|Uncovering the Youth's Truth: Piloting a "Beneficiary Perception Report" with the Gates Foundation
CEP is piloting an effort to understand the perspectives of students in 20 high schools funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program, dubbed YouthTruth, includes a kick-off school assembly that demonstrates to students the power of their voice, followed by a 27-question online survey that students complete in the weeks following the assembly.
The kick-off assembly uses handheld voting technology and is facilitated by staff from AmericaSpeaks, which is partnering with CEP on this effort. A video produced by MTV, featuring hip-hop icon Sway, helps students understand the process – and why it matters.
The online survey, developed by CEP, seeks to understand how students feel about a range of issues including: the level of rigor and relevance of their academic instruction, the degree to which they are connected to adults at school, and whether students feel motivated, supported, and prepared for their future. Results from the survey of nearly 7,000 students will be analyzed by CEP staff and comparative Beneficiary Perception Reports will be prepared for each of the participating schools, as well as for the Gates Foundation.
The launch of this pilot initiative follows a six-month planning process guided by an advisory board of Gates education grantees, Gates program staff, and outside experts. In that planning process, CEP studied other efforts by foundations and nonprofits to gather beneficiary feedback, examining in particular the various student surveys that are conducted throughout school districts and cities in the U.S.
Fay Twersky, Director of Impact Planning and Improvement at the Gates Foundation, describes the initiative as an exciting opportunity to bring student voices closer to the Foundation. "The Gates Foundation is interested in hearing more directly from the ultimate 'consumers' of our granting programs. Through this pilot, we hope to learn about the possibilities for collecting honest, rigorous, and actionable feedback which both the foundation and our grantees can use for purposes of improvement.""
Valerie Threlfall, who directs CEP’s West Coast office, is leading the work for CEP, and overseeing a team of research analysts. “This is the most ambitious effort we know of to help a foundation systematically understand the perspectives of the intended beneficiaries of its work. We hope to distill the lessons learned from this pilot so that other foundations can also think about how to benefit from hearing the voices of those they seek to help.”
CEP’s Board of Directors carefully considered whether to conduct the pilot at its September meeting and voted unanimously to proceed. “It’s an experiment,” says CEP President Phil Buchanan. “Over the past eight years, CEP has brought rigorous comparative data to foundations to help them understand the perspectives of grantees, applicants, policymakers, thought leaders, board members, and staff. How could we not at least try to uncover the views of those who are arguably the most important of all – the people whose lives a foundation seeks to improve?”
The pilot will be completed this summer. Staff from the Gates Foundation and CEP will then work together to publish a report on lessons learned and to consider whether and how to build on the pilot.
Twersky and Threlfall will discuss progress on the YouthTruth initiative at CEP’s March 31 – April 1 conference in Los Angeles.
Limited Space Left for March 31 – April 1 Conference
Fewer than 30 slots remain for CEP's March 31 – April 1 conference for foundation CEOs, trustees, and senior executives. Register now at www.regonline.com/CEP09 to reserve your space.
The conference, Aligning for Impact: Connecting the Dots, focuses on the challenge of using limited resources for maximum positive impact. Jim Collins, bestselling author of Good to Great and Built to Last, is the keynote speaker.
Other confirmed speakers include CEP Board Chair Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Carol Larson, President and CEO, David and Lucile Packard Foundation; Nancy Roob, President of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation; Bob Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment; and Jim Berk, CEO of Participant Media, which produced the movies An Inconvenient Truth, Fast Food Nation, Syriana, The Kite Runner, and Charlie Wilson's War.
Also among the speakers are CEP staff Kevin Bolduc, Phil Buchanan, Ellie Buteau, PhD, and Lisa Jackson, PhD, who will share results from CEP's latest research and assessment tool work.
The conference is co-sponsored by Southern California Grantmakers and San Diego Grantmakers and supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the California Community Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, and The California Endowment. The Stupski Foundation is supporting Jim Collins' appearance.
Tough times mean
tough choices …
but you can’t make
without good data.
