In Case You Missed It: Breaking Down #PEAK2021

By Stephen Minix

Last week, PEAK Grantmaking hosted their annual premier conference for grantmakers. Couldn't make it? Stephen Minix shares his experience answering three big questions below.


What did I learn?


I was energized from the start at the conference with the opening Keynote by LaTosha Brown of the Black Voters Matter Fund and her wonderful voice rendering an old negro spiritual: ”we must have an open mind, heart and spirit to truly be present in this ‘change’ work.” I was floored by her energy and enthusiasm for change work.  By asking all attendees to “close our eyes and imagine what America would look like without racism”  she challenged the audience to reconsider what their role as ‘changemakers’ is and how they play into it with their nonprofit partners.


This idea of intentionality, looking to philanthropic leaders to take the initiative in their communities to drive the change needed to address today's complex issues, was constant throughout the conference. It is a topic that has long been discussed in philanthropy - this idea of being resistant to change - and it was clear from the speakers and conversation at PEAK that it is time to evolve in many areas where progress will directly influence impact. A few examples of themes under this umbrella that were present at the conference are:

  • Empowering grantees with tools and resources
  • Putting a focus on data capacity
  • Prioritizing data analysis: we need to know what's working and what's not
  • Embracing new solutions 
  • Creating thoughtful relationships between grantee and funder anchored in partnership, limiting the burden traditionally placed on grantees
  • Making an intentional effort across Philanthropy to do more and be better versus perpetuating what has been done to date

If you look at the agenda from the two week session it is resoundingly clear that the PEAK community is focused on truly doing things differently.  I’ve called out a few of the topics from sessions throughout the event below that help illuminate what ‘doing things differently’ can mean for your organization (and mine!):

  • Redefining impact
  • Putting budgets to work for grantees
  • Building lasting change
  • Creating organizational effectiveness and resiliency 
  • Co-creating Equity with Nonprofits and communities

I could go on and on...The appetite to empower grantees with the tools and support to be successful versus creating more burden for the grantees is ubiquitous in the PEAK community! 


What was I inspired by?  


To me inspiration is nearly everything!  Getting invited to the inaugural Black Caucus at PEAK was the highlight of my week.  My professional isolation as a black man in America is very real.  Attending these sessions gave me LIFE!  Knowing that I am not the only one, or that there is an entire community out there trying to work from within Philanthropy to help make change happen (equity, equitable grantmaking, trust-based philanthropy, DEI, etc) warmed my soul.  


I was also floored by the energy of the attendees throughout the two weeks.  The chat’s were active!  People were asking questions, engaging in the polls, reaching out to connect - there was just an impressive amount of energy in the event and I truly believe that has to do with the PEAK team.  I am a firm believer in ‘attitude reflects leadership’ (any Remember the Titan’s fans out there?) and they set the tone that the PEAK community carried throughout the event.


What am I looking forward to?


A few of my immediate action steps post PEAK2021 are:

  • To see how the continued push into equitable giving evolves across philanthropy
  • Following the inertia busters as they present themselves -follow, subscribe etc so that the co-conspirators in reimagining philanthropy can build momentum.  I look forward to building a list of co-conspirators in the community that I can lean on, ask, build with etc
  • Actively engaging with more of the PEAK community!!!  

2020 was my first year participating with PEAK and that was a bit of a unique year!  This year, actually being able to participate in PEAK2021 has made clear that this network of grants professionals that are committed to leading the way in advancing equitable, effective grantmaking practices are well on their way to transforming philanthropy.  



Looking for inspiration on how you can be reducing the burden on grantees? Download our guide for streamlining reporting below. 


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