Your Daily Phil: New JFNA chair Julie Platt outlines her vision + Fundraising professionals experiment with collaboration

Good Wednesday morning!

Julie Platt, the newly tapped board chair of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), told eJewishPhilanthropythat safeguarding Jewish institutions against physical attack will be her most urgent priority.

Platt, whose nomination was announced Tuesday, will be the second woman ever to serve in the role when she takes over from the current chair, Mark Wilf, in June. She’s currently JFNA’s national campaign chair as well as chair of its initiative to provide security to Jewish communities, and has previously served as chair of the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, following a career in banking.

In the wake of the synagogue attack in Colleyville, Texas, last month, JFNA launched an initiative to direct up to $126 million over three years for security infrastructures in Jewish communities nationwide. The group is also lobbying for Congress to double federal funding to secure religious institutions, to $360 million.

“If you don’t feel secure walking into the spaces in which Jewish life thrives… flourishing communities don’t have a chance,” Platt, 64, told eJP, adding that the program does not aim to make Jewish life “about antisemitism. It will be about being safe enough and secure enough to engage.”

Platt also hopes to devote energy to strengthening Israel-Diaspora ties, a value she said the present Israeli government seems committed to. She also wants to prevent both young Jews and Jewish professionals from disengaging from the community or their work. When working to keep young Jews engaged, she said, Jewish federations don’t need to be front and center.

“We can’t hold onto people [if we say], ‘If you don’t want to engage with the federation, you’re not a young leader for us,’” she said. “We have to do those kinds of things where we don’t define it, you define it, and we come to you.”

The challenge with employees, Platt said, is combating pandemic burnout — something she saw in particular among camp employees, a field in which, she said, “getting through a pandemic was just awful.” If Jewish nonprofit workers join the Great Resignation, she said, it will deprive the sector of knowledge and experience.

“It was exhausting over the last two years to be a Jewish communal leader,” she said. “I think we have to make sure to not only do the most basic thing, which is to compensate appropriately and show appreciation appropriately, but to make those people who have chosen Jewish communal life feel supported in professional development.”

Unlike the first woman to chair JFNA, Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Platt joked that she has no intention of running for Congress when her term is up. “??I’m not particularly proud that I’m only the second woman [in the position], but I am particularly proud to be the second woman,” she said. “I want to make certain that people understand that women should be and must be more prevalent in these positions, not only on the lay side, but on the professional side as well.”


Beyond ‘territoriality’: DLead wants Jewish fundraisers to experiment with collaboration


In a Jewish world where nonprofit fundraisers often compete for grant money and face time with donors, a fledgling group wants them to try something new: collaboration, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales

Expanding discussion spaces: DLead, founded by Evan Majzner, launched in 2020 to bring together senior fundraisers from 18 Jewish groups to share best practices and discuss challenges. Now, DLead is expanding that model, hoping to recruit other Jewish fundraising professionals into additional discussion groups, starting a mentorship program and publishing a blog on the sector. 

Enough to go around: Majzner, an executive at the Israel tour organization iTrek, is staking the enterprise on the idea that there’s less competition, and more dollars available, than most Jewish fundraisers think. “There’s an assumed territoriality where people assume that people wouldn’t be able to help them because we’re all vying for the same pot of funds,” Majzner told eJewishPhilanthropy.  “With many of the foundations that you allude to, there are significantly deep pockets, where it’s not Moishe House or Honeymoon Israel — it can be both.”

A ‘crew’ of professionals: The original cohort, which is still together, meets every one to two months via video chat, sometimes discussing a specific topic, like transitioning back to in-person events, and sometimes hearing from an external expert. “To some extent, knowing I have a crew, a network of fundraisers behind me or alongside me, shifting as I shift, gives me confidence essentially to propose, sometimes, big ideas,” cohort member Nessa Liben, chief advancement officer at the Jewish Education Project, told eJP. 

Read more here.


Spreading the Wordle: Internal communications lessons from a viral word puzzle

Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“There’s no question Wordle is brilliant. There’s a reason The New York Times was willing to pay seven figures for it. But the game’s meteoric rise was also, from a communications perspective, astonishing. So maybe it can help us learn to improve internal communications,” write Seth Chalmer and Marisa Diehl, respectively director of communications and senior communications associate at Leading Edge, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Intra-organizational communication: “And yes, it’s likely that your internal communications could use improvement. In a 2021 survey of over 11,600 employees at 221 Jewish nonprofits, Leading Edge found that while 86% of  people experience good communications within their departments, only 59% of employees agreed that ‘There is good cooperation between teams/departments in my organization.’ That’s a problem not only for immediate project work, but also for the longer-term goal of creating an amazing workplace culture. As Omicron recedes and workplaces experiment with new in-person and hybrid setups, getting internal communications right has never been more vital.”

Think value, not marketing: ‘Sometimes it’s tempting to go into Advertising Mode: ‘DON’T MISS this week’s team newsletter — updates you won’t believe!!!!’ Advertising Mode is annoying. It feels desperate and insincere. It can even signal that the reason for the hype is that the thing we’re hyping is boring… There were no billboards or subway ads for Wordle. There were no pop-ups about it interrupting Candy Crush. Your favorite podcast hosts didn’t promote it in a paid ad — although they might have talked about it spontaneously. And that’s the point. Here’s how marketing guru Seth Godin put it in 2015, many years before Wordle existed, but perfectly describing its rise: ‘Fast growth comes from overwhelming the smallest possible audience with a product or service that so delights that they insist that their friends and colleagues use it.’”

Read the full piece here.


