S.F. Jewish Community Federation Unveils New Model For Grant-Making

Effort being funded by $1,000,000 allocation from the Jewish Community Federation Endowment Fund

One year after taking the helm as leader of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (JCF), CEO Jennifer Gorovitz has unveiled the implementation of a new and innovative approach to 21st century philanthropy known as the Impact Grants Initiative (IGI). “I am proud to report in the course of just one year, we have made great strides in not only stabilizing the organization, but transforming it to more effectively fulfill its role as a philanthropic catalyst and community resource,” she said.

IGI is an engaged and empowered approach to grant making, modeled after the highly successful concept known as social venture philanthropy. “IGI provides a new generation of donors with the opportunity to work collaboratively to identify critical issues in the Jewish Community,” said Gorovitz.

Donors involved in this approach identify pressing needs in the community, work together to focus the scope and define realistic outcomes, elicit and evaluate grant proposals, and conduct site visits that provide an “on-the-ground” look at how these nonprofits function. “This ‘hands-on’ approach marks a vastly different model from traditional philanthropy and acknowledges the growing desire by younger donors to be active in the causes they support and to stay connected to the process,” said IGI co-chair, Laura Lauder.

IGI is a new model for the JCF because it:

  • Uses measurable outcomes as key criteria of success for the grantee.
  • Provides three-year grants, instead of the typical one-year duration.
  • Requires focused results that support innovation in both program delivery and leadership.

The first IGI grant round focused on innovative ways to engage young adults in Jewish life. This effort is being funded by a $1,000,000 allocation from the Jewish Community Federation Endowment Fund, which will be distributed over a three-year period.Description: Description: Description: Engagement The following programs were awarded funding:

  1. Kevah Groups Program: Creates a grassroots Jewish learning movement through a network of 36 Torah study groups that build Jewish identity. Enables adults to explore the spiritual and intellectual richness of the Jewish textual tradition in a comfortable setting regardless of background knowledge or level of ritual observance.
  2. Hazon California Ride and Jewish Environment Initiative: Utilizing outdoor, environmental and food education to ultimately create healthy, sustainable Jewish communities. Fosters Jewish leaders by strengthening their knowledge and relationships in local Jewish life.
  3. Wilderness Torah: Activating Jewish life for young adults by reconnecting Jewish traditions to the cycles of nature, facilitating individual spiritual growth, strengthening multi-generational community, connecting people to nature, and empowering participants to take action through sustainable lifestyle choices.
  4. Moishe House: Unique program established in the Bay Area which supports vibrant home-based Jewish communities for young adults and professionals seeking to connect with others in an urban culture. Beginning in San Francisco with one house in 2006, Moishe has expanded to 36 houses in 14 countries – providing rent subsidies for young 20-somethings who agree to move downtown.
  5. Idelsohn Society: An all-volunteer non-profit organization with a dedicated team from the music industry and academia who believe that Jewish history is best told through the lens of recorded Jewish music. The Tikva Project, inspired by Tikva Records, the most prolific Jewish record label of its time, will include a CD release and a month-long pop-up record store in San Francisco. The pop-up store will sell and promote the CD and the stories behind the recordings, and will deepen the relationship of this music to a new generation through panels, oral histories, live music, and much more.
  6. G-dcast Entertainment: By making quirky and charming cartoons our classic Jewish texts, G-dcast is animating today’s telling of the Torah. Our new division targets educators and parents of young teens by creating films explicitly for a young adult audience to encourage conversations about Jewish life.
  7. Storahtelling, Inc.: An international network of educators and artists, invigorating Jewish identity through dynamic educational programs and performances for multigenerational audiences, Storahtelling is bringing its model to San Francisco teaching basic Jewish literacy, core sacred stories, and exposing families to the art of interpretive study in an accessible and age appropriate way.

One thing that is clear from these awards, as with the Portland Innovation Grants, and probably the LA Federations’ The Next Big Jewish Idea, geographic barriers are falling. Projects launched by young entrepreneurs in one community are moving ahead, forging new alliances in new geographic areas. All in all, a good thing for the Jewish people.

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  1. avi says

    nice but… day schools struggle, synagogues collapse, family services are threatened by changes in government reimbursement policies while thousands struggle in thes hard times, the gaps between Israel and the Diaspora grow and JCC’s go bankrupt. Some of it is for reasons beyond our control, some of it by our own reluctance to change. So show me a responsible and innovative change oriented way of reivention in the heart of our Jewish infrastructure, the “meat and potatoes” of Jewish life – then I’ll be impressed! And please, no lectures on “creative destruction”. That’s not what federations were invented to do.

  2. Jewish Future says

    Agreed; but engaging young Jews, sparking their interest in and passion for Jewish life, is the key to maintaining Jewish day schools, synagogues, Jewish family services, and the Diaspora-Israel connection. The young Jews of today are the ones who will send their children to and support Jewish schools; the ones who will join and revitalize synagogues; the ones who will contribute to JFCS and Federation; the ones who will strengthen the Diaspora-Israel bond – but only if they are given a reason to do so, only if they can see that Judaism and the Jewish community speaks to them, welcomes them, inspires them. The Jewish present and future is in the hands of those IGI seeks to engage, and the method IGI uses is one that appeals directly to young donors. While I agree that the “meat and potatoes” – like helping elderly Jews and poor Jewish families or promoting significant institutional change – sometimes fall by the wayside in lieu of trendier causes like “engagement,” we can’t forget that engagement is a means to an end – it is how we will ensure the meat and potatoes survive into the future, how new ideas for change will be brought to the table, and how the Jewish community as a whole will continue revitalizing itself in the years to come.

  3. says

    Thanks for the comment avi. It’s exactly those reasons in your observations that Federations across the country, including our own based in SF, are changing their business models – because the status quo is not sustainable. In a world of aging donor pools and increasing philanthropic choices, the IGI story above is just one example of a new overall strategic approach.

    One of the roles of Federation is to ensure multiple doorways into Jewish life, and we’re doing that through programs such as our Early Childhood Education Initiative ( http://jfeds.org/iLjn9A ).
    We’re helping our Jewish organizations and institutions be successful by partnering with them to secure their own future through bequests through our Community Legacy Project ( http://www.jewishfed.org/clp ).
    And we’re actively developing philanthropists and leaders who care about having a healthy Jewish community for the future, as demonstrated by our work with Teen Foundations ( http://www.jewishfed.org/teens ) and funding birthright trips ( http://jfeds.org/jgxGgU ).
    And in Israel, we’ve been ahead of the curve for years, funding long-term projects that result in significant social change ( http://jfeds.org/lPIDm5 ).