Center For Effective Philanthropy Inc

aka CEP   |   Cambridge, MA   |


CEP provides data, feedback, programs, and insights to help individual and institutional donors improve their effectiveness. We do this work because we believe effective donors, working collaboratively and thoughtfully, can profoundly contribute to creating a better and more just world. CEP serves philanthropic funders across the United States and globally.

Ruling year info



Mr. Phil Buchanan

Main address

675 Massachusetts Ave 7th Floor

Cambridge, MA 02139 USA

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NTEE code info

Philanthropy / Charity / Voluntarism Promotion (General) (T50)

Management & Technical Assistance (R02)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (T05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Foundations and major donors can take on pressing challenges that other actors in society cannot, or will not. Given this unique opportunity, they have a moral imperative to maximize their effectiveness. Living up to that imperative requires these foundations, major donors, and philanthropic actors to assess their performance, gathering the relevant data to fuel continuous improvement. For more than a decade, CEP has led the movement to improve philanthropy through a powerful combination of dispassionate analysis and a passionate commitment to improving lives. Today, more than 300 foundations and philanthropic entities have used CEP’s assessments to gather honest feedback from their stakeholders in an effort to learn how to be even more effective.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?


CEP’s research projects delve into the issues that are central to funder effectiveness, examining common practice and challenging conventional wisdom. Our research is informed by rigorous quantitative analysis of our large-scale comparative data sets, as well as by in-depth qualitative data. 

CEP’s research brings data and insight to bear on pressing challenges related to foundation effectiveness. CEP’s Research Team focuses on executing research that meets the highest standards of rigor and utility. Our publications ( are trusted resources that guide practice among foundation leaders and staff.

Research is supported through grant funding from general operating support funders as well as foundations providing project support.

Research initiatives currently underway include: an analysis of what drives community foundation donor satisfaction; a examination of the relationship between foundation staff perceptions and grantee perceptions; a look at how nonprofits obtain beneficiary feedback – and whether and how they share it with their funders.

As of 2015, CEP is a Charter Member and the first research organization focused on the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to join the Transparency Initiative, a program developed by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the leading organization of public opinion and survey research professionals in the U.S. progress is the only way to know whether a strategy is working.

Population(s) Served

CEP’s rigor, insight, benchmarking, and interactive online reports lead to real change and improvement at foundations.

Hundreds of funders of every type and size have used CEP’s assessments and comparative data to make the best choices about how to use their resources to create impact.

CEP’s assessment tools give individual funders comparative data drawn from anonymous surveys of key groups that are often not in the position to provide candid feedback. These include:

· Grantees

· Declined applicants

· Stakeholders

· Staff

· Board members

Our tools help funders gauge their performance relative to peer foundations on a range of crucial dimensions, such as:

· Quality of interactions

· Clarity of communications of goals and strategies

· Impact on the field

CEP can also provide custom analyses such as comparison to foundations that are similar in key areas such as size or programmatic focus.

The feedback from key constituents not only provides important insights into a foundation’s performance, it expands CEP’s data set, which informs the research we share with the field.

CEP offers the following assessment tools:

Grantee Perception Report® (GPR) provides comparative data on grantee perceptions of foundation performance on a variety of dimensions. The GPR is based on a comprehensive survey of grantees covering issues such as interactions during the grant, the application and reporting processes, and perceived foundation impact.

The Applicant Perception Report (APR) is a companion to the GPR and provides comparative data from surveys of declined grant applicants.

The Staff Perception Report (SPR) explores foundation staff members’ perceptions of foundation effectiveness and job satisfaction on a comparative basis. Staff members answer questions about their impressions of foundation impact, alignment in pursuit of key goals, and opportunities for foundation improvement.

The Donor Perception Report (DPR) helps community foundation leaders understand their donors’ perceptions of their organizations’ strengths and areas that need improvement. The survey is customizable and explores donors’ perceptions of the community foundations to which they contribute.

The Stakeholder Assessment Report (STAR) generates insights about foundation performance based on the perceptions of stakeholders a foundation may seek to influence as part of its strategy – including peer foundations, elected officials, and the media.

Population(s) Served

CEP’s programming aims to help foundations better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness. Through a variety of different formats, we share insight from our research and comparative data sets that enable funders to reflect on the context of their work.

Whether it’s discussing findings from our latest publications in a webinar, presenting our data at external events, or gathering hundreds of foundation executives for our biennial conference, we strive to bring together philanthropic leaders to engage with the most pressing issues facing the field.

Population(s) Served

CEP offers data driven strategic advising to foundations and donors establishing foundations to help them better understand and improve their effectiveness. CEP works with both individual funders and with groups of funders. CEP’s Advisory Services leverages CEP’s deep knowledge about philanthropy and what is important to foundation stakeholders, its proprietary and comparative data sets, and its proven capacity for rigorous and objective analysis to support its clients.

Population(s) Served

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of downloads of the organization's materials and explanations

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program


Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

All CEP research is available for free download at and is tracked via website analysis software.

Number of participants who would recommend program to others

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program


Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success


Context Notes

CEP conducts third party assessments of foundations using CEP's Grantee and Donor Perception Reports. These numbers are the percentage of users who would recommend the tool.

