PEAK 2024 Seattle: Our Thoughts and Reflections

Three of our team members had the opportunity to attend PEAK 2024 in Seattle in March; here are some of their key takeaways and insights from the sessions they attended.

You can find the entire list of sessions for PEAK 2024 Seattle here, and an overview of the keynotes here. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the graphic recording of the keynote talks here.  

One of our first views of the Sound in Seattle.

Reimagining People-Centered Philanthropy (Keynote - Day 1)

Satonya Fair (PEAK Grantmaking), Edgar Villanueva (Author, Decolonizing Wealth) and Vu Le (Author, NonProfitAF blog)

  • Vu and Edgar challenged us to face up to the many very urgent challenges we’re facing and meet the moment in a very different way than philanthropy has been doing to date. (Think of the Avengers assembling to fight Thanos!)
  • This requires a broad and quick adoption of practices like unrestricted funding, higher payout rates, not asking for custom applications and reports and long-term investment. 
  • And, going beyond grantmaking to redistribution, putting endowments in the hands of the community.
  • And, being bolder on the legal side, for example using litigation as a tool to advance the cause and providing legal funds to support changemakers who are targeted for their work.
  • They encouraged everyone individually to be brave to meet the moment, even at the risk of negative personal consequences - especially for those who have more privilege. Seeing ourselves as organizers who can build networks of allies to create change within our organizations and beyond.

Data Management Lessons In Grantmaking To Sovereign Nations

Adelina Solís and Sewheat Asfaha (Inatai Foundation)

  • Part of being serious about funding Native communities is tracking your funding properly. They found it helpful to distinguish between direct funding to Sovereign Nations vs Indigenous community organizations.
  • When designing taxonomy, ask “what questions do you want to be able to answer” (rather than “what data do you want to collect”).
  • Treat tribes differently from other grantees - as if you’re applying to fund them as much as they are applying to be funded. Keep in mind that they will all work differently and have different decision making processes, cultural dates of significance, etc.

Creating Trust Among Funders and Grantee Partners–Developing Cohort Models in NY and CA

Cecilia Cortes Vila (New York Women’s Foundation), Marissa Crawford (New York Women’s Foundation), Raymond Ampil (Fondation CHANEL), Jane Lin (Women’s Foundation of California)

  • The organizations’ vision was that they wanted to be able to work together, and continue their policy advocacy alongside their grantmaking and programs.
  • Redistributing power and decision-making is a very powerful aspect of the cohort module.
  • “Making the table longer” so as to welcome all those who deserved to be involved.
  • Participants were given general operating support grants to enable them to work together; while this was initially met with disbelief, the message from the sponsoring organizations was to “continue doing what you’ve been doing, and do it together”.
  • The organizations also funded the grantees and community partners who opted into the cohort model on top of the existing funding they already received.

The historic Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Developing Strategic And Accessible Grant Amendment Processes

Liz Silberstein and Camille Morris (The Build Up Companies)

  • While they described how to create an amendment process, they emphasized that the best approach is to create more flexibility from the start to avoid the need for amendments at all.
  • Let grantees know up front what amendment options are available so they don’t feel bad asking.
  • Amendments can be documented via email as long as it is sent by the authorized parties.

Moving From Problematic DAFs To Justice-Driven DMFs

Se-ah-dom Edmo and Dena Zaldúa (Seeding Justice)

  • As we know, a key challenge with DAFs is that there is no payout requirement. To solve this, Seeding Justice instead offers their donors “Donor in Movement Funds” (DMFs).
  • How DMFs work is that 50% of the funds go to a participatory grantmaking group to allocate, 40% can be granted by the donor as long as the cause is mission-aligned (which must be done within 12 months), and 10% is an admin fee. 
  • Behind the scenes, DMFs are simply a DAF so require the same IRS reporting. However the additional structure about how they are used creates a big difference in the impact.

Harnessing The Value-Add Of Working With Intermediaries

Adriana Jimenez (Resources Legacy Fund), Steven Casey (We Mean Business Coalition, Inc.), Lourdes Inga (International Funders for Indigenous Peoples)

  • Intermediaries take many shapes and forms - public charity grantmakers, fiscal sponsors, DAFs, giving circles, etc.
  • While some intermediaries play a more transactional role of passing along funds there are many who add additional value. For example they may have cultural competence in a specific area, deeper networks, insight collected across their grantees, and expertise from running their own programs.
  • Grantmakers can benefit from working with intermediaries thanks to these value-adds, however also need to be aware that there are costs associated.

