Initial Impressions of Life on the Foundation Side

By: Jayson Morris

At the beginning of January, Jayson joined the Peery Foundation as our Social Entrepreneurship Portfolio Director, overseeing our Regional and Global Portfolios. Jayson comes to the foundation having worked for nearly 10 years helping to grow several international nonprofits, including Room to Read, one of the fastest growing nonprofits ever. After 7 years helping Room to Read grow from $5 million to $40+ million in annual revenue, and another two years building out READ Global’s fundraising operations, Jayson joined the Peery Foundation in order to share his experiences and insights with a portfolio of like-minded organizations. 

Last week I turned one month old…. After nearly a decade in the fundraising trenches of several international NGO’s, I started my new life on the foundation side. It is incredible how that little shift – a few feet across the table – changed my perspective so much. One of the biggest revelations is how much more I appreciate the courage, fortitude, optimism, and creativity it takes to work in a nonprofit / social venture.

Having come from a budding career in investment banking, I still have friends in the corporate world who’ve joked that nonprofit work is the easy way – less pay in exchange for less hours and less stress. I smile, knowing how wrong they are (about the hours and stress, that is).

My month here at the Peery Foundation has elucidated this now more than ever. I now have the ‘luxury’ of controlling my schedule a bit more. I do not need to immediately react to donor requests, but can instead take more time to think strategically and creatively rather than running around putting out fires. Though there are entirely new stresses and an even crazier schedule, I have this newfound underlying feeling of calm and confidence, juxtaposed against the previous perpetual anxiety of constantly worrying about where this year’s funding is going to come from, how donor X will react to challenges in program execution, what we are going to do about foundation Y’s request for additional information, and how am I going to have time to get it all done! 

I am humbled to join the Peery Foundation team – to be part of a movement of forward thinking philanthropy professionals who seek to not only provide support to their grantees but also to create a paradigm shift on how this is done so that we can work together on some of the greatest challenges that the world faces.  I hope I am up to the task of helping our fabulous grantees continue to grow, and to catalyzing some change, however small, in the philanthropic world.

I will leave you with some food for thought drawn from a few of my favorite phrases:

·       Where does a ten-ton elephant sleep? – Anywhere he wants to! – ­Are there ways funders can acknowledge the elephant in the room that is the unequal power dynamic, which leads to heightened stress for nonprofits, and often creates organizational inefficiencies in the name of diligence requests? Can we get by with less… or at least more fairly compensate nonprofits for the additional work we generate?

·      “Help me… help you!!” – I am channeling my inner Jerry Maguire here. What role do nonprofits have in reducing these stresses? Is it possible to be more confidently transparent with funders about the stresses, pressures, and competing priorities so we can all have a more productive conversation about what to prioritize?

·      “You can’t hit the ball if you don’t swing.” – Can nonprofits do a better job of asking for more efficient reporting mechanisms, gently trying to push funders to streamline their proposal and reporting requests? We have seen a few grantees take the initiative to do this well… what is stopping others from doing it?

And finally…

·      If a blog is posted and nobody comments, like the proverbial tree in the forest, does it make a sound? – I have a few ideas on what to write in the coming months, but I would love to hear from you on what you would like to hear from me / us.