for free download on CEP’s website. Buchanan will be expanding on the essay on the CEP blog over the coming weeks.


The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide data and create insight so philanthropic funders can better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness and impact. CEP received initial funding in 2001 and has offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California. For more information on CEP’s work, including its research, publications, programming, assessments, and advisory services, visit

The Center for Effective Philanthropy — Improving foundation performance through data and insight.