Philanthropist profile: Dave Peery

In honor of SVCF's 10th anniversary, we're featuring stories of the amazing individuals, families and organizations that have partnered with us to develop their philanthropy and address pressing issues in Silicon Valley and beyond. Read more below, or check out the spring 2017 issue of SVCF Magazine.

Dave Peery
Dave Peery is managing director of the Peery Foundation, which facilitates a portion of its philanthropic initiatives through a donor advised fund managed by SVCF.

As a child, Dave Peery had no awareness of the Peery Foundation, started in 1978 by his father, Dick Peery, a billionaire Silicon Valley real estate developer. But he vividly remembers his father’s dedication to helping and serving others on an individual level. The family often had guests in their home — usually people who were going through difficult life circumstances.

In college, Peery experienced firsthand how his family’s resources could be used to help solve larger-scale problems when he traveled to India to visit a grantee doing micro-finance work. The trip stayed with him long after graduation, and he continued learning about philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, despite taking a job in commercial real estate.

Then eight years ago, at age 30, Peery transitioned to a more active role with the Peery Foundation as managing director.

“My role, as a member of the family, is to help build this into something that best represents our values, and allows us to channel our resources in a smart way,” Peery says.

Helping at home and abroad

The Peery family, comprising Dave, his three siblings and his parents, has given an average of $12.7 million per year over the last five years, mostly in the areas of education, economic opportunity and health. The Peery Foundation’s mission is to strengthen youth and families to build lives of dignity and self-reliance, with the overarching goal of reducing poverty.

Domestically, the foundation focuses exclusively on the Bay Area, but globally, it takes a broad geographic approach, with no restrictions on where it will give. 

“To paraphrase Ashoka founder Bill Drayton, we are looking for a powerful idea in the hands of a great social entrepreneur,” Peery says. “We look for ideas that matter, that will challenge the status quo and will ultimately impact the system in question.”

Silicon Valley Community Foundation manages one of the Peery Foundation’s three donor advised funds, a relationship established by Dick Peery and the late Peter Hero, former president and CEO of the Community Foundation Silicon Valley (one of SVCF’s parent organizations). 

“Having a donor advised fund has been a valuable resource for us,” Peery says. “Not only can SVCF support our evolving understanding of the community, but they have assisted us with doing things like PRIs, which we probably would not have done on our own.”

PRIs, or program-related investments, are those made by foundations to support charitable activities that involve the potential return of capital within an established time frame.

A significant portion of the Peery Foundation’s annual giving, as much as 88 percent in recent years, goes to portfolio grant programs, a fact of which Peery is particularly proud.

Opening the lines of communication

The Peery Foundation strives for open communication with its grantees and actively solicits honest feedback. One repeated request has been the need for multiyear, unrestricted grants — and Peery is delivering.

“We realized early on that foundations were not bound by that many rules, and therefore had great latitude to find new and better ways of doing things,” he says. “We have spent a tremendous amount of time listening carefully to what truly helps our grantees thrive, and have incorporated these learnings into the design of our funding strategy.”

Ultimately, Peery is looking to take his family’s approach of grantee-centric philanthropy to the next level by influencing other funders. In 2015, the Peery Foundation launched a tool, Funder Feedback (funderfeedback.org), to allow any foundation to receive anonymous feedback from grantees, grant seekers and other funders. 

“It’s an effort to establish regular feedback loops that help funders improve on a more frequent basis,” Peery says.

As valuable as existing feedback mechanisms like the Grantee Perception Report can be, they are also expensive and time-consuming, and grantees often don’t know what the findings were. Funder Feedback provides funders with reports every quarter, and it only takes grantees about 30 seconds to provide their comments. Peery Foundation staff will often report these findings on the foundation’s blog. Currently, a dozen other foundations are also trying the tool.

Next up, Peery is overseeing the creation of a stand-alone website centered on grantee-centric philanthropy to promote a set of giving practices that the Peery Foundation has deemed essential to enabling the success of its grantees.

“We still have plenty to learn,” says Peery, “but hope that we can impact the way other funders support their grantees.”