Learn how CEP's assessment tools can help you make use of limited resources. The next tool deadline is April 9th.
Grantee Perception Report®
Applicant Perception Report
Comparative Board Report
Staff Perception Report
Stakeholder Assessment Report
Operational Benchmarking Report
Multidimensional Assessment Process
New Report Documents Impact of Grantee Perception Report
A new report from San Francisco-based LaFrance Associates (LFA) documents the impact of CEP's Grantee Perception Report (GPR). The report, which was commissioned by CEP, demonstrates that more than 90 percent of foundations that commission a GPR make changes as a result, in areas such as communication with grantees, foundation strategy, and the performance of particular foundation staff members.
LFA's report, which is based on an annual survey of foundations that have commissioned the GPR, shows that foundations are extremely satisfied with the GPR and see it as an excellent value relative to its cost. Moreover, the report, which can be downloaded from CEP's Web site, shows that foundations that repeat the GPR process find it even more valuable the second time, and are more satisfied with their experiences.
"These findings are extremely gratifying," says CEP Vice President – Assessment Tools Kevin Bolduc. "They demonstrate the power of the GPR to fuel change, especially when it is conducted on a regular basis."
None of Your Business: CEP's Buchanan Takes on Corporate Leaders who Say Business Has All the Answers
In an opinion piece in the Financial Times published last month, CEP President Phil Buchanan takes on business leaders such as Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch for suggesting that the for-profit sector has some special claim on effectiveness. "If the collapse and near-collapse of companies from Lehman Brothers to Chrysler remind us of anything, it is that ‘business' isn't synonymous with ‘rigor' or effectiveness," writes Buchanan.
Buchanan takes issue with the argument that the key to nonprofit success lies simply in emulating for-profits. "The characterizations of the nonprofit and business sectors as diametrically opposed on the effectiveness spectrum – and the tendency to play down the very real differences between the challenges of making money for shareholders and making a positive social impact – are not accurate or helpful."
While acknowledging that there are important lessons to be learned across the sectors, in both directions, Buchanan argues that "the distinctiveness of the nonprofit sector matters." He points out that some of the issues nonprofits seek to address are ones corporations helped create in the first place in their quest for profits and cautions against the "blurring of the boundaries" between the sectors. "I think we're better off with some clarity on the distinction."
"I would be the first to agree that the nonprofit sector needs to step up its effectiveness, just as business and government needs to step up theirs," Buchanan writes, noting that this is what the Center for Effective Philanthropy is focused on. But, he argues, the nonprofit sector has an important and distinct role, and needs to more forcefully stake its claim to concepts like strategy and performance measurement.
Buchanan makes similar points in a piece in Independent Sector's January Memo to Members and in an October 2008 review of the new book Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Since joining CEP as its first executive director in 2001, Buchanan has been arguing for creating a "language of assessment" that is particular to foundations and cautioning against simply importing business frameworks to the nonprofit sector. In CEP's first report Toward a Common Language, in 2002, Buchanan wrote of the need to "begin to forge a common language that will permit foundations to learn from each other's experiences."
In a 2005 speech at CEP's conference, Buchanan called on foundations to develop a "new language of assessment … that is particular to foundations" and to recognize that, "unlike in business, there is no universal measure of return for foundations."
"Beware of those in business who proffer frameworks promising easy answers to complex challenges," Buchanan wrote in the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2006. "Like the first model of a new car, these frameworks often seem better at first glance than they do when the rubber meets the road and the defects become all too apparent."
About this Newsletter
Effective Matters is a quarterly newsletter
published by the Center
for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), a nonprofit organization
focused on the development of comparative data to enable higher-performing
foundations. CEP's mission is to
provide data and create insight so philanthropic funders can
better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness and impact.
If you have questions about this newsletter
or would like general information about CEP and its activities,
please contact Kathryn Sherman at 617-492-0800 ext. 230.
Permission to use, copy, and/or distribute
this document in whole or in part for noncommercial purposes
without fee is hereby granted, provided that this notice and
appropriate credit to the Center for Effective Philanthropy
is included in all copies.