Semi-Annual Reflections

By: Natalia Schoorl, Program Assistant

Last week the Peery Foundation had its team retreat to reflect on the past year, bond as a team, and look towards the future. As a new team member at my first retreat, here is what stood out to me:

Take the time to reflect: Who are we and what are we doing here? 

After a few team bonding activities, one of our first discussions focused around why we work in philanthropy (for the new staff) and what team members feel they have learned about themselves and others (for the more seasoned staff). Taking the time to reflect on why we do this work is an important way to step outside of the day-to-day tasks for those who have been doing this work for years, and to set the tone for those of us who are just starting. Although each person had a unique perspective and shared personal stories, we all spoke about the desire to contribute to something larger than ourselves and the desire connect with individuals and the communities with whom we work.

Propose Bold Ideas: What is our role in a changing landscape?

The geographies that we work in look different than they did ten years ago, and will surely change in the years to come. I appreciated the self-awareness and reflection at the organizational scale, and recognize the delicate balance of staying true to the PF ideals and style, while remaining dynamic and flexible as the area transforms. Portfolio Directors Avani and Jayson brought forth bold ideas to for us to consider that could shape the portfolios over the long term and better support organizations in the changing Bay Area landscape.

Fast vs. Clear: What do we mean when we say grantee-centric?

Another thoughtful discussion centered around grantee-centrism, what that means at the PF and to each person. Here are two snippets from the conversation:

“It isn’t about being fast, it’s about being clear about expectations; ultimately being able to advocate for our grantees is being grantee-centric.”
“I think more that our goal is about balance between listening and suggesting, it’s a two way discussion...We believe in dignity and self-reliance for the grantees as well as the end beneficiaries.”

We want to be as efficient as possible, and we realize that communication is paramount in this endeavor. We discussed how sometimes it’s a balancing act of how much is too much grantee-centrism and Jayson offered a great metaphor for us to consider: the airplane oxygen mask. In an airplane emergency you are to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help another. The PF can be a more effective partner if we have our own house in order first, that is if we maintain work-life balance, team culture, open communication, and time for reflection.

Have Goals (but not too many):

At the end of the retreat we asked ourselves, “What’s our commitment?” We each had to choose something we would work on and keep front of mind after the retreat. We discussed the temptation and pitfalls of having too many goals. The PF has organizational goals, each portfolio has milestones, and each team member has professional milestones and personal goals. Our grantees have their milestones and are held accountable to those, so it is important to us that we have our own milestones to which we are held accountable. It’s not about checking off a goal, rather it’s the process that counts: deciding what the priorities are, checking in with ourselves, and honest reflection of our actions.

Maintain culture: What would a team retreat be without food and merriment?

At the Peery Foundation you should be prepared for everything from paddle boarding to blackberry picking, donut-feasting and ice cream tasting, singing Free Falling or playing soccer. Throw in a little bit of Krav Maga and you’ve got yourself a team retreat. When you bond as a team, and with each individual, it makes working with each other so much more fun and effective. You work on communication, you recognize different personalities, and you learn to laugh at each other- but mostly together.