Number of Assessment and Advisory Engagements

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program


Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

This metric reports the number of foundations that commission and assessment or advisory service engagement from CEP during the given year.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The goal of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) is to help philanthropic funders become more effective and thereby increase their impact in the world.CEP's mission is to provide data and create insight so philanthropic funders can better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness - and, as a result, their intended impact. CEP seeks a world in which pressing social needs are more effectively addressed. CEP believes improved performance of philanthropic funders can have a profoundly positive impact on nonprofit organizations and the people and communities they serve. Although its work is about measuring results, providing useful data, and improving performance, CEP's ultimate goal is improving lives. CEP believes this can only be achieved through a powerful combination of dispassionate analysis and passionate commitment to creating a better society.

At the center of CEP's strategy to help funders become more effective is the creation and analysis of data, primarily comparative data, which CEP believes will help them clarify goals, refine strategies, improve implementation, and assess performance. CEP gathers comparative data through surveys of constituent groups of foundations—including grantees, staff members, and donors - as well as qualitative research. Findings drawn from CEP's work are provided to funders using CEP's survey-based assessment tools.

In addition, broadly relevant findings are shared through reports, white papers, webinars, presentations, conferences, media (both mainstream and sector-specific), blog postings, and social media outlets. This information is augmented with research separate from constituent surveys that collects information from foundation leaders. Raising awareness of CEP's work and findings informs conversations about philanthropic effectiveness inside and outside the sector. A critical part of CEP's strategy is to create and maintain a reputation for rigorous credibility and trustworthiness, so that the research findings published by the organization can have maximum impact on the philanthropic sector and the issues and causes foundations seek to affect.

Findings derived from CEP's work have been amplified by a commitment to programming, including presentations, forums, and webinars, as well as a biennial conference that gathers leaders from foundations for a broadly inclusive conversation about the state of research and issues related to foundation effectiveness. CEP's research and knowledge base also informs its advisory services, which help specific funders to overcome key challenges on their path to effectiveness. CEP also pursues its mission through the development of partnerships with other institutions and organizations that are similarly dedicated to making funders more effective.

CEP's ability to advance its strategy is supported in three principal ways: The growing amount of comparative data accrued over more than 15 years through CEP's efforts, which creates a solid foundation for research and analysis. A respected staff with a track record of accomplishment and a highly engaged board of directors that includes leaders in the sector design and drive the work of the organization. The growing list of nearly 300 assessment tool subscribers representing a diverse group of foundations nationally and abroad as well as a committed group of nearly 50 grant funders that provide the necessary funding to support CEP's research, newly developed assessment tools, and general operations. CEP has articulated its work culture in ways that speak to the organization's ability to realize its strategies. In 2016, a cross-organizational task force at CEP, with input from full stuff, crafted a working document articulating CEP's culture. Read the entire document here:

As a result of CEP's own analyses and the work that has been commissioned from LFA Group, CEP has arrived at a number of conclusions about the organization's influence to date. Evidence suggests that foundations that use CEP's tools are changing in ways that are consistent with CEP's logic model. But there is much left for CEP to do to help foundations to achieve their fullest potential. CEP has built a significant record of work with foundations that began with the 100 largest US private and community foundations and has expanded in 10 years to include foundations of widely disparate sizes and types, as well as individual donors. Foundations in England, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and Israel have also used CEP assessment tools. Not all major foundations have made use of CEP assessment tools, and not all foundations that use CEP tools repeat them with a frequency that would maximize their impact—two areas of potential growth where CEP sees important opportunity. CEP has published important research on topics central to foundation effectiveness on topics including foundation-grantee relationships, foundation strategy, and foundation governance, which is considered "required reading" by foundation staff. CEP has the potential to uncover additional groundbreaking insights by analyzing newer comparative datasets that have not yet been analyzed. Highest priorities are beneficiary data and connections in perceptions between a foundation's staff and its grantees, which CEP recently began to analyze. CEP's programming, from conferences to regional speaking engagements to webinars, seeks to respond to the human challenges of moving from data to action. By building a community of foundation leaders committed to working on these issues, CEP creates a positive force that offsets the fear that may inhibit the embrace of goals, strategies, implementation, and indicators. Our audience tells us that they value the opportunity to learn from their colleagues - as well as to seek support as they confront particularly difficult challenges. In addition, CEP has committed itself to creating a community specifically for assessment tool subscribers that can promote the use of findings and insights and increase the impact of the tools and the culture of assessment. Some preliminary steps have been taken in this direction, but the idea of a fully engaged community is an additional challenge and opportunity for CEP.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    CEP serves funders: grantmaking foundations, intermediaries, and individual donors.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    We have convened a learning cohort of Grantee Perception Report users based on feedback and interest from our clients, which met regularly over the course of a year (2020-2021) to learn together and support one another.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners, It's on our website.,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    Funders typically have more power than nonprofits, and all of our assessments, resources, programming, and YouthTruth surveys provide vital feedback loops to help funders listen better and lessen the power dynamics.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback,


Center For Effective Philanthropy Inc

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Center For Effective Philanthropy Inc

Board of directors
as of 1/26/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Tiffany Cooper Gueye

Blue Meridian

Term: 2021 - 2024

Phillip Buchanan

The Center for Effective Philanthropy

Christy Pichel

The Stuart Foundation

Tiffany Cooper Gueye

Blue Meridian Partners

Hilary Pennington

Ford Foundation

Vincent Stehle

Media Impact Funders

Fay Twersky

The Arthur M. Blank Foundation

Paul Beaudet

Wilburforce Foundation

Richard Ober

New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

Kelvin Taketa

Hawai'i Community Foundation

Anthony Richardson

Nord Family Foundation

Stephanie Hull

Girls, Inc.

Grant Oliphant

The Heinz Endowments

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 05/28/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 05/28/2020

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.