PF Whiteboard

Crowd Sourced Annual Review

As you probably know, we are a small shop and both relatively new to foundation work. There are many advantages to this situation. There are a few downsides too.

One downside is that it’s harder to get regular feedback from different perspectives on how I’m doing as a developing foundation professional. So I want to attempt to crowd source my own annual review. I’m hoping this will provide feedback on a variety of the roles I find myself playing, from all different angles.

If we worked together, interacted or you’ve observed me working at a conference, event, etc during 2010, I’d like to hear from you. The only stipulation is that you provide at least one thing I should keep doing that you saw in 2010 and one thing you suggest I should work on/try in 2011. Please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section, or if you’re more comfortable emailing them then send to jessamynATpeeryfoundationDOTorg.

Many thanks, in anticipation of you taking time to do this. It will be a great way for me to figure out what I can work on during 2011 to be better at what we do.


Wow.  Don’t know whether I would love this idea or hate it.  You’re braver than me. 

Are you an introvert or extrovert?  I’m guessing that you are an introvert that can compensate well.  I’m similar, and that means that I have to set up intentionally public forums and meetings or else I don’t talk to anyone.  If my analysis is correct, you could do more of that.

I haven’t seen a lot of you aside from in these public forums.  What you do well is combine friendliness and obvious intelligence.  This is a very tricky combination that most people can’t master, but you seem to do it naturally well.

Sean Foote, 09:16AM / Jan 04, 2011

I think your analysis is pretty spot on, Sean. An introvert who has figured out a few ways to compensate.

The idea of intentionally public forums is an interesting one. I highly enjoyed and learned a lot from the different groups I was part of at the Opportunity Collaboration. As I am most comfortable in a one-on-one conversation, it pushed me to think about what kind of group structures I both operate and learn best within.

Definitely something I’ll be consciously working on this year. Many thanks!

Jessamyn Lau, 09:35AM / Jan 04, 2011

Prompt response is a forte.  When issues have arisen on projects over the past few months, I’ve been impressed that I only have to wait minutes to receive an email or call.

Being open to, and endorsing some of my ridiculous ideas may be a weakness.

Most of my interaction has been on pilot, or pilot-like programs.  Expectations have been clear from the student-Peery perspective, but less so on the student-grantee front.  Providing more moderation in the establishment of expectations would make that which is already great, even better.

Dusty Hulet, 09:46AM / Jan 04, 2011

Kudos for this, Jess :)

My two cents:

To keep doing: learn out loud.

To try in 2011: blog more deeply about the questions you’re holding as you engage in the practice of foundation-ship. There’s a difference between “this is what I know, what do you think?” posts and “these are some questions I’m noodling on, do they mean something to you, too?” perhaps sharing drafts with grantees and weaving in a layer of their questions, too…

Christine Egger, 09:52AM / Jan 04, 2011

Thanks, Dusty.

I appreciate you being candid about establishing expectations with all parties we co-create pilot programs with. In a similar way to how I think a regular annual review works, in the back of my brain I was aware of this being something I should work on, but you pointing it out gives this point the emphasis that will ensure it really is something that will be done in 2011.

Jessamyn Lau, 09:58AM / Jan 04, 2011


Luckily (or not), most of the time I can not help but learn out loud. It’s rarely learned if I don’t. And I like your suggestions around blogging. It does sometimes feel like a blog has to be polished and have a conclusion in order to hit ‘post’. But you’re absolutely right, valuable conversations are much more likely to come out of questions at their very beginning. I’ll work on it. Keep me posted on how we’re doing -you’ve just nominated yourself to be my noodling-coach :)

Thank you!

Jessamyn Lau, 10:13AM / Jan 04, 2011

A better understanding of your role and domain of responsibility in the Peery Foundation and how this intersects with Dave and others. Your personal elevator pitch.

lisa k, 11:20AM / Jan 04, 2011

I definitely struggled with this last year. And didn’t get that far.

Dave has started asking me some questions that will push clarity regarding my role and responsibilities at the PF. There will most likely be blog posts to follow on and around this subject as it’s going to be a hot topic, at least in my brain. I’d love to chat with you next time I see you about this and how you and Charly figured this out. As well as hear from anyone else who is defining their role who finds themselves in a similar ‘lean team doing lots of different exciting things’ situation.

