Peery Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Peery Foundation's local portfolio is guided by local schools and the school district. In contrast, its regional and global portfolios fund social entrepreneur-led organizations with multi year unrestricted funding.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, East Palo Alto youth

IP TAKE: Your program must serve a critical mass of East Palo Alto youth to be considered for a local grant from Peery. This is a place where about six of ten kids don't finish high school, so education is the number one priority.

PROFILE: Richard “Dick” Peery and John Arrillaga made their fortunes in Silicon Valley real estate, turning orange groves into office parks for the tech industry. Dick Peery established the Peery Foundation in 1978 to “strengthen youth and families to build lives of dignity and self-reliance.” Well into his 70s, Peery is worth an estimated $2.4 billion.

In the regional and global programs, the Peery Foundation invests in early to mid-stage social entrepreneurs who are tackling poverty in big ways. In recent years, the Palo Alto-based foundation  established four grantmaking portfolios: Local, Regional, Global, and Ecosystems. It has historically provided one-time and multi-year unrestricted grants that range between $1,000 and $100,000 per year in size.

However, the local program has a stricter focus these days. The local program focuses on closing the opportunity gap to prevent the achievement gap from widening. Peery also likes to see a demonstrated and articulated need by community stakeholders, high-quality services, and transformational experiences. It does NOT fund programs that are't requested by local schools or the community or anything having to do with housing, health, or legal status.

The Peery Foundation has listened closely to its grantees over the years and says it has used this feedback to shape a funding approach that elevates the views and needs of grantees to empower them. So for example, the foundation often provides multi-year general support grants, because that's what nonprofits have said they need. It also says it seeks to communicate openly with grantees and solicit honest feedback. (See Dave Peery's article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review where he describes grantees as "customers.") 

Past local grantees include the East Palo Alto Charter School, the East Palo Alto Youth Court, and the Ravenswood Education Foundation. “My dad is at a point in his life where he's motivated to give back to his hometown in a meaningful way,” Managing Director, Dave Peery, told San Jose Mercury News of his father. You can learn more by viewing the annual reports and following the foundation blog.

The foundation’s regional portfolio extends a little further to cover the Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. On a regional scale, Peery aims to support a network of poverty solutions for youth and families in the Bay Area. Although the foundation focuses most of its resources on early and mid-stage local entrepreneurs, it’s also willing to expand proven national programs in the region. Regionally, Peery likes to see a focus on increasing economic options and opportunity and pilot or proof of concept stage social entrepreneur-led organizations.

The Peery Foundation is led by a small staff of six, with Dick Peery’s son, Dave, at the top. Jessamyn Lau, who joined the foundation as its first staff member in 2009, currently serves as Executive Director. In an interview with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Lau shared, “Once we believe in a social entrepreneur and their model for addressing poverty, we want to always be open to providing the type of capital that they need at the time they need it.”

So what is the Peery Foundation looking for in prospective grantees?

First, it’s looking for effective nonprofit teams that are experienced, committed, trustworthy, and exhibit exceptional entrepreneurial skills. It’s also looking for program ideas that advance a larger vision of reducing poverty issues. Peery is willing to take risks and acknowledges that not all results can be measured, but it does want to see that funding is being put to good use.

Current grantees enjoy a considerable amount of freedom and autonomy when checking back in over time. The foundation staff actually wants grantees to tell them how they should be kept accountable. Although Peery will work around your schedule to some degree, the foundation does plan quarterly zero-paper check-ins to assess grantees' progress. “We’re still at an early stage in developing our capacity to provide debt and other funding outside of philanthropy,” Lau explained. “In our philanthropic funding, we’re not paper-heavy and our agreements are very trust-based.”

When we chatted with Lau, assets across the DAFs and private foundation were just shy of $300 million. Accordidng to Lau, the foundation currently had no anticipated plans for significant growth of the foundation's assets. To get in touch, make a phone call to 650-644-4660, email the staff at info@peeryfoundation.org, or make contact through Facebook or Twitter.

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