JFN 2012: Philanthropy in Action

With the Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop, a full week of bright, sunny skies, and high energy, the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) gathered in Tel Aviv last week for their annual conference, the first in Israel since 2008. With 455 registered participants (including 234 from Israel) this was the largest conference ever for the organization.

The attendees came from four continents and represented all parts of the philanthropic world – from the largest foundations, to the smaller – and important – individual donors. They included a President, a Dame, a Scholar-in-Residence, a bevy of academics and entrepreneurs and numerous foundation professionals – those responsible for executing thousands of programs around the world.

The three-day official program was varied, from keynote presentations on ‘Embracing Risk’ to panel discussions on subjects as varied as ‘Developing Social Capital Markets’ and ‘Women as Agents of Change’. A series of 14 different all-day site visits featured subjects as diverse as ‘Opportunity in the Arab Sector’, ‘Urban Innovation’ and ‘Integration of people with disabilities’. And naturally, being a conference, a significant amount of networking was always to be seen.

At the conference, a group of twenty Israeli social investors launched a new initiative to significantly increase the level of private philanthropy in Israel, to improve philanthropy’s effectiveness and “to change the culture of giving among the country’s affluent.”

The groups website, Committed to Give, states, “We are driven by a sense of responsibility and commitment to the wellbeing and cohesion of Israel’s civil society. The relatively low level of private donations in Israel in comparison to other countries concerns us. We will, therefore, act to create a critical mass of donors and donations, to strengthen and complement the government’s responsibilities, and to create partnerships between philanthropists.”

As part of eJP‘s coverage of JFN2012, you can find the Presidential Address by JFN’s Andres Spokoiny; tomorrow we will look at the ‘Embracing Risk’ plenary and ‘Sunsetting Foundations’ panel – with lessons for organizations of all sizes and missions. Later this week, we will take a look at ‘Venture Philanthropy’, have an Israeli reflection on the conference, and more.

Additionally, in cooperation with the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education, you can find the latest issue of the Peoplehood Papers, Reinvigorating Jewish Peoplehood: The Philanthropic Perspective (released to coincide with JFN2012) and a reprinting of Gidi Grinstein’s important series, Diaspora and Jewish Philanthropy in Israel: Overhaul or Be Marginalized.

All and all it was an important, and upbeat, week for both the Jewish, and Israeli, philanthropic worlds.

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