Cheers, Lisa.

Jessamyn Lau, 11:33AM / Jan 04, 2011

Jessamyn, yours is a wonderful initiative. Congratulations. My suggestion is that you continue to get to know who the social entrepreneurs that the Peery Foundation is supporting are. And what motivates them… I also suggest that you try to visit social entrepreneurs in the field to better understand the context in which they work.

Martin Burt, 01:00PM / Jan 04, 2011

Absolutely yes! Spending some time in the field is a must for this year. Hopefully in May I’ll have a bit of a working sabbatical, to learn more about context and situational differences for our international partners, as well as how to better find and identify great in-country SE’s.

Thanks, for the encouragement. Happy New Year!

Jessamyn Lau, 01:14PM / Jan 04, 2011

Hey Jessamyn—this open source 360 review is quite an impressive experiment. I hope it goes well. I certainly would have some fears about subjecting myself to this. For a prelude positive… you/PF seem to be leading the charge among foundations for applying technology to advance your work – PF wiki is very cool (publicize it more) and your understanding of leveraging social media is impressive.

You’re really great at connecting with fellows/grantees in a way that makes me feel fully comfortable to share or ask anything. I believe this results from something Sean pointed out—you come across as both very intelligent and at the same time genuinely caring, traits which I rarely encounter in the same person. It’s sometimes hard to feel open with intelligent but unkind people; it’s also a challenge to connect with kind-but-slow people; you, however, are always a pleasure to converse with.

As for opportunities for improvement… I’m not sure I’ve interacted with you enough to have good insights (always faster to notice strengths than weaknesses), but perhaps that’s an insight in itself—I’d like to know how to interact with you/Dave/PF more, beyond the quarterly reports and maybe bumping into each other at conferences. Perhaps put in place a few more opportunities for grantee-PF relationship building so that we have a chance to share our work, ask questions, get advice, get connected to others in your network. Connecting/advocating/championing your fellows to other funders is also something that I think every foundation could do more of. Also, I like Martin’s suggestion to visit your fellows… get yourself to Kenya! I’d love to show you KOMAZA.

Good luck with professional development & Happy 2011!

Tevis Howard, 02:31PM / Jan 04, 2011

Thanks, Jessaymn, for this bold and clever way for all of us to finally unload on you.  It is long overdue in my opinion.

I will keep my feedback short, pointed and painless, especially for other blog readers who may not, like myself, serve on the foundation’s advisory board.  Speaking of the advisory board, if any of the readers of this blog are ever invited to join, my advice is don’t.  Terrible pay (actually, no compensation at all), no health benefits and no annual holiday party. 


Watching you in action is a pleasure.  You bring to the foundation world qualities and attributes which are sorely lacking – grace and decency.  Of course, foundations are littered with the very smart and the very dedicated.  And, you are that as well.  But you top it off with a care and concern for people, their missions and their work which is very special.  Don’t change your fundamental humanness.  You have nothing to be humble about, but you are.

As far as areas for improvement, it is the opposite of the above recommendation.  You are making the rest of us look bad.  Could you be a bit more callous and insensitive, please?  Seriously, I am ducking this question because I am stumped by it.  Good luck getting people to say bad things about you.  You might have more luck calling it “mobsourced annual review.”

Jonathan Lewis, 06:58PM / Jan 04, 2011

I just found you tonight (3.45 am ... can’t sleep!) via Sean’s twitter feed, and look forward to following your progress in crowd sourcing for your foundation’s strategic development.  I run a Canadian family foundation that has experimented in blogging, twitter and the like for a few years and have found it’s been a great way to more openly communicate, develop relationships, and even be introduced to new funding partners.  I like how all of this begins to break down the barriers of secrecy that have existed in the past between funders and their partners, and create opportunities for sincere partnership. 

BTW I love your website…

Mark Petersen, 12:55AM / Jan 05, 2011

Hi Tevis,

Thanks, for taking time to put all this down. Another SE who emailed me directly also had similar suggestions, especially around networks and connections. We’ll definitely take a look and see how we can deliberately do more of that this year.

