The Attitude of Gratitude

When I was a kid, my parents forced me to write thank you notes after every birthday and Christmas. I HATED doing it. I struggled to find something creative to say beyond “Thank you for the sweater. I can’t wait to wear it. Hope to see you soon.” [in reality, I was returning that so-not-cool sweater for a store...

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Namaste Nepal

I had a much more light-hearted blog ready to go but couldn’t bring myself to post it after the disaster in Nepal. Nepal and its people hold a special place in my heart ever since I crossed the friendship highway from the majestic Tibetan plateau through the mighty Himalayas and into Nepal back in 2002.

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Initial Impressions of Life on the Foundation Side

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...

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New Program Assistant at the Peery Foundation!

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”...

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Grantee-Centric: A Different Kind of Philanthropy

What if foundations mostly gave unrestricted funding instead of dictating how grantees could spend their grants? What if foundations kept supporting grantees who performed instead of ending funding because the “grant cycle” had ended? What if foundations ditched the whole system of soliciting grant proposals and focused on proactively searching for great grantees? 

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A Conversation With Vittana's Former COO

The Peery Foundation has funded Vittana since 2008 with grants totaling over $600,000, with our last grant going out to Vittana after their announcement was made to close Vittana's doors. Kate, and I sat down for a reflective virtual chat about what we could both learn from Vittana's story given the grantee-grantor relationship between Vittana and the Peery Foundation.

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Big Bang

Last week I was in Fort Colins in Colorado, at the annual Big Bang gathering. Thankfully, the weather was delightful so my CA-light wardrobe was not tested for CO-winter readiness—it would have failed…Big Bang Philanthropy is a collaborative group of like-minded funders who all give at least $1M annually to global poverty solutions, more particularly to “impact driven”...

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Turning the tables (just a little)

We’re pulling the trigger on creating an app/platform that will enable us to get rolling feedback and ratings on our performance, from our grantees. Advocate Creative will be building us a platform that is simple to use, quick to complete and 100% anonymous. Our hope is once we have it in place our grantees (and others) can rate us on 3 characteristics on a rolling basis—as often as they...

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Grantees as Customers: Four ways funders can serve and empower grantees

At the Peery Foundation, we think of grantees as our customers and act accordingly. We’re not investing enough resources on our own to solve social issues at a systemic level, so we try to focus on our core function: to invest in social entrepreneurs and leading organizations. This means we leave the big, hairy problem-solving to grantees and focus on how to create a funding environment that better enables their success...

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Finished!

We’ve been heads down for a number of months creating a social innovation syllabus. After weeks of white-boarding, scribbling and sketching, revising documents, review sessions and feedback calls, we pressed print.

Our class, ‘Do Good Better’, provides a structure for students to: 1) discover the varied roles they can play in the social innovation sphere, 2) learn about 3 key skills useful in all roles they might be interested in: root cause analysis, solution evaluation, and impact measurement...

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Do Good Better: The Blog

We are officially 2 weeks in to our brand spankin’ new course on Social Innovation - Do Good Better.  So far, so good.  We’re piloting the class to a small group of students at Brigham Young University.

As part of the class students are asked to blog once a week on a prescribed topic...

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Information Smorgasbord

Thanks to the internet (and google) we have almost endless information and resources at our fingertips.  We can access the life work, groundbreaking ideas, and carefully developed resources of experts in any imaginable field with a few strokes of the keyboard.  So why shouldn’t we?  It seems to me that in this age of information there is absolutely no excuse for reinventing the wheel.  There is just no sense in wasting time and energy re-doing something someone much smarter...

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Oprah (with a beard) for the Social Sector

By Jessamyn Lau

A few months back I fed myself to the lions. I sat opposite the tenacious Jonathan Lewis, as he put me in the iOnPoverty hot seat, and fired questions at me under the glare of studio lights and flash of cameras. It turned out to be an enjoyable opportunity to think about and begin to articulate what had prepared me for my current role at the PF, things I’m learning about philanthropy, and my developing ideas about social entrepreneurship/social innovation.

I’d highly recommend checking out the other interviewee videos. Jonathan is building a resource full of diverse perspectives, experience and advice. For budding changemakers iOnPoverty is a platform for social innovation mentorship soundbites. There are some sage pieces of wisdom -actionable too- from Anne Marie Burgoyne from Draper Richards Kaplan, Akaya Windwood from the Rockwood Leadership Institute and many others. And it’s free for all viewers now! Enjoy!

Yelp for Foundations

By Jessamyn Lau

The ‘Yelp’ for non-profits, GreatNonprofits, provides an opportunity for people to review non-profit organisations (full disclosure: the PF has provided funding for GreatNonprofits in the past). On GreatNonprofits.org anyone can share their experiences and interactions with an organisation -highlighting those who provide great services and occasionally those that don’t do such a great job. Greatnonprofits’ mission is to inspire and inform donors and volunteers, gather stories that demonstrate the work of great non-profits, and promote excellence through transparency and feedback.

