Fast Forward: Phil Buchanan on Effective Practice in Philanthropy

May 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.09.07 PMThe newest edition of MCF’s Fast Forward series is out!

In this episode, our president Trista Harris speaks with Phil Buchanan, president of The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). CEP is a nonprofit that helps foundations assess and improve their effectiveness and performance. Phil identifies the four components to effective practice as:

  • Clear goals
  • Coherent strategies
  • Disciplined implementation
  • Relevant performance indicators

Phil and Trista discuss the challenges foundations face in receiving honest feedback, tools CEP has developed to address those challenges, and his advice to foundations interested in becoming more effective organizations:

Read the transcript of the interview on our website, then stop by the Fast Forward main page to catch last month’s interview with Margaret A. Cargill Foundation’s Mark Lindberg if you missed it!



Foundations Have Room for Improvement in Supporting Nonprofit Assessment

March 20, 2013

ladybugThe Center for Effective Philanthropy’s (CEP’s) recent report Room for Improvement: Foundation Support for Nonprofit Performance Assessment reverses the usual dynamic of grantmakers evaluating nonprofit effectiveness to focus on how well grantmakers support their nonprofit partners in assessment. The title of the report conveys the authors’ assessment of the current situation: grantmakers have room for improvement in this area. Key findings:

  • Nonprofits care about performance measurement, but don’t necessarily have the organizational capacity to spend much of their time dedicated to it. Many want more help from grantmakers in assessing their progress than they’re currently receiving.
  • Most nonprofits don’t receive any financial or non-monetary support for assessment from funders. Moreover, there is little discussion about assessment happening between nonprofits and funders.
  • Nonprofits perceive that foundations prioritize gathering performance assessment information for their own needs over helping their grantees gather this type of information for their benefit. Relatedly, funders have the opportunity to be more consistent in the types of information they seek from their grantees.

The report notes, “Our research — this report and our earlier work on foundation performance assessment — highlights a disturbing disconnect between the perceptions of funders and grantees when it comes to nonprofit performance assessment. Foundation leaders say that nonprofits need to be doing more and better work to assess their performance, but nonprofit leaders report high levels of effort and care being devoted to performance assessment at their organizations.” To bridge the gap between nonprofit and grantmaker perceptions about performance assessment, grantmakers can:

  • Provide support — financial and non-monetary — for assessment activities. Spend time discussing assessment with grantees.
  • Focus on working with nonprofits to identify the measures that will help them most effectively assess their own performance.

Join the conversation: Grantmakers, how do you support nonprofit assessment at your grantees? Nonprofits, what is your experience with performance assessment?

– Anne Bauers, MCF research manager 

(Editor’s note: this is Anne’s last day at MCF, as she departs to become a full-time graduate student. Best wishes, Anne!)

The Key to Job Satisfaction for Foundation Staff

December 20, 2012

SE_CEPWorking at a foundation is often considered a prestigious, influential role, with job openings few and far between. (Only about 1,100 people total are employed at all of MCF’s member foundations.) Perhaps because of this, we don’t often hear about the job satisfaction of these foundation employees.

That changes with a new report from The Center for Effective Philanthropy. The report argues that we should pay more attention to this question, as more satisfied foundation staff will achieve better results and form better relationships with their grantees and community partners.

CEP’s report produced a clear finding: foundation staff members are most satisfied when they feel empowered in their work. The employees who were satisfied in their jobs spoke in glowing terms about a supportive work environment and opportunities to grow, while those who were dissatisfied said they felt undervalued and untrusted. This mattered much more than other factors such as perception of pay or workload.

Factors that influence this feeling of empowerment include staff believing that:

  • Management communicates a clear direction for the future.
  • The work they do is aligned well with the rest of the organization.
  • The foundation is devoted to its employees
  • Performance reviews are fair and helpful.

Read CEP’s full report for more, including case studies from two foundations that received particularly high marks for the job satisfaction of their employees.