Young people who have participated in Rose Youth Foundation (RYF), a Denver-area Jewish youth philanthropy program that is among the first of its type in the country, feel a deepened sense of Jewish identity, believe that they can be changemakers and leaders, and continue to expand their involvement in Jewish life.
These findings, among others, are revealed in a just-released research report, Rose Youth Foundation: Ten Years of Impact, which is the first-ever long-term study of an established, Jewish youth philanthropy program.
The report, while focusing on Rose Youth Foundation and positive effects on Denver-area youth, has more far-reaching implications, as Jewish foundations, organizations and communities search for ways to engage younger generations, instill community connection and prepare leaders for the future.
“This report confirms observations we’ve made over the years – that Rose Youth Foundation provides young people with a powerful opportunity to connect Jewish values to the good they wish to do in our community today while building Jewish identity and a lasting commitment to community and service,” said Sarah Indyk, Jewish Life initiatives manager for Rose Community Foundation. “We hope other communities will consider the potential that Jewish youth philanthropy has to engage teens in Jewish life, transforming them and the community they serve.”
RYF offers Denver-area Jewish youth in grades 10-12 the opportunity to learn about strategic philanthropy by becoming grantmakers. Each year, 23 Jewish teens from diverse backgrounds and a variety of high schools convene as a grantmaking team, which explores issues facing the Greater Denver community; sets grant priorities and creates a request for proposals; evaluates grant proposals; and makes grants totaling $60,000 to address community issues. RYF was established by Rose Community Foundation in 2001. Since then, 157 young people have participated in the program, awarding more than $400,000 to nonprofit organizations.
The key findings of Rose Youth Foundation: Ten Years of Impact:
- RYF alumni overwhelmingly credit the program with enhancing their Jewish identities and connections: 90 percent feel a deeper connection to Jewish giving; 87 percent feel a deeper connection with other Jewish young people; 87 percent feel a greater connection to Jewish values; and 82 percent feel a greater connection to Jewish community.
- RYF creates changemakers: 92 percent feel that their participation in the program instilled in them a belief that they can be agents of positive change in their communities.
- RYF instills collaborative leadership skills: More than 90 percent of alumni report that the collaboration and consensus-building skills they developed and honed at RYF are ones that they continue to use working in other Jewish and non- Jewish non-profit environments today.
- RYF generates commitment to volunteering: 88 percent of alumni volunteered over the past year in a Jewish or non-Jewish charitable or non-profit setting. This finding outpaces the volunteer rate among RYF members’ Millennial peers.
- RYF involvement spurs continuing involvement in Jewish life: High percentages of alumni report that RYF encouraged their continued involvement in Jewish experiences. For example, 76 percent report participating in Hillel at college, 83 percent report attending Jewish cultural events, and 80 percent report traveling to Israel on an organized trip.
“The findings of this ten-year impact report are positive proof that the Rose Youth Foundation model works,” said Lisa Farber Miller, senior program officer for Rose Community Foundation. “Engaged and empowered in real ways, our youth become both problem-solvers and Jewish leaders for our community now and in the future. Youth philanthropy can and does work, not as a one-time activity, but as a powerful lab for continued involvement. Those of us examining issues of Jewish youth engagement and generational continuity cannot ignore these positive findings.”
Formative Evaluation Research Associates (FERA), an independent group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan conducted the evaluation. Research methodology included surveys of RYF alumni, grantees, parents of alumni and other stakeholders.