I appreciate you (and the other SE’s and non profit leaders) who have given me constructive feedback. I know it’s hard to know what to and what not to say to funders, but please do tell us any time there is something you think we can improve on. Sometimes we only know if you and others tell us. We’ll do our best to act on your advice and in the event we can’t immediately change we can at least explain why we do what we do.

Many thanks!

Jessamyn Lau, 11:02AM / Jan 05, 2011

Jonathan, Jonathan,

I’m so disappointed you couldn’t bring that fabulously blunt self of yours to your comments on me -except for your advice to others on joining our advisory board (everything he said is true!). I know you have definitely seen me in situations that would yield great feedback/are privy to improvements I can make. I will hope to convince you to give me some more constructive criticism at a later date.

But seriously, thank you for your compliments.

Jessamyn Lau, 11:17AM / Jan 05, 2011

Hi Mark!

Great to be connected. Thanks, for chiming in. Glad that these tools also enable us to find other experimental funders.

And it sounds like you need to hear this as much as I did. Next time you’re up at 3.45am watch it :)

Jessamyn Lau, 11:23AM / Jan 05, 2011

Hi Jessamyn,

  I agree that you are a brave soul! I have loved working with you. Your energy and openness encourage your grantees to share concerns and challenges as well as successes. It’s refreshing! It really feels like a partnership. I agree with Tevis about helping us to connect with each other. We all have good intentions, but it’s hard to make the time. If PF named a time and place, I’ll bet a lot of us would show up and be really glad we did! Agree on appreciating your taking the lead on social media. I’m eager to catch up with you!

Toni Heineman, 12:12PM / Jan 05, 2011

Thanks, Toni.

It’s funny you should mention social media and convening. We are just finalising a date for a workshop with the Microdocumentaries team for all PF Partners with Microdocs or any other video content they want to figure out how to utilise better. Keep an eye out in your inbox for an invite!

Looking forward to the A Home Within retreat, Toni.

Jessamyn Lau, 02:36PM / Jan 05, 2011


First, to echo everyone else - congrats on taking this on in such a brave and transparent form.  It has been such a privilege getting to know you and having the opportunity to work together over the past few years….and my greatest hope is that there’s much more to come! 

I think that my suggestions for possible areas of growth (more for PF than specific to you) are quite similar to what Tevis shared above.  As you continue to build your portfolio and the programming/services you provide the folks you support, I think there’s a world of opportunity for 1) strengthening our connections to eachother (what about a convening of sorts every couple of years?) 2) helping us connect to other funders and 3) visiting our work in the field!  On that note, as I’ve shared with Dave, we are planning a “Donor Trek” to visit our Brazil program in April and it would be outstanding if one or both of you might be able to join!

With much gratitude and best wishes for the new year,


Abby Falik, 10:04AM / Jan 08, 2011

Thanks, Abby. I’ll put those 3 suggestions on my list and our list to discuss for the foundation during 2011. Hopefully you’ll see us working on some of these soon!

Jessamyn Lau, 01:52PM / Jan 12, 2011

Jessamyn- Thank you so much for this opportunity to share feedback/insights with you!

One quality/skill I really, really appreciate is your ability to be such a deep listener—you are very present be it on the phone, or in person.  You also bring a very grounded, calm energy.  I admire how well you listen before you ask questions, and how well you hear the answer. I always look forward to our time together because I feel that your energetic presence, and ability to listen creates a very safe space where I feel very comfortable being transparent, real, and raw.  After and between meetings you are also extremely responsive in a way that is always very timely, and meaningful.

As to what you could start doing or do differently, I am struggling here.  A suggestion I echo that is more for the foundation rather than you personally, is to convene your grantees to see if there are similar needs/issues/concerns we all have that we could support each other with, and helping us make contacts/meaningful connections to other funders.

Thank you so much for directing your talents, energy, and passion towards making our world a better place! We are all lucky to know you.

Christa, 01:19PM / Jan 21, 2011

Thanks, Christa. I appreciate you taking time to jot down these observations. But be warned, I will be plying you for advice/suggestions when I next see you in person!

Jessamyn Lau, 05:03PM / Jan 24, 2011

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