Reimagining Persistence (Keynote - Day 2)

Jamie Allison (Walter & Elise Haas Fund), Glen Galaich (Stupski Foundation), Jill Nishi (Philanthropy Northwest), and Erik Stegman (Native Americans in Philanthropy)

  • Get the board out of grantmaking!
  • Eliminate or reduce the board book.
  • How to get leadership on board with such changes (e.g. accepting proposals from other funders, oral reporting)
    •  Go on a learning journey together. Have conversations and meetings with trustees/board, staff, grantees. Center on what is the true purpose you are trying to make and the impact you want to have.
  • It's helpful to keep reviewing grant agreement language - you may find clauses that are not truly necessary or language that can be streamlined.
  • Why split Grants from Programs? Consider approaching the two teams more holistically.
  • CEOs should hear from peers how they are messing things up by not making use or engaging with teams around them.
  • Letting go and celebrating letting go (board, fake rules, letting go control in the form of unrestricted funding).

Helping Nonprofits to Embrace AI as an Equity Tool

Laura Heiman (United Way of Greater Atlanta), Erika Smith (Microsoft), Jahari Soward (NPursuit Career Partners), Gail Conyers Cleckley (United Way of Greater Atlanta)

  • Why is AI so prominent now?
    • AI began in 1950 but it wasn't until 2021 that an AI tool appeared that was consumer-focused, useable and accessible to everyday people (generative AI tools)
  • In 2030 there will be a $43 billion wealth gap, particularly for the Black community, if they do not adopt AI; it’s imperative to think of the communities that are typically adoption laggers to become early adopters. The reason for the lagging isn’t because of intellectual intimidation, it’s usually a lag of exposure and access and the ability to play/test these tools in an environment that is safe and comfortable.
  • Digital debt is costing us innovation. 
  • Beyond an interesting conversation on AI and its uses, they shared real case studies on how Atlanta-area nonprofits are utilizing AI.

Storytelling and Equity: A case study of trust-based grant reporting

Alexandra Pittman (ImpactMapper) and Andrea Dobson (Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation)

For a deeper dive on how the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation optimizes their Fluxx system, with Trint and ImpactMapper integrated, keep an eye on this blog!

  • Andrea and the team at WRF set out to revamp their grant reporting processes with the three goals of measuring impact, reducing the burden on their grantee partners while avoiding overburdening their own team, and tracking unintended consequences of the changes they were implementing.
  • They struggled with the sheer amount (“a firehose”) of data and reporting they were receiving from grantees, and wanted to know how to pull out what they needed to measure.
  • From that rigorous sampling and collecting of data, ImpactMapper helped them identify stories and insights, allowing WRF to pinpoint mechanisms for change
  • ImpactMapper has an API for Fluxx (later this year, they also plan to integrate with Giving Data and Salesforce).
  • Establishing a consistent taxonomy is key to ensure we can “tag” stories to the correct outcomes & impact we want to track.
  • In the same vein of reducing the burden on grantees, WRF shares the transcription from Trint with grantees, which they can then use to secure funding from other sources.

Reimagining Leadership (Keynote - Day 3)

Satonya Fair (PEAK Grantmaking), Allison Gister (Conrad N. Hilton Foundation), Roland Kennedy, Jr. (Carnegie Corporation of New York), and Angelique Power (Skillman Foundation)

  • Always think ahead to how you can prepare your successor, build them up.
  • Things don’t always go well, but if you always “expect the storm”, you won’t be surprised by it.
  • Stop saying that there aren’t emergencies in philanthropy - while our operations may not be urgent, the issues being funded often are.

The Grantbookers who attended PEAK and authored this article: Christine Gallant, Tierney Smith, and Rhea Vaz.
Tierney Smith's headshot

Tierney Smith

Implementation Management Service Lead

Change Management

Tierney specializes in helping grantmakers align their grantmaking processes with their values and make effective use of technology. As a Service Lead and Senior Philanthropy Consultant at GrantBook, she helps clients redesign their processes and successfully implement grants management systems. She is especially passionate about creating stronger funder-grantee partnerships by helping funders implement grantee-centric, trust-based practices. 

Previously, Tierney worked at TechSoup Canada to provide nonprofits with access to low-cost technology and educational resources. She has also worked as a software developer and project manager in the corporate sector. She has a degree in Software Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

Rhea Vaz

Implementation Consultant

Systems Design & Fluxx

Rhea came to Grantbook with over 3 years of experience in system implementations, specifically ERP implementations, and a strong background in data analysis, data cleansing and preparation. All her previous implementations had one unique distinction—having always been a part of the end-user’s team that is adopting the new system. 

This alternate perspective is what drew Rhea to her role at Grantbook, as implementation and support specialist. Having  experienced first-hand the excitement, trepidation, and requirements evolution that accompany finding the right digital solution, she hopes to be a source of guidance and support that clients can rely upon, with the end goal of delivering a solution that allows them the freedom to focus on real systemic change.

Rhea obtained her Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance, Operations and Accounting, at McGill University. A highlight during her time at McGill was successfully attaining a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification, alongside her undergraduate degree, and having the opportunity to utilize key six sigma strategies and techniques to streamline the McGill Bookstore’s inventory management system as part of the certification.