New Program Assistant at the Peery Foundation!

By: Jocelyn Rheem

In September we were excited to welcome Jocelyn Rheem to the PF team. Jocelyn is our all-around team support, and will be your first point of contact if you come to or call the PF office. Jocelyn will also be a regular contributor to our blog in the future. For now, here’s a little about her and what she’s observed over the past few months with the Peery team:

Hi, I’m Jocelyn! Here’s a little background on why I love the work we do here and what I’ve learned in my short time thus far.

Before starting at the Peery Foundation, I attended and graduated from the Monterey Institute of International Studies with a Master’s in International Policy Studies. During the course of my studies I took two workshops, “How to Start Your Own Social Enterprise” and “Business Models for Social Entrepreneurs” and I caught the bug. I wanted to be an innovator and use my world experiences and education to create solutions to the daily struggles of the impoverished around the world. I thought I had a fantastic plan for a non-profit that would assist women, with the help of micro-finance loans, to start their own businesses thus starting them on the path to economic self-sufficiency.

Since starting at the Peery Foundation, I have been a sponge soaking up everything I can learn about philanthropy and the concept of being grantee-centric. This is not something they taught in graduate school. My role at the foundation supports the PF team and ensures the smooth operation of the foundation office, grant disbursement, and internal systems. Needless to say, my perspective on my professional goals has drastically changed since entering the world of philanthropy. I have come to realize that my idea for a non-profit was, in fact, not as innovative as I thought. I’ve also realized that my skills are perhaps more useful in my current role than as a founder, and that there are so many more options for me to be a part of social change and impact.

Below are some of the key lessons I have learned during my short time, so far, working in philanthropy:

1.    Everyone’s time is valuable.

The grantee’s time, the funder’s time, everyone’s time is precious, from the Executive Director to the Administrative Assistant. Effective teamwork depends on organizing our time as efficiently as possible to focus our efforts where we can have the largest impact.

2.    Take risks.

Too many good ideas fall by the wayside because people didn’t go out on a limb with an ambitious plan. Big change comes from big ideas. With that said, funders have the hardest time following this tip!

3.    Failure is NOT bad.

Failure means that one potential option doesn’t work and, now, it’s time to see what other ways we can achieve the goal. An error does not become a mistake until one refuses to correct it. How else can we learn and improve if we don’t try things out and see what works best? Constantly striving for improvement is relevant professionally and personally.

4.    Utilize constant, open and forthright communication.

Since starting at the Peery Foundation, there has been an emphasis on clear and open communication internally and externally with our professional colleagues and grantees. Part of my job is to respond to grant requests that might not fit within the parameters of our portfolios. Declining to fund great organizations is, by far, the hardest part of the job. However, I think it is important to respond to every single request regardless of fit because everyone deserves feedback after they put in the time and effort to contact us and send their materials for us to review.

5.    Collaboration is key.

We don’t have the manpower to constantly search the whole world to find stand out organizations that work to alleviate poverty through social entrepreneurship. We do, however, have an incredible network of peer funders and like-minded organizations that we collaborate with  to find those unique innovators. We can do more because we and others are willing to share and communicate openly with us.

There is still much to learn and absorb as I continue to work at the Peery Foundation but I hope that my “lessons learned” will prove useful to you as well!