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Member Profile

Peter Tavernise

Profession/Passion: Philanthropic Leader

Introduced by Ann Medlock

Ann Medlock

In which categories would you recommend Peter? Please check as many as apply.

Non-profit leadership

From Ann Medlock, Founder, Giraffe Heroes Project:

In the 1990s, I was putting together a website for the nonprofit I founded, the Giraffe Heroes Project. The internet was the Wild West at the time---totally new territory for most people, and especially for nonprofits.

But lo! Somebody had a website that included a list of all the nonprofits that had websites. Yes, that was possible then. The webmaster was some guy named Peter Tavernise, and I was blown away by his pages. He was a poet, a university fundraiser, an artist, a student of Zen, a sci-fi buff . . . it went on and on, and every page was fascinating. I contacted him about adding Giraffe Heroes to his nonprofit list, mentioning that the founder wore a Bajoran earring (that would be me).

Peter replied that he owned the director's cut of Blade Runner, and that he had looked at our website and knew that it worked because he was moved to tears, and might he please volunteer to be our webmaster.

He was that, for many many years, and has in these two decades been a constant friend and advisor.

I can count on Peter to know what's going on in the nonprofit and corporate worlds, and to be blazing smart at analyzing all of it. He keeps up with tech developments and social trends and looks at it all with both head and heart, sure of the difference between what can be done and what ought to be done.

The heart part---he's still moved by our stories of people who stick their necks out for the common good. And he's managed to function successfully in the Silicon Valley world without taking on the anything-to-win attitude of the striver. He's stayed a good family man, never becoming one of those sleep-in-the-office workaholics.

If I were a newcomer to the world of work, I'd want to have Peter in my corner, talking to me about that balance of work and family; about the trends in my field; about how to handle adversity (which he's definitely experienced); about that head/heart screen for my next moves.

Anyone who has him for a mentor is going to be extremely lucky, as I have been, for almost 20 years.

Peter Tavernise is the Executive Director of Cisco Foundation, and Director of Cisco Corporate Affairs, Public Benefit Investment. His specialties are corporate philanthropy, foundation operations and administration, corporate social responsibility, critical human needs grantmaking (food, shelter, water, disaster readiness and response), employee giving and volunteering, and nonprofit impact metrics and reporting.

He shares his nonprofit fundraising expertise with our AboutThem audience.

This Member's Insight:

Question: I need to raise money to promote nonprofit social good, but am not sure how to find people or organizations that might consider awarding a grant. Also, I've never been comfortable asking for money.

Solution: The first thing to consider is that grantmaking organizations make donations as their core mission---if your organization is doing work that fits their funding criteria, they want to hear from you! As well, instead of thinking of this process as "asking for money," try to think of yourself as a matchmaker who will help make a connection between people who want to do good. You are providing the opportunity for them to make that happen through your nonprofit programs.

Second, approach fundraising just like a term paper: the first stage is to research which organizations or individuals are already giving to organizations just like yours. Foundation Center hosts both a fundraising resource library and a database for grantmakers, searchable by social issue and other variables. Once you have found a few likely candidates, dive deeper into their actual donations over the past few years to ensure they align with your request. Then make careful notes about their specific application deadlines, questions, and processes for submitting proposals. Customize your boilerplate language to meet the specific information requested by the grantmaker.

Finally, understand the difference between fundraising and development. Fundraising in this context is a short-term approach to raise money toward a specific dollar target. Think of any appeal you have ever received from an annual fund drive: it will usually be a broad salvo asking for money today without taking into account your personal interests or goals . . . and you won't likely hear from them again until next year.

By contrast, development means working to forge a long-term, mutual relationship based on shared goals, values, and specific work that needs funding. It involves tracking progress throughout the funding period, and having conversations to be sure you understand and speak to the funding intentions of the donors so they connect directly to the outcomes they are supporting.

A broad, anonymous fundraising approach as outlined above can often alienate even those who once supported your work. By contrast, development properly fostered can lead to larger donations over time, fueled by the satisfaction of shared achievements.