Top 10 Most-Read CEP Blog Posts of 2019

Ethan McCoy

Another December, another year-end list.

On the CEP blog, 2019 has been a year of thought-provoking insights, illustrative stories of philanthropic effectiveness, and challenging questions for leaders in the philanthropic sector to consider. We know that there’s a lot competing for your attention this time of year, but as you’re wrapping up your year-end responsibilities and looking ahead to 2020, we hope this digest of the top 10 most-read posts on the CEP blog is helpful to you as you reflect on where you’ve been  — and where you’re headed.

Here are the 10 most-read CEP blog posts of 2019:

1. Five Questions Every Board Should Be Discussing Right Now by Phil Buchanan

“Boards need to recognize the power dynamics between funders and the funded, and take steps to gather candid and confidential feedback through a third party. That’s the only way they’ll understand what’s really going on. This is always true, but especially important now.” Read more.

2. Putting Critiques in Perspective in Pursuit of More Effective Philanthropy by Phil Buchanan

“The effectiveness of philanthropy is too vital for us not to learn from successes or for us to be consumed by unproductive debates or hand-wringing rooted in critiques that exaggerate, overgeneralize, or at times even distort. Rather than suggesting that all big givers are just pursuing their self-interest, preserving the status quo, or distracting from bad deeds, let’s condemn the examples of those who do while simultaneously raising up the many examples of giving that is rooted in a deep belief in making real change.” Read more.

3. Philanthropy With a Racial Equity Lens by Anna Cruz

“To operationalize racial equity throughout our practices, we must be radically different than the philanthropy of previous generations. Many of us need to evolve our internal practices and culture, in addition to bringing a racial equity lens to our grantmaking. We must be laser focused on the deepest, most complex ways in which racism permeates political, cultural, and economic norms; how that manifests inside our organizations; and what is required to truly uproot it.” Read more.

4. Giving Done Right by Phil Buchanan

“Thoughtful givers and nonprofit leaders need to stand up and make clear that their work is uniquely challenging — and uniquely valuable — and as such requires its own approach and discipline. It’s no more logical to argue that running a successful business prepares you to run a nonprofit — or to be a wise giver — than it is to argue that running a real estate empire prepares you to be President of the United States.” Read more.

5. The Challenges of Nonprofit Leadership: Navigating a Perilous Moment by Phil Buchanan

“My view is that this country’s nonprofit sector is an essential part of what is good in our society. From the art that brightens our lives and challenges us, to the vaccinations that prevent disease, to the human rights that have been secured, philanthropy and nonprofits are often behind our greatest gains. Take pride in that. Don’t forget it. Your work is noble. You are this country’s unsung heroes.” Read more.

6. Does Love Scale? by Anne Snyder

“We’ve become so enamored of efficiency and getting the greatest good to the greatest number of people that acknowledging the deep, slow work of real change feels like surrendering to a lost cause. But there may just be a different way to think about scaling: scaling not so much a program, but scaling a logic — a logic that we need to grow, at a local level, everywhere.” Read more.

7. The Time is Now to Embed Equity in Evaluation Practices by Jara Dean-Coffey

“We believe it is time to redefine how we conceptualize data, knowledge, truth, and evidence so they are multiculturally valid and reflect multiple truths. With regard to the practice of evaluation, we believe it can no longer hide behind the notion of neutrality, but must rather take a moral stand in service of equity. There is too much at stake for evaluation not to be in service of something more than knowledge.” Read more.

8. The Reverse Site Visit: A Day in the Life of Our Program Officer by Charis Loh

“Shadowing Lindsay and spending time with her colleagues gave me an inside look into the realities of working at a foundation. It fleshed out what I knew from research about foundations, providing me a more nuanced perspective of the constraints and tradeoffs that a program officer might face in a given day.” Read more.

9. Four Promising Practices for Philanthropies to Advance Advocacy and Policy Change by Loren McArthur

“In an era when government has become less capable of solving problems due to increasing political polarization, dysfunction, and fiscal austerity, philanthropists are recognizing the need to support effective policy reform efforts that can break through the gridlock and make meaningful progress in addressing the issues they care about — whether it’s climate change, education, poverty, racial justice, health, or something else.”  Read more.

10. General Operating Support and Relinquishing the Illusion of Control by Karen FitzGerald

“If foundations want to see the change we envision in the communities we care about become a reality, we need to relinquish the illusion of control that comes with awarding restricted program grants. Instead, we need to trust our grantees, who know these communities far better than we do, to call the shots. ” Read more.


Thank you for your readership in 2019. We look forward to continuing the conversation next year.

Ethan McCoy is senior writer, development and communications, at CEP.

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