Networking at 3 Jewish Conferences: Connecting Practices and Learning from Each Other
by Robert I. Evans and Avrum D. Lapin
Three different but important conferences took place late last month and have served to connect and engage Jewish development professionals as well as donors and other committed individuals in interesting ways. One gathering reached out to Reform synagogue development professionals only, another involved Jewish foundation representatives and leaders, and the third served to engage primarily nonprofit professionals working to organize their efforts across the State of Israel. Each conference resulted in positive outcomes but took different approaches and each received different levels of visibility in the media.
Consider each of the meetings:
- At the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) in Tel Aviv, 400 Jewish funders from across the globe gathered to address common concerns and to discuss common practices facing Jewish philanthropists.
- At Amuta21C, 250 men and women came together to discuss challenges facing “third sector organizations in Israel,” the terminology being used to refer to nonprofit organizations.
- At the Reform Synagogue Development Professionals (RSDP) annual meeting in Philadelphia, fundraising professionals from 19 midsized and large Reform U.S. congregations focused on best practices, innovative technology considerations, and the challenges related to attracting more philanthropic dollars from the members of Reform synagogues.
In reflecting on the purposes and importance of each gathering, we see important connections that more than justify the value of commitments of time and other precious resources. While attendees at each meeting undoubtedly used the opportunities to connect with longtime friends, colleagues, and like-minded people doing similar work, the value of sharing ideas and considering new methodologies became uppermost and is a uniform theme.
Jonny Cline, the co-organizer of Amuta21C, told us this conference “looked to address the issues of the culture of philanthropy in Israel, or lack thereof, shared responsibilities with the changing paradigm of the relationships between business and the third sector.” The program and other information can be found at Amuta21C.com, and pictures and discussions are at Facebook.com/Amuta21c.
On the heels of Amuta21C, the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) continued its focus on networking between and among some of the most connected Jewish donors. According to one prominent attendee, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “JFN is the place for people who care about smart giving in the Jewish community. Participants are outstanding human beings and the work they are doing is making the world a better place.”
She told us that one highlight at this gathering “was that there were many Israeli givers … a new trend in global giving” in the Jewish giving arena. Cline cited a panel discussion at the Amuta21 conference that featured “meet the investors” where Dame Stephanie Shirley and private philanthropist and owner of the multi-family office Philippe J. Weil, joined Sandy Cardin of the Schusterman Foundation, and Vered Raz, director of corporate responsibility for the Fishman Group. The “catch phrase” that came from the conference was a call for more and better cooperation between philanthropists and nonprofits/third sector agencies.
At the gathering of Reform synagogue development professionals, networking, too, was a major focus, with several discussions sparking dynamic discussions about planned giving, technology, and best practices. Maxine Lowy, of Temple Oheb Shalom of Baltimore and who chairs the group, termed the annual meeting as “invaluable” and looks forward to the next get-together in San Francisco in March 2013.
“Our focus was a set of discussions about what Jewish houses of worship can learn from other religious institutions … how to better be a ‘connector of people’ rather than facilitators,” she mused.
Reports about these three different conferences have been covered, partially on eJewishPhilanthropy, as well as in other blogs and media sources. Most importantly, they reflect important efforts to connect people with intersecting agendas and priorities, each with different approaches. Strengthening Jewish philanthropy has historically receded in times of economy contraction or recession, which often result in downturns in giving. We note that several other major conferences are scheduled for later in 2012 but the three we have highlighted cover Jewish perspectives that focus on Jewish priorities and nonprofits that serve the Jewish community in the US and in Israel.
Jewish communal leaders have often expressed frustration that Jewish donors were not devoting sufficient attention and resources to Jewish priorities. Perhaps the long term results will reflect more Jewish dollars directed for Jewish needs and a better understanding how to marry Jewish philanthropic desires with the work of Jewish nonprofits … in the US, Israel, and around the globe.
If you are the planner or an attendee of a forthcoming conference on Jewish philanthropy, please advise us. As Cline told us, the point of these meetings “is to facilitate the development of a professional community … that will encourage and enable professional and organizational development and that will create and facilitate a channel of communication between the professional community and the (Jewish) philanthropic world.”
Robert I. Evans, Managing Director, and Avrum D. Lapin, Director, are principals of The EHL Consulting Group, of suburban Philadelphia, and are frequent contributors to eJewishPhilanthropy.com. EHL Consulting works with dozens of nonprofits on fundraising, strategic planning, and non-profit business practices. Become a fan of The EHL Consulting Group on Facebook; TWITTER: @EHLConsultGrp