About This Project

About This Project


Project Methodology

As with all our work, we iteratively rely on three circles of evidence — academic research, informed opinion, and field knowledge — to understand philanthropic opportunities that are both evidence-based and actionable. For this guidance, our research began with a review of 71 academic articles on talent and staffing models in philanthropy and adjacent sectors, such as health care and the military, where work involved a mission or nonprofit goal. We also reviewed 145 other sources that included non-academic articles, video interviews of high net worth donors, webinars by philanthropic support organizations, conference participation and proceedings, and materials prepared by consultants and philanthropic advisors.

In addition, we interviewed 32 key individuals, including representatives from academia, philanthropic intermediary organizations, and grant-making philanthropic organizations. Findings from these interviews helped us identify factors that practitioners currently consider when making philanthropic talent decisions.

Four key existing frameworks were identified through the literature review and consistently referenced during exploratory interviews as the current knowledge base for donors on this topic. For a list of these and other key philanthropic strategy resources, please see the Talent for Giving microsite at www.impact.upenn.edu/toolkits/talent-for-giving.

Early versions of our guidance built on this and considered two additional aspects of talent not addressed in the existing frameworks we reviewed. The first is a broader definition of talent beyond hired staff to include contracted talent (e.g., consultants and advisors), peer mentors, co-funders, and the talent that reside in the organizations receiving funding. The second is an explicit discussion of the functions that talent will perform. It is hard to know what talent you need until you know what functions or jobs they will perform.

We tested early versions of our guidance in two separate two-hour focus groups and an in-person convening of 25 participants. In the first setting, academics, principals, foundation staff, and philanthropic intermediaries and consultants provided feedback. In the latter setting, we also gained the perspectives of family foundation heads and principals themselves.

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Separate from the literature reviews and interviews, we also conducted quantitative data analysis to address the practical consideration of how much to spend on compensation for talent. We reviewed Fiscal Year 2016 data from Candid for U.S.-based independent/family, corporate, community foundations in the FC 1000 research set with assets of at least $100 million that file the 990 and 990-PF tax forms. This data set included 119 variables of data for private foundations and 129 variables for public foundations from a total of 628 organizations. CHIP’s Applied Research Team conducted both descriptive inferential analyses to determine average amounts spent on compensation and grant-making factors that may affect that average amount.

In addition to the many individuals who served as key informants for this project, the project team also benefited from the hundreds of conversations our colleagues have had throughout the years with nonprofits and the beneficiaries of philanthropically funded nonprofits. Those perspectives have informed our annual high impact giving guide and our many cause-specific guides on topics such as education, mental health, and disaster response.

Since much of our work relied on the expert perspectives of the interviewees mentioned above, there is additional context representative of the richness of our conversations provided in the end notes of the guide. For example, we have included the assumptions and caveats of our dataset for our Candid data analysis in the endnotes.

An earlier version of this manuscript included composite case examples. Details and themes for these composite case examples were drawn from two sources. The first were conversations and interviews we conducted with over two dozen high net worth donors and the talent they rely on to make decisions and implement their philanthropic activities. Our team then supplemented details and themes from these interactions with other relevant information from publicly available sources. Those case examples provided a useful baseline of current practice. After our case examples were reviewed by a panel of experts, we used them to identify common pitfalls and the practices and resources today’s donors can use to avoid those pitfalls.


  • Brad Aronson, author of HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act At a Time
  • Mrs. Sandra K. Baldino
  • Henry Berman, Exponent Philanthropy
  • Melissa Berman, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
  • Jeff Berstein, The Berstein Family Foundation
  • Matthew Bidwell, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Katie Boland, Delta Fund
  • Tony Bowen, FMA
  • Sarah Haacke Byrd, Women Moving Millions
  • Peter Cappelli, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Theresa Chen, Skoll Foundation
  • Ram Cnaan, University of Pennsylvania School of Policy & Practice
  • Julia Coffman, Center for Evaluation Innovation
  • Phyllis Cook
  • Rebecca Cornejo, Neubauer Family Foundation
  • Alexa Cortés Culwell, Open Impact
  • J.J. Cutler, Heidrick & Struggles
  • Alicia DeSantola, Harvard Business School
  • Suzanne Kennedy, IAC
  • Meghan Duffy, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
  • Julie Fisher Cummings
  • Pam Foster, Co-Impact
  • Stephanie Gillis, Raikes Foundation
  • Efrain Gutierrez, Strategy, Evaluation, and Equity Practitioner
  • Casey Hanewell
  • William Harsh, Whitman Harsh Foundation


  • Erin Hogan, Bank of America
  • Laura Huang, Harvard Business School
  • Rob Kaufold, Hemera Foundation
  • Nelson Lim, Rand Cooporation
  • Katherine Lorenz, Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
  • Richard Marker, Institute for Wise Philanthropy
  • Samantha Matlin, Scattergood Foundation
  • Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Sam Fels Institute
  • Trina Middleton, National Philanthropic Trust
  • Jodi Lee Nelson, Independent Consultant
  • Tracy Mack Parker, Harbor Philanthropy
  • Hilary Pennington, Ford Foundation
  • Leslie Pine, The Philanthropic Initiative
  • Hilary Rhodes, William Penn Foundation
  • Jennifer Hoos Rothberg, Einhorn Collaborative
  • Daphne Rowe, Pembroke Philanthropy Advisors
  • Misti Sangani, Bank of America
  • Sharon Schneider, Integrated Capital Strategies
  • Paul Shoemaker
  • S. Mona Sinha, Women Moving Millions, Fund for Women’s Equality (ERA Coalition)
  • Gabriela Smith, Crimsonbridge Foundation
  • Donna Stark
  • Melissa Stevens, Milken Institute
  • Stephanie Teleki, California Health Care Foundation
  • Daria Torres, Walls Torres Group
  • Michael Weinsten
  • Lowell Weiss, Cascade Philanthropy Advisors