Foundation CEOs Split On Impact Of Trump

More than one-third (35 percent) of foundation CEOs anticipate making changes to their grant-making budgets in light of the election of President Donald J. Trump. Just one percent of them anticipate reducing grant-making, while 14 percent indicated that their grant-making budgets will increase. One-fifth (20 percent) of executives do not plan to change the amount in their grant-making budgets, but plan to allocate funds differently across program areas. Nearly two-fifths (38 percent) will not change their foundations’ grant-making budgets, while 27 percent stated that it is too early to tell what will be done.

“Shifting Winds: Foundations Respond to a New Political Context,” a report by The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), included survey results from 162 foundation CEOs whose organizations grant at least $5 million annually. The survey was conducted between Feb. 21 and March 10. Nearly half (48 percent) of foundation leaders believed that achieving organizational goals had gotten harder one month into Trump’s administration. By comparison, 3 percent reported that they expected a positive effect under Trump and 24 percent stated that they anticipated a mix of good and bad.

Respondents also dug into potential challenges and opportunities under Trump’s administration. In responding to open-ended questions within the survey, 53 percent identified challenges in progressing toward foundation goals under Trump’s administration, 50 percent identified opportunities, and 33 percent identified neither. Of those who identified challenges, more than one-third cited administration positions that are at odds with those of the foundation.

“Name the issue. [The administration has] created a cultural context that is significantly more hostile to goals around social equity and justice,” responded one CEO. “They plan to gut federal agencies and budgets that protect our environment and natural resources. They are looking to block grants and slash social services critical to children and families in need. In essence, every aspect of our work just got exponentially more difficult.”

Among the 50 percent of CEOs who see opportunity under Trump, engagement and activism resulting from the election were most frequently mentioned. “There has been a notable increase in the civic activism we are seeing in communities. This is a source of strength for our agenda,” wrote one CEO.

More than one-quarter (28 percent) of CEOs reported that their foundations plan to modify at least one programmatic goal in response to Trump’s administration. Such changes include targeting areas in need of capacity building such as safety-net funding or supporting low-income students in rural areas. Another 36 percent of CEOs stated that they are or are planning to modify at least one programmatic strategy. Such changes might include increased efforts to make progress on the state as opposed to national level and to plan to be on the defensive more often.

Even if many executives do not plan to shift in budget, focus, or strategy, two-thirds of CEOs replied that they plan to increase foundational emphasis in at least one practice. Among the most common practices cited were collaborating with other funders (46 percent), advocating public policy at the state level (45 percent), advocating public policy at the local level (43 percent), and convening grantees (42 percent). “We’ll be doing more investments in tandem with other foundations to pursue discrete goals,” wrote one CEO.

For more information on the survey, visit www.effectivephilanthropy.org.