Jewish Teen Philanthropy Programs Have Long-Term Impact on Participants’ Connections to Jewish Community and Leadership Abilities

Jewish teen philanthropy experiences cultivate a lasting desire to change the world while strengthening teens’ connections to Jewish life, community, and values, according to a new impact report released from the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN). GIVE AND GROW: Jewish Teen Philanthropy’s Unique, Powerful, and Lasting Impact recaps multiple studies of teens participating in community-based teen philanthropy programs, infused with Jewish learning and values, in which they fulfill all the roles of a funder board- from designing and reviewing grant applications, to distributing funds and reviewing grantee achievements. Critically, Give and Grow shows that even after a Jewish teen philanthropy program’s conclusion, when alumni leave home, teens still demonstrate stronger Jewish identities, a deeper connection to Jewish community, and the inspiration, skills, and confidence to become leaders and changemakers in their own communities.

In these programs, Jewish teens come together to learn, to celebrate Jewish culture, and to change the lives of others both locally and globally. Give and Grow surveyed teens immediately at a program’s conclusion, finding that the program led to a stronger Jewish identity and sense of connection to the Jewish community. In follow-up surveys and interviews 1.5-2.5 years after program participation, teen responses about Jewish identity and levels of engagement overwhelmingly remained unchanged – whether alumni still lived at home or had moved away. Alumni also noted they wanted to continue to be changemakers as they progress into adulthood because of their experience in Jewish teen philanthropy programs.

“Teens in these programs explore what being Jewish means to them and learn how they can contribute positively to the world,” says Laura Lauder, whose family venture philanthropy fund in partnership with Maimonides Fund supported the Foundation Board Incubator,a JTFN initiative that created and supported new Jewish teen philanthropy programs in ten communities around the world. “They have skin in the game, and their personal growth and experiences through these programs impact them long-term. As the Jewish community continues to look for meaningful ways to engage teens and connect them to Jewish life, Jewish teen philanthropy programs provide a model that can be brought into nearly any community.”

Along with this lasting impact demonstrated in Give and Grow, the first data-gathering of its kind for JTFN, the report shows that Jewish teen philanthropy uniquely:

  • engages teens to think about their Judaism in ways that feel relevant to their lives and dreams for the future.
  • challenges teens to work with Jewish peers and build consensus by presenting their views, listening to others, and compromising.
  • empowers teens to make decisions that are consequential for communities and issues they care about.
  • connects teens with changemakers in community organizations, exposing them to different issues and career paths that are aligned with Jewish values.

And through these experiences, teens gain:

  • a stronger Jewish identity and sense of connection to the Jewish community.
  • a sense of agency from contributing meaningfully to their local communities and Jewish communities abroad.
  • leadership and communication skills, with experiences relevant to their futures.
  • inspiration to become changemakers, as an expression of their Jewish values.

Jewish teen philanthropy programs often engage advisory councils composed of community leaders, parents, and local funders. Teens can stay involved in their Jewish teen philanthropy programs over many years by remaining as a board member, taking on leadership or mentoring roles within a board, or participating in independent philanthropically oriented activities or training.

“Teens face immense challenges today, including seeing and sometimes experiencing injustice and inequity in their community and around the world,” adds Wayne Green, Executive Director of the Jewish Teen Funders Network. “Philanthropy programs offer a meaningful way for them to understand and address these issues as they mature into adulthood. They get to live their Jewish values through positive experiences, which clearly inspire them to remain engaged and to become leaders through the next stages of their lives.”

JTFN launched the Foundation Board Incubator in 2014 to support community-based teen foundations that empower teens to serve as local philanthropic leaders, grounded in their Jewish identity and values. As part of the Incubator, host organizations of Jewish teen philanthropy programs engaged in a three- or five-year partnership with local funders and JTFN. Programs are in San Diego, Detroit, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Israel, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Houston.

Give and Grow includes findings from surveys conducted at the end of teens’ involvement in Jewish teen philanthropy programs in cities that were part of the Foundation Board Incubator, along with surveys conducted one and half and two and a half years after program completion. The report is supported by the Laura & Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund and the Maimonides Fund.