Phil Buchanan

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Phil Buchanan is a left-leaning philanthropic officer who works as the president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). An executive at CEP since its founding in 2001, Buchanan is also the author of Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count. He also co-hosts a podcast, also named Giving Done Right. In 2008, Buchanan and Hewlett Foundation vice president Fay Twersky co-founded YouthTruth, a survey and advisory organization that draws analytic data from K-12 students and their parents to inform teaching and classroom policy advocacy. 1


Buchanan has stated that he hopes nonprofits will do more to prioritize climate change initiatives. Citing a survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy in 2016, Buchanan stated he thought the failure to invest in these initiatives comes not from a lack of interest, but from the tendency of non-profits to focus on local issues. 2 3

Buchanan has also said that while he generally counsels nonprofits to be transparent about donations and recipients, “there are times where that may not make sense…. Sometimes you have to be realistic about the fact that there are organized interests (including political actors and those supported by the fossil-fuel industry) that are opposing you and your philanthropic strategy.” This comment followed an announcement by Laurene Powell Jobs in September 2021 pledging $3.5 billion in grants to groups working on climate change and its impact on “underserved communities.” The grants are set to be disbursed over a ten-year period through the Emerson Collective (also known as the Waverly Street Foundation). Jobs and Emerson Collective had drawn criticism over lack of disclosure of the funds’ recipients. 4

Buchanan also spoke out against NPX, a for-profit company founded by Lindsay Beck and Catarina Schwab that will allow individuals to make donor pledges, but also allows investors to earn a return if the recipient organization meets its financial goals. Buchanan stated, “I don’t know why any nonprofit would want to be on the receiving end of this arrangement,” saying that these types of philanthropic vehicles are unnecessary, and that philanthropic impact cannot be measured in the same way it is measured in the business sector. 5

Criticism of Philanthropy Critics

Philanthropy Roundtable

In 2021, Phil Buchanan wrote an op-ed for Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) criticizing the philanthropic coalition Philanthropy Roundtable. Philanthropy Roundtable president and CEO Elise Westhoff had publicly complained about “woke philanthropy,” that she argued “creates a system of victims and oppressors” and a culture of social gatekeeping about which organizations receive funding and which do not. These statements resulted in an increase in donations, but also caused some members to withdraw, including some members of the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE). 6

In his op-ed, entitled “Backlash: A Sharp Right Turn by a Philanthropy Membership Organization,” Buchanan wrote that these opinions were sparked by riots related to the death of George Floyd, and accused Westhoff and others of “stoking fear” and “sowing division.” He specifically disputed Westoff’s assertion that an overemphasis on “racial equity” resulted in a tendency to ignore impoverished whites in rural areas. 7

Anand Giridharadas

In a 2019 op-ed for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Phil Buchanan took issue with contemporary criticisms of philanthropy, and especially criticized Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. Buchanan praised Giridharadas for his sharing his skepticism of the “business-to-the-rescue” approach to philanthropy, espoused for example by the Aspen Institute. However, he criticized Giridharadas’ assertion that philanthropy is often cynically used to polish the image of those who have been accused of unscrupulous business dealings, calling him “irresponsible.” In the same op-ed Buchanan called for increased taxation of the wealthy. 8


  1. “Phil Buchanan.” Center for Effective Philanthropy. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  2. Rendon, Jim. “Study: Only 2% of Global Giving Goes to Curb Climate Change.” Associated Press. October 21, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  3. Buchanan, Phil. “Commentary: Humanity-5 Hopes for the Future.” NonProfit Times.” January 5, 2022. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  4. Hadero, Haleluya. “Who Will Get Powell Jobs’s $3.5 Billion Gift for Climate Work?” October 18, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  5.  “Can Investors and Donors Co-exist While Nonprofits Thrive?” Nonprofit Times. January 26, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  6. Rendon, Jim. “The Philanthropy Roundtable’s CEO Opposes Woke Philanthropy…” Chronicle of Philanthropy. September 8, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  7. Buchanan, Phil. “Backlash: A Sharp Right Turn by a Philanthropy Membership Organization.” CEP. May 26, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  8. Buchanan, Phil. “Critiques of Philanthropy are Important, but Some Have Entered the Realm of the Absurd.” Chronicle of Philathropy. May 20, 2019. Accessed April 4, 2022.
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