US foundations are changing in response to Trump administration, CEP finds


Amanda Aguilar and Sarah Sabatke


The philanthropy research and consultancy organization, Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), has released a report showing that, of the US foundation CEOs who responded to their survey, almost three quarters have changed or are planning to make changes in their work following  the election of Donald Trump.

The survey, which looked at how foundations are reacting to the new administration, took place between 21 February and 10 March 2017. It gathered data from 162 CEOs of independent and community foundations in the US which make at least $5 million in grants annually.

According to the survey, 53 percent of the CEOs anticipate that the change in presidential administrations will be a challenge in their ability to achieve goals. Slightly more than a third of those anticipating a challenge believe the new administration’s positions are at odds with those of their foundation. The issues of health care, immigration, and the environment were the most frequently mentioned areas of worry.

Some CEOs are anticipating challenges caused by a reduction of federal and state funding for certain social issues, while others cite challenges related to potential changes in tax code that may affect their ability to support grantees.

Half of the foundations also saw opportunities presented by the change in administration, citing increased activism and engagement from President Trump’s election. According to one CEO quoted in the report, ‘This administration is a disaster for essentially every aspect of our agenda, but the very egregiousness of its behaviour is lying the basis for a new social movement . . . There has been a notable increase in the civic activism we are seeing in communities.’

Still, 8 percent of the foundation CEOs feel the new administration will have very limited effect on the ability of their foundation to progress toward its goals.

Additionally, 36 per cent of the CEOs are planning to modify at least one of their programmatic strategies, compared with 33 per cent who plan no changes and 31 per cent who are unsure. One respondent cited that their foundation will likely increase support for immigrant families.

An estimated two-thirds of foundations are increasing their emphases on areas including collaboration with other funders, advocacy and policy at the local and/or state level, and convening grantees. More than 40 per cent are seeking to increase advocacy or policy efforts at the state and/or local level.

This report follows a May 2017 statement from the Council on Foundations, condemning President Trump’s executive order to roll back the Johnson Amendment. While the amendment can only be completely repealed by Congress or through the courts, Trump’s executive order ‘blurs the line between politics and the non-profit sector,’ according to the Council.

Read the full report here.

Amanda Aguilar is a student at the University of California, Davis, and an editorial intern with Alliance.

Sarah Sabatke is a student at the University of Missouri and an editorial intern with Alliance.

Tagged in: Center for Effective Philanthropy Council on Foundations Trump administration

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