A group comprised of 15 national and local funders committed to investing in community-based Jewish teen education initiatives has released a commissioned case study detailing insights and lessons learned from their first two years working together. The case study – Finding New Paths for Teen Engagement and Learning: A Funder Collaborative – prepared by Informing Change, is designed to inform other co-funding and shared learning efforts both within and outside of the Jewish philanthropic community.
“Bringing together ten different communities bound by the overarching pursuit of Jewish teen education and engagement – but each with their own internal structures, strategies, and goals – presents a truly unique learning opportunity,” says Ellen Irie, President and CEO of Informing Change. “The Collaborative members are engaged in a dynamic, ambitious endeavor that involves learning about and implementing grantmaking strategies; understanding initiatives and programs that engage today’s teens; and creating an environment where funder representatives share challenges and insights for the benefit of others. We wanted to examine the evolution of the structure and key items that positioned this group for significant success in its first two years.”
Through monitoring Collaborative meetings and in private interviews with members, Informing Change gathered learning to paint a rich picture of the Collaborative framework. Early on, the Collaborative benefited greatly from the strong leadership of the Jim Joseph Foundation and open discussions that built on the Foundation’s teen education and engagement research study. The case study also notes the importance of the Foundation’s early commitment to eventual grantmaking. And as the Collaborative evolved, in-person meetings that deepened funder relationships were key to setting mutual expectations and refining shared measures of success.
“There’s no single reason to explain this success,” adds Irie. “Many factors combine to create an environment that cultivates important organizational partnerships and grantmaking grounded in best practices for teen education and engagement. And while every collaborative or partnership has a unique structure or purpose, we believe lessons from this one certainly can help others in the philanthropic world.”
Specifically, the case study notes four distinctive Collaborative characteristics that have been keys to success: 1) a deep-rooted purpose, 2) commitment to evaluation and shared learning, 3) focus on national-local funding partnerships, and 4) clear-eyed and generous leadership. Within the Collaborative framework, five local communities already have received grants and begun implementing initiatives.
“Like other Collaborative members, we embarked on this journey as an opportunity to build on New York leadership’s long commitment to expand and diversify opportunities for Jewish teen engagement,” says Melanie Schneider, Sr. Planning Executive with UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. “Through our ramped up efforts in New York, and now across the country, we can crack open a field with great potential to reach many more Jewish teens. Through the Funder Collaborative, we are adding our expanded efforts to a tide of new engagement opportunities around the country, and deepening our understanding of Jewish impact, outcomes, and measures of success.”
From its inception in 2013, the Collaborative has grown from a loose collection of 10-15 organizations to a finite group of four national funders and funder representatives from ten communities that dedicate significant time and resources to the Collaborative. Over the last two years, the Jim Joseph Foundation has intentionally taken a step back in its leadership role. An independent consulting group, Olive Grove Consulting, was hired to manage and facilitate the work of the Collaborative. Evaluation consultants American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Rosov Consulting are developing a multi-year cross-community evaluation. The Jewish Education Project was brought on board to provide content expertise and to coordinate shared learning and collaboration among implementers of local initiatives.
“The Denver/Boulder teen initiative is a multi-faceted, exciting collection of new opportunities and leadership platforms for teens, along with aggressive expansion of successful innovative programs,” says Lisa Farber Miller, Senior Program Officer at Rose Community Foundation. “The only way we could be this bold and invest such a significant amount was because of the power of the Collaborative. We support each other in taking risks and leveraging our assets. Together, we signal to the community the importance of the teen years in shaping Jewish identity and the necessity of investing significantly in innovation to serve them better.”
While the Collaborative has evolved, a constant has been the Jim Joseph Foundation’s parameters for, and commitment to, co-funding local initiatives in ten communities. To date, initiatives have been funded in Boston, Denver/Boulder, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles totaling nearly $32.8 million. Over the next eight to ten years, these initiatives will collectively reach and engage tens of thousands of teens in meaningful Jewish learning experiences. Total investment by the Collaborative’s end date over that same time period may reach as much as $70 million.
The complete case study can be found here.
The Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative membership includes: The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston; Jewish Community Foundation, San Diego; Jewish Community Federation & Endowment Fund, San Francisco; Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta; Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; Jewish Federation of San Diego County; Jim Joseph Foundation; Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah; The Marcus Foundation; Rose Community Foundation; Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; UJA-Federation of New York.