Top 10 Most-Read CEP Blog Posts of 2020

Ethan McCoy

Unprecedented. Uniquely challenging. Tumultuous. Uncertain. There’s been no shortage of buzzwords to describe 2020 that we are all sick of hearing.

Whatever language you use to describe this year, the crises of 2020 have demanded philanthropy to rethink norms, change practices, and examine deeply the ways in which values and actions align. In this new context, as funders have faced urgent decisions about how they can be most effective and responsive right now — decisions about increasing payout, listening to grantees and the communities they serve, and centering equity more purposefully in their work — we at CEP have sought to provide timely guidance and insight, from our staff and from leaders throughout the field, through the CEP blog.

Here are the 10 most-read CEP blog posts of 2020:

1. race, equity, and unavoidable challenges in philanthropy by Phil Buchanan

“If you want to make a meaningful difference in response to the COVID-19 crisis, it literally can’t happen without equity at the forefront. Because of the starkly disproportionate impacts of this crisis, decisions about where to allocate resources must be informed by deep understanding of those inequities and their histories.” Read more.

2. foundations, act on what you can control to confront racism by anthony richardson

“Any effort to build race consciousness within an organization should be owned and driven by everyone in the organization, from the mailroom to the boardroom.” Read more.

3. funders, the time is now to talk recession-planning with grantees by ethan mccoy

“Given their ability to draw from endowments and help offset reductions in individual contributions, government grants, or other earned revenue that a grantee may be experiencing, foundations have the unique potential to be a countercyclical force in a downturn.” Read more.

4. essential questions for foundation boards in a time of crisis by anne wallestad

“There’s no question: significantly increasing payout is a big decision. It’s a decision that gets at the heart of who you are as a foundation and an institution. It’s driven by your reason for being, your philanthropic goals, your strategy, and your institutional values. And it is for all of those reasons that it’s not just a big decision; more specifically, it’s a big board decision.” Read more.

5. fulfilling philanthropy’s covid-19 pledge: Listening in a time of crisis by valerie threlfall, melinda tuan, and fay twersky

“As we have written before, the rhetoric about listening often outpaces actual practice. And now, when stress is so high and with so many competing demands on individuals, organizations, and communities, making the effort to listen may seem like a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have.’ But we believe listening to all voices — especially voices least heard — is essential, particularly as funders seek to inform effective responses to the many requests coming their way.” Read more.

6. the urgency of trust-based philanthropy by john esterle

“What do we prioritize and value? If a core value is building trusting relationships, how do we best embody that? If we want a culture that centers equity and humanity, then we recognize those values as foundational elements of great work and we build our organizations and conceptualize our roles in ways that are anchored in them. Everything else is informed and designed from that foundation. This applies no matter how big or small a foundation you have.” Read more.

7. what will it take for philanthropy to trust? by lisa jackson

“We in philanthropy really need to sit with and deeply understand our lack of trust in those with whom we seek to partner to change the world. We need to do absolutely all we can to build trust — not just so that we trust others, but so that others can trust us. Until then, no change will come.” Read more.

8. looking back, looking forward part 1: business knows best…or not by phil buchanan

“Strategy in philanthropy is about collaborative dynamics, not competitive ones, and therefore must be shared across organizational boundaries, rather than guarded closely as ‘unique’ to a particular funder.” Read more.

9. philanthropy’s privilege and rethinking risk by Leaha wynn

“Foundations have been described over the years as providers of necessary risk capital, society’s passing gear, or necessary fuel for social innovators. But what does that look like in 2020? Are funders truly behaving in this way, or are they, as Vu Le fears, complicit in a system dominated by the values of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous description of ‘white moderates,’ where decision makers are ‘more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice?’ Has philanthropy’s modus operandi become more accountable to the avoidance of risk than to ushering in potential change?” Read more.

10. supporting our unsung heroes in a moment of crisis: part 1 by phil buchanan

“I have heard lots of talk in the last week — and I agree with it — of the importance of recognizing the privilege some of us have in this moment. Of remembering that not everyone can work from home, and that those in the gig economy are already getting slammed by the economic slowdown. Of all the ways the most vulnerable stand to suffer disproportionately in the coming weeks, months, and possibly longer. So, what can we do? We can help those who are working most directly with and for those populations.” Read more.

Thank you for your readership this year. We look forward to continuing the conversation — in pursuit of a better, more equitable, new normal (to use another buzzword) — in 2021.

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

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