It’s hard to believe that our network of 6,000 members and over 500 contributing Organization Members began more than 25 years ago when two grants professionals came together with an ambitious idea.
What’s equally incredible: Since our founders’ first meeting, we have blossomed into a national organization with 14 regional chapters across the United States and its territories.
PEAK Florida Lunch and Learn
An Enduring Support System
In 1996, we started small and dreamed big by organizing ourselves in the Northeastern region of the United States as the Grants Managers Network (GMN). It wasn’t long before founding member and Rockefeller Foundation employee Orneata Prawl helped PEAK New York host one of its first events, an all-day workshop on educational and professional development, in 1999. Many of the topics covered at that early chapter event carry forward into today’s meetings, including GMS, listening to grantees, and thinking beyond Grants Management 101.
We quickly began holding group meetings in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Los Angeles, but it wasn’t until 2001, with the financial backing of the Rockefeller Foundation, that we were able to truly expand.
Then and now: A map of the organization’s early footprint (left) compared to one illustrating the regions its 14 chapters span today (right).
By the late 2010s, our chapters were hosting events that stretched across cities and state lines. In 2019, the PEAK Ohio (now PEAK Mideast) chapter connected Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania communities by using Zoom to broadcast the PEAK Grantmaking’s 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Practices workshop. PEAK Florida, too, used Zoom to stream their quarterly Lunch and Learns to cities throughout the state. These innovative hybrid events paved the way for online learning and prepared the organization for an unprecedented moment in history.
Did you know? In addition to our annual conference, chapters host mini conferences and all-day workshops. In 2019, PEAK Southeast hosted a two-day summit in Charleston, North Carolina, that lifted up nonprofit voices; PEAK Southwest facilitated a mini conference in Austin, Texas, focused on listening and professional development; and PEAK Greater Washington DC met for an all-day workshop at the Meyer Foundation.
Pivoting During the Pandemic
The chapter model has sustained us through challenging times, including the onset of the global pandemic in the spring of 2020. “All 14 of our chapters pivoted to the virtual world when COVID-19 hit,” said Chapter Manager Altinay Cortes. We weather storms as a community, and it’s our local peers who continuously show up, check in, and help us move forward.
Kelly Costello, Rose Community Foundation grants manager and Rocky Mountain chapter chair, found support from his peers during the early stages of the pandemic. His chapter moved events online, and members continued to support each other through quarantine periods. “We are not alone; we are doing the best we can. And to be able to pick other people’s brains [during the pandemic] … that has really strengthened and grown our chapter,” said Kelly. Chapter sessions became a space to navigate new subjects such as working from home and creating emergency grants.
Our chapters continue to grow and reach milestones amidst the disruption caused by COVID-19. PEAK Northeast, our founding chapter, co-hosted one of the network’s largest virtual events, with more than 300 participants. Under the theme “Equity and Evaluation: Can We Embrace Both in Collecting Demographic Data?” the webinar gave life to conversations about driving equity at a time when many members were unable to meet with their peers in person.
Chapters are meeting more than ever, while making conversations accessible to a wider audience. This year, PEAK Mideast, Midwest, and Southwest hosted their biggest chapter collaboration ever, leading a discussion around common legal issues facing private foundations. “Chapter leaders are taking advantage of virtual platforms to provide more flexible and inclusive programming. They are using online tools like Mural, Padlet, Mentimeter, and more to help lift up member voices,” said Altinay.
Our members are continuing to have fun and ignite joy within their chapter communities. Need some inspiration? Consider PEAK Delaware Valley’s Quarantini, PEAK New York’s regional happy hour and summer celebration, or PEAK Midwest’s virtual dance party!
Did you know? Chapters across the country are hosting events that help drive equity forward. Here are a few examples:
- Pursuing more equitable and just philanthropic systems—lessons from the field (PEAK Minnesota)
- What Does Equity Look Like at Your Foundation? (PEAK Northern California)
- Equity and Evaluation: Can We Embrace Both in Collecting Demographic Data? (PEAK Northeast)
- Reducing Bias in Grantmaking, Part 2 (PEAK Rocky Mountain and EPIP Colorado)
- Intro to Data Visualization and Accessibility (PEAK Southern California)
Learn more about the Drive Equity Principle for Peak Grantmaking.
A Place To Learn and Grow
Grassroots change happens at the chapter level. It’s where members have the opportunity to live out the Learn, Share, Evolve Principle for Peak Grantmaking by contributing to the community’s growing body of knowledge and expertise. “One of my biggest passions is around knowledge sharing,” said PEAK Mideast Chapter Chair Kristen Summers who is also the Senior Grants Manager at Saint Luke’s Foundation in Cleveland. “I know that philanthropy is sitting on a gold mine of wisdom that can have a deeper impact if shared.” If local members have a dilemma, they can go online and post their problem on the CONNECT platform or raise their question at local events.
Over the past 25 years, our chapters have evolved and adapted to meet members where they are—both physically and professionally.
Chapters are places where member volunteers grow into leaders. Roland Kennedy Jr. of Bloomberg Philanthropies experienced this growth firsthand as the greater Washington, D.C., chapter chair. “PEAK Grantmaking … they were directly involved in my own leadership capacity to support that opportunity, as well as provide all of the resources that they could to ensure the success of the chapter,” said Roland.