The Big Issues: OK, So What Did I Miss?

This post is the seventh and final in a series of seven excerpting CEP President Phil Buchanan’s new essay, Big Issues, Many Questionswhich explores five pressing issues facing U.S. foundation leaders and boards at this moment in time.

Over the past few weeks, I have discussed what I see as the “Big Issues” or trends facing foundations today. This isn’t an exhaustive list of the essential issues or trends facing foundations today. There are many other questions of the day — about technology, for example — that I could have included here.

But I selected five that strike me as particularly important. The anti-establishment attitude of those of our country’s citizens who are deeply disillusioned with institutions. The role of the endowment. Strategy and metrics — and an evolving take on both. Collaboration — and its crucial importance to effectiveness and impact. And how best to support nonprofits.

I could also have discussed the new approaches to giving, such as Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to handle (for now, anyway) his giving via an LLC rather than through a charitable foundation. Or the increased use of donor-advised funds.

While interesting, I am not sure these developments have any implications for existing foundations that are clear to me right now, so I chose to emphasize what feels most relevant and pressing.

I welcome feedback on this list. Weigh in. Let me know what you think.

If there is a theme here it is that philanthropy is uniquely challenging, at least if you’re going to do it well. But it’s also vitally important. Foundations, after all, can do enormous good.

Download Big Issues, Many Questions here.

Phil Buchanan is president of CEP. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @PhilCEP.

Acknowledgments and disclosures: Some of the foundations mentioned in my series of posts on big issues facing foundations are clients and/or funders of CEP. (All our funders are disclosed on our website, along with their levels of funding.) I benefited from feedback from a number of people including Kevin Bolduc, Ellie Buteau, Tiffany Cooper Gueye, Alyse d’Amico, Crystal Hayling, Grace Chiang Nicolette, Grant Oliphant, Richard Ober, Naomi Orenstein, Christy Pichel, Lynn Perry Wooten, Nadya Shmavonian, Vince Stehle, and Fay Twersky. However, none of the individuals listed should be blamed for the views expressed, as they are mine and in some cases differ from theirs. – P.B.