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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Giving Effectively More Difficult Than Getting, Expert Says

One of the world’s leading experts on philanthropy, Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of the book Giving Done Right, joined me to share insights about philanthropy. His fundamental premise is that giving effectively is more difficult than getting money for most philanthropists.

He first notes that while the nonprofit sector is much maligned–perhaps because there are still problems in the world–it’s work is both important and generally effective. Philanthropy is different from investing–in many ways more difficult–and requires a unique set of skills. He also argues that nonprofits must by their nature collaborate rather than compete.

Tune in to watch the entire interview in the video player at the top of this article.

Interview with Phil Buchanan, the President of Center for Effective Philanthropy.

The following is the pre-interview with Phil Buchanan. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

Three key observations about philanthropy:

1: Despite the fact that it is often wrongly described as broken, the American nonprofit sector and the giving that support it is a defining — and under-appreciated — strength of this country. It fuels our democracy and has contributed to great progress — in civil rights, in global health, and in supporting a vibrant arts and culture landscape in many communities, to name just a few examples. We should not take giving and nonprofits for granted, but we often do.

2: Giving is not like investing and should, instead, be seen as its own unique discipline. Everything — from strategy to performance assessment — is more complex in philanthropy than it is in the world of business.

3: Effective giving requires a rejection of a focus on “uniqueness” that is common in the world of business. Whereas in business, you want your strategy to be yours alone, in giving if your strategy is yours alone, it will fail.

The book:

More about Center for Effective Philanthropy:

Twitter: @CEPData



Nonprofit organization focused on the development of data and insight to enable higher-performing foundations and individual donors. 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. We do this through rigorous research, assessment and advisory services, and our programming.

Phil Buchanan. Photo Credit: Charis Loh

Phil Buchanan’s bio:

Twitter: @philxbuchanan


Phil Buchanan, president of CEP, is a passionate advocate for the importance of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector and deeply committed to the cause of helping foundations and individual donors to maximize their impact. Hired in 2001 as the organization’s first chief executive, Phil has led the growth of CEP into the leading provider of data and insight on philanthropic effectiveness. CEP has been widely credited with bringing the voices of stakeholders to funders and with contributing to an increased emphasis on clear goals, coherent strategies, disciplined implementation, and relevant performance indicators.

Phil is author of the forthcoming book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, to be published by Public Affairs, an imprint of Hachette, in spring 2019. He is co-author of many CEP research reports, a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and a frequent blogger for the CEP Blog. Phil is also co-founder of YouthTruth, an initiative of CEP’s designed to harness student perceptions to help educators and funders accelerate improvements in K–12 schools and classrooms. He holds an MBA from Harvard University and received his undergraduate degree in Government from Wesleyan University. He has been recognized seven times as among the Nonprofit Times “power and influence top 50” – most recently in 2018. In 2016 he was named the Nonprofit Times “influencer of the year.” Phil serves on the board of directors of Philanthropy Massachusetts.

Phil was born in Toronto, grew up in Oregon, and currently lives in Lexington, MA.

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