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Peers Create PEERS: A New Kind of San Diego Nonprofit

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Many entrepreneurs strive to give back to their communities. When a group of San Diego’s finest young upstarts set out to find a formal structure for directing their philanthropic endeavors and couldn’t find one to fit their goals, they did what entrepreneurs do, they created one.
“We want to give back to the region that has given us so many business opportunities, and we also want an organization that encourages a network of future leaders, while also encouraging entrepreneurship,” says Chad Ruyle, a lawyer with Ruyle & Ruyle.
As a result, Ruyle and 11 others founded PEERS, an acronym for Philanthropy, Entrepreneurism, Environment, Relationships and Social endeavors.
Established in 2009, PEERS raised $160,000 its first year through contributions by the individual members, in-kind gifts, mixers and a gala event. Multiple charities received funding from PEERS, with the majority that year going to Equinox Center, a research and policy center focusing on improving the quality of life and the environment in San Diego.
Now in its second year, PEERS has raised over $300,000 in 2010 alone. In November, the group held its second annual gala. Over 200 people attended the black-tie event at Casa Contenta in Rancho Santa Fe, which raised more than $37,000. The money will support San Diego-based TKF Foundation, whose mission is to transform violence prone, at-risk youth into nonviolent, achieving individuals and create safe and productive schools.
PEERS members have also spent a day at Father Joe’s Village in Downtown San Diego learning about the organization and meeting with the members and board to determine how they can support Father Joe’s mission to help neighbors in need and to provide a “continuum of care” that promotes a pathway to self-sufficiency and independence.
The PEERS Network has also volunteered time at Junior Achievement’s Biztown to educate children about business and working together as a team.
The byproduct of the fundraising and outreach is that the 12 members have become very well acquainted and find opportunities to refer business to one another and share business tips.
With the success of PEERS, its founders have big plans for the future. The group hopes to soon add two more “pods,” or groups of 12 members. Each pod will function semi-independently, but will also coordinate efforts with the other pods. With the goal of adding three pods per year for the next several years, PEERS aims to raise more than $3.8 million in cash and in-kind donations for local charities by 2015.
Prospective members must be invited by a current member, be a CEO or high-level executive and fill out a questionnaire to be considered for membership. PEERS will be hosting an event on Dec. 10 for prospective new members.
“We’re looking for hard workers who commit to achieving great things both in their professional lives and their personal lives,” said Ruyle. “We’d like to see PEERS become the premier philanthropic and entrepreneurial-based organization in San Diego.”
Information about PEERS can be found at peersnetwork.org.

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