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What Donors Value: How Community Foundations Can Increase Donor Satisfaction, Referrals, and Future Giving

To better understand how community foundations can best respond to the current environment, CEP asked donors about how satisfied they are with the community foundations with which they work. What matters most to them? What do these donors want from their community foundations? The research reveals that donor satisfaction is vital for community foundations. Donors who are more satisfied with their community foundation are more likely to indicate that they plan to continue giving and more likely to recommend the foundation to others. The data also show that the strongest predictors of donor satisfaction are donors’ sense of the foundation’s Read more







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Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices

For foundations, there are lots of questions to reflect on when thinking about which evaluation practices best align with their strategy, culture, and mission. How much should a foundation invest in evaluation? What can they do to ensure that the information they receive from evaluation is useful to them? With whom should they share what they have learned? Considering these numerous questions in light of benchmarking data about what other foundations are doing can be informative and important. Developed in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI), Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practicesis the most comprehensive data collection effort to date Read more





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The Future of Foundation Philanthropy: The CEO Perspective

At a time of growing concern over issues like inequality and access to education, increasing anxiety about climate change, and rising levels of distrust in institutions, foundation leaders are considering their role in addressing society’s challenges. When they look in the mirror and reflect on the current state of foundation philanthropy and the future ahead, are they pleased with what they see? Based on the perspectives of more than 200 foundation CEOs collected through in-depth interviews and responses to a survey from May to June of 2016, The Future of Foundation Philanthropy: The CEO Perspective captures foundation leaders’ views on Read more





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Benchmarking Foundation Governance

On a typical foundation board, what are its members’ most common areas of expertise? How common is it for an original donor — or a family member — to sit on a board? To what extent are board members involved in grantmaking? There are lots of questions out there about foundation governance. Yet there has been little data about foundation boards’ structures and practice. In surveying foundation CEOs as part of a larger benchmarking study, CEP worked closely with BoardSource to design and include questions related to governance to collect and bring to light new data on foundation boards. Benchmarking Read more





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Big Issues, Many Questions

What it takes for a foundation to be effective is difficult to master, yet timeless. At the same time, however, there are current trends that foundation leaders and boards must pay attention to if they want to be as effective as possible. In this essay, Big Issues, Many Questions, CEP President Phil Buchanan explores the five most pressing issues facing U.S. foundations in 2016. From growing dissatisfaction with the so-called establishment to embracing collaboration and aligned action, these are the trends that foundation CEOs and boards cannot overlook or ignore.





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Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) examined the perspectives of foundation CEOs and learned that there is much agreement on the audiences for their transparency efforts. Foundation CEOs also agree about what they believe is the most important information to share with those audiences. Foundation CEOs’ views on transparency, which largely match those of grantees, focus on the substance of their work, as opposed to financial disclosures or governance practices. However, foundation practice lags behind CEOs’ beliefs, especially in the area of sharing information about what works. Those who view transparency as unequivocally positive argue that transparency allows foundations to gain Read more





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Investing and Social Impact: Practices of Private Foundations

There’s been a lot of discussion about aligning investment practices and mission at foundations, but to what extent are foundations engaging in practices like impact investing and negative screening? To dig beneath the talk and better understand the current state of practice at large private foundations, CEP surveyed CEOs at those foundations to learn more. Analysis of responses from 64 chief executives suggests that the rhetoric seems to be outpacing the reality.





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Working Well With Grantees

CEP’s research shows that program officers can be the distinguishing factor between a foundation that makes a difference—and one that simply makes grants. Working Well With Grantees: A Guide for Foundation Program Staff offers program staff critical guidelines for building better relationships with grantees. The findings and suggestions in the guide are based on data from tens of thousands of surveys of nonprofits conducted by CEP during the past decade. We’ve updated, summarized, or expanded upon findings from six of our publications that focus on how foundations and grantees can best work together. We also share for the first time some new data and analysis Read more





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Beyond Compliance: The Trustee Viewpoint on Effective Foundation Governance

Beyond Compliance is based on the largest-scale research on foundation boards ever conducted and builds off CEP’s earlier governance report, Foundation Governance. This report reveals the foundation trustee perspective on effective governance, which despite the variety in size and function of grantmaking boards, has five essential factors. MORE The report offers data and findings to help trustees and CEOs utilize foundation governance optimally, with information ranging from racial composition of boards to the amount of information board members read.





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A Time of Need: Nonprofits Report Poor Communication and Little Help from Foundations During the Economic Downturn

CEP began asking grantees about their funders’ communications and helpfulness in response to the downturn in the last half of 2009. This report analyzes data gathered from surveys of over 6,000 grantees of 37 foundations.





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Working with Grantees: The Keys to Success and Five Program Officers Who Exemplify Them

Successful foundation-grantee relationships hinge on the prowess of individual program officers, whose abilities may vary widely within a single foundation. This research explores what grantees value in their relationships with program officers and identifies four keys to success. MORE Five high-performing program officers share their stories.







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More Than Money: Making a Difference with Assistance Beyond the Grant

Most of foundations’ efforts to contribute ‘beyond the money’ has little beneficial impact on grantees. More than Money: Making a Difference with Assistance Beyond the Grant reveals that only when foundation staff provide assistance beyond the grant in one of two ways do grantees report a substantially more positive experience with their funders. MORE Three exemplary foundations are profiled: Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Winter Park Health Foundation, and the Wallace Foundation.





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Lessons from the Field: From Understanding to Impact

Three foundations — the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Energy Foundation, and the Wilburforce Foundation — seek to make an impact on some of the most complicated challenges we face: civil rights, renewable energy sources, and wildlife protection. MORE This case study provides an in-depth look at how these foundations cultivate an understanding of their fields and then turn that understanding into more effective grantmaking.





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Indicators of Effectiveness: Understanding and Improving Foundation Performance

Describes current practices in foundation performance assessment and provides a framework for overall performance assessment. MORE Based on CEP’s research during the Foundation Performance Metrics Pilot Study, which included a survey of CEOs of the country’s largest foundations, a survey of grantees of 23 foundations, in-depth interviews with foundation CEOs and trustees, and analysis of publicly available data.











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In Search of Impact: Practices and Perceptions in Foundations’ Provision of Program and Operating Grants to Nonprofit

Informs the debate on operating support with new data about current foundation practices, attitudes underlying those practices, and the impact on grantees of foundation choices. The report explores what motivates foundation CEOs in their decision-making, examining the tension between CEOs’ sense of what is best for their foundations and what they believe will make the most positive impact on grantee organizations. In Search of Impact also probes the grantee perspective through an analysis of thousands of survey responses and a set of interviews with nonprofit leaders, revealing the importance of other grant attributes that have been overshadowed in the debate Read more





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Gill Foundation: Strategically Funding the LGBT Civil Rights Movement

Former Gill Foundation Executive Director Rodger MacFarlane describes Gill’s strategic approach to funding the LGBT civil rights movement. He shares details of the Foundation’s strategic planning process and subsequent restructuring to better serve its grantees and advance its mission.





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Foundation Communications: The Grantee Perspective

Reveals the key components of effective foundation communications with grantees. MORE Based on analyses of thousands of grantee surveys, this issue paper argues for a more holistic approach to foundation communications than is often practiced today. This report highlights best practices and provides practical management implications for foundation leaders.





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Essentials of Foundation Strategy

What separates more strategic foundation leaders from less strategic ones? This research explores the state of strategy at foundations today and identifies behaviors and practices common to more strategic leaders. Case studies and interviews included in the report highlight strategic best practices.