What if there were a GreatFoundations.org? A mechanism for grantees to review their experiences and interactions with a foundation. Somewhere to inform grant seekers of what kind of interaction they can expect. A repository for great stories of grantee-funder partnership. And somewhere to promote excellence through transparency and feedback. This is not a new idea, but one that has not come to fruition yet.

As people have discussed the potential of this I’ve heard concern about whether non-profits would actually participate or give truly frank feedback as they would never want to damage a funding relationship, or their reputation with other funders -an understandable and real concern. But what if the feedback could range in its level of detail? At the very least a non-profit could give an overall rating out of 5 stars for a foundation, then if they wanted to they could give ratings out of 5 for the foundation on various general categories, and then finally have the option to go in to detail by writing an actual review -all anonymously. The general categories could be things that cut across types and sizes of foundations, like ‘clarity’, or ‘respect’.

What other categories would be telling, yet general enough to apply to all funding interactions? Comment or email me (jessamynATpeeryfoundationDOTorg) with your suggestions. We’ll pass them on should this idea get traction any time soon!

10 Nuggets of Wisdom for SE's (and the rest of us)

By Jessamyn Lau

From the Draper Richards Kaplan retreat, last week:

- Fire faster: Personnel problems tend to age more like milk than wine. - Exercise: This is non-negotiable if you are in this for the long run. - Decisions don’t have to take a long time if you’ve got the right people making them. - People do not describe themselves as ‘in poverty’. - Appreciate your critics: Grit makes polish. - The key to confidence is humility. - Reject all excuses: Trying really hard does not equal results. Do not confine your staff to mediocrity. - Your standard is exactly what you want to say but do nothing about. - Only the schizophrenic survive: The militantly optimistic, and constantly petrified. - You can’t do it alone: Isolation is one of your biggest dangers.

Bespoke Learning

By Jessamyn Lau

You’ve heard a little about my musings on SE education and its shortcomings. It’s time to put a stake in the ground and offer some concrete improvements.

What if a social innovation class were truly about outcomes above outputs? And not about grades or how many people launch ventures? What if it were focused on individualised answers? And each student developed a personal plan to become equipped with the right knowledge and experiences to tackle big problems? What if each person learned and came away with something entirely different? What if the course you wish were around when you were at university was real? The one that helps you figure out how to live your life of purpose?

We think we’re close. We’re designing a class that will be taught to a pilot group of students in August. The curriculum is still in its nascency, but it’s already different from what’s out there. Most classes are tailored to the core group of individuals who know they want to go out and start something. This class will be for the broader group of people who know they are serious about using their career–or an aspect of their professional skills–to contribute to the social sector in a variety of ways: part time or full time, volunteering, working or donating.

In brief, there are three parts: - Overview of the full spectrum of social innovation, - The three biggest pitfalls for social innovators, - Putting the pieces together and developing your path to becoming an effective social innovator.

If you’re interested in participating in an online version of this class then email me, jessamynATpeeryfoundationDOTorg, and I’ll let you know if/when we’re able to offer it publicly.

The Unimpressed

by Jessamyn Lau

Today I received feedback on an event I was involved in organising and was emcee for last month. This is only the second year this event has been held and the first time I’ve emceed anything, so I was very personally invested and anxious that it was a success.

The feedback fell in to 3 camps:

- Cheerleaders (majority), who had a great time at the event and gave us good/great/brilliant reviews across the board, - Supportive critics (minority), who obviously thought the event was a success but a portion of their feedback was critical, very valid, and useful to learn from, - And, the unimpressed (anomalies), who gave feedback that was negative.

Of course my attention went straight to to two negative reviews… One attendee rated the event as poor, and another provided feedback that my emceeing was ‘weird’.  I’m not entirely sure what she meant by ‘weird’, or why the event was ‘poor’ to the other guy, but my initial reaction was, ‘you’re both wrong, everyone else thought it was great!’. I wanted to find out who they were to ask them why and what we did wrong. Maybe they misunderstood our intentions and goals of the event. I wanted to know why they didn’t think we were good/great/brilliant, like the others.

Their opinions were totally valid and their conclusions reflected their experience of the event. From where he was sitting the event did not meet his expectations, and from her perspective I was weird. Could I/we have done anything to change them? Possibly. After reading them a couple of times, I decided to put aside the negative reviews entirely.

I think this is an interesting issue for anyone seeking to gain favour/support/approval. There will always be people who don’t get it or don’t agree with you, or simply don’t like what you’re doing. This is okay. Everyone has their own unique perception and comes at life with their own biases and expectations.

I’m choosing to ignore these two reviews for the event. I think it’s often healthy for social entrepreneurs and non profit leaders to do the same. Hopefully the feedback is not as ambiguous as ‘you’re weird’, but not every funder/supporter/partner is going to jump on your bandwagon. When the PF does not jump on their band wagon, I’ve seen many SE’s handle this issue with grace. It is impressive.

Note the unimpressed, and then focus on your cheerleaders and especially your supportive critics. This is where it makes sense to spend time, energy and resources.