As I left Maine, it started to sink in that my tour was nearing the end. I was back on 95. It felt familiar and a little boring. I would zip down to Boston and before long, be home. And as strange as it felt to be living out of my car for the past few months, it felt even stranger to think of not. Endings, especially those belonging to something as epic as this kind of trip, bring relief—right? I was certainly looking forward to scrambling my own eggs, wrinkle-free clothing, and driving without the GPS as chaperone. But as I approached the last official ‘destination’ city, a feeling of loss came creeping in. This trip has been a feat of logistical orchestration. Over the course of ninety-days, I somehow managed to arrange interviews with dozens of individuals, find friends and family across the country to host me, feed myself, clothe myself and get myself from one place to the next in a punctual manner. Life, for these few months, was an adventure (albeit one heavily supported by a Blackberry). And it was winding down to a quiet finale.
Because of timing constraints, I had time for only one interview in Boston before I needed to get back to New York. Thankfully, the mysterious forces (Brooks Foehl, John Noble, and a bunch of helpful friends) that have guided my on this trip, did me right. I met Kevin Bolduc ’99 in the Cambridge offices of his non-profit, The Center For Effective Philanthropy, to talk about the good work that he and his organization do.
Kevin articulates the landscape of philanthropy as artfully as someone who’s been in the business for (almost) ten years could…He tells me that giving money away is great, of course, but the foundations that give away the majority of that money, are a somewhat interesting species. “There’s no pressure for a foundation to do anything that it doesn’t want to do. They exist in perpetuity. They’re not regulated by the government, except that they have to give away 5% annually. They’ve got no customers, no political imperative because no one elects them, and no competition.” So basically, all of the normal forces in our society that make someone good at what they do are absent. That’s where CEP steps in. Their mission is to help funders define, assess and improve their performance. In other words, they help foundations understand if they’re actually achieving what theywant to achieve. And the way they do that is by developing assessment tools that can bring comparative data to the world of philanthropy. The organization is only ten years old, but already they’ve earned a reputation for outstanding work.
Before arriving at CEP, Kevin was a consultant at The Parthenon Group. He was on his way (or so he thought) to business school, before getting involved with CEP. He thought it’d just be a one-year stint, a way to get some practice building a business while he applied to schools. But he found the work so interesting that he never left. When I asked Kevin for advice for recent graduates, his thoughts come from his own experience: “Always be on the lookout. And be ready to change. Ifinally found something interesting but only after being willing to jettison the preconceived notions I had of what I was going to do.”