The dance between sea and land


“We never really know when it is time to emerge from a period of darkness. We can seek counsel, try to plan for the exact moment and follow our intuition, but it is all a big unknown. We will never know if it is the right time to emerge until we actually try,” writes Mollie Andron, senior program director at M²: The Institute for Experiential Education, in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Proceeding with caution: “This past fall, after several thwarted attempts to launch our signature Senior Educators Cohort, we decided to move ahead with our first in-person program since the beginning of the pandemic. We had deliberated with health experts, consulted research and received advice from peer organizations. We surveyed our accepted participants to assess their comfort level with meeting in-person and, unanimously, they were ready to emerge. There was trepidation (rightfully so) and a steep learning curve around safety protocols, but we were able to create a sanitized sanctuary of beauty, learning and growth.”

Reentry, from Biblical times to today: “In the Biblical story of Noah, God sends a flood to destroy the world. Noah gathers his most precious belongings and enters into the primordial ark to wait out the storm. On the ark is a tzohar, a window that allows him to gaze out and see the world drowning around him. (In our isolations, we have gazed out of our windows, too.) … When the waters subside, Noah is unsure when to emerge. He sends forth emissaries to field the uncertain future. Is the clear sky only temporary? Will the waters rise again? Is there solid ground on which to walk?… Eventually, Noah emerges. He needs to reenter the world in order to rebuild it.”

Solid ground: “How and when do we know that it is time to set foot on solid ground?… Growth and development do not happen in silos or behind a window, whether literal or emotional. They happen in moments of uncertainty and stretching, and the only way to experience them is to go out there and try.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Shifts and Shocks: Philanthropy may have seemed like a predictable and linear industry, Nathaniel Heller writes in Fast Company, but it is constantly and dramatically shifting. Heller identifies three shifts and shocks to watch for in 2022: inflation will negatively impact giving; rising interest rates will impact ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) donors; and philanthropy’s traditional business model of private foundations will face competition with new mega-donors, such as former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and MacKenzie Scott. “We may ultimately look back at 2020 as the beginning of a truly generational shift in philanthropy that long outlives the pandemic. The need for innovative, brave philanthropy has never been greater, and yet the current crisis has revealed the many antiquated and sclerotic habits that have hampered philanthropy for too many years. Increased disruption (if not outright destruction) within the industry feels inevitable this year. But some of it may indeed be creative, and that might be a very good thing in the end for all of us.” [FastCompany]

Plurality, Not Polarization: Increasing polarization threatens to undermine the role that philanthropy plays in society, Hilary Pennington and Mark Freeman write in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Addressing the harms of rising polarization will require not only more evidence and varied strategies, but also new alliances from different fields and across regions — all working together to find solutions. We will need to build bridges — not just between groups, but within them — to reduce the barriers and social costs for those who venture beyond an expected set of narrow allegiances. As we know from nations such as South Africa and Northern Ireland, lasting peace does not come from everyone holding a common narrative. Instead, it emerges in environments where many diverse narratives are encouraged to thrive together and where plurality and participation replace simplification and polarization.”  [ChronicleofPhilanthropy]

Thinking Outside the Box: Corporate philanthropy should take a new shape, which can be exponentially more effective at driving systemic change, Lindsay Androski writes in Fortune, because public charities have more flexibility than corporate foundations. “Public charities are required to receive most donations from non corporate sources, which means potentially greater resources. They are free to invest in promising innovators and reinvest the returns to spur faster progress—something corporate foundations avoid. At the same time, a public charity can draw on the expertise and infrastructure of the founding company and its employees, giving it the benefits of the business itself. Add it all up, and public charities can operate more like a corporate startup incubator or seed investor than a corporate foundation.”[Fortune]

Community Comms

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Word on the Street

Fidelity Charitable, the U.S.’s largest grantmaker, set records in 2021 for its number of donor-recommended grants, charities supported and grant dollars distributed. Donors recommended a record $10.3 billion in grants, 41% more than pre-pandemic giving in 2019. The 2.2 million individual grants went to 187,000 local, national and international groups…

Elon Musk donated $5.7 billion worth of Tesla Inc. shares to charity in 2021. According to a list of the top charitable givers last year from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Musk’s donations would make him the second-biggest donor of 2021, after the $15 billion awarded by the now-divorced Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates…

The foundation of the late Des Moines, Iowa, businessman and philanthropist Richard Jacobson announced a $70 million gift to the University of Iowa for a new hospital to be built across from Kinnick Stadium… 

The U.K. Charity Commission has confirmed it is assessing whether there were improprieties in the funding of Amnesty International’s recent “apartheid state” report on Israel…

Arthur Sandman has been appointed chief of staff at The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia…

United Hatzalah will be sending additional equipment to its teams in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Uman and Odessa, in order to provide a continuous medical response in those Jewish communities as needs arise…

Israel-based SmartAID, in partnership with Lifeline Energy, DHL and the local Sierra Leone education charity, TALLE Sierra Leone, and sponsorship by the Canadian government, is undertaking teacher-training sessions using solar-powered radios and MP3 radio-recorders, which are considered new technologies for many teachers in the more remote areas of the country…

J. The Jewish News of Northern California has completed the digitization of its newspaper, dating back to 1895. The archives are available online and free to access…

The Associated Press said yesterday that it is assigning more than two dozen journalists across the world to cover climate issues, in the news organization’s largest single expansion paid for through philanthropic grants… 

The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning announced the development of a Racial Justice Supplement to accompany its Social Justice: The Heart of Judaism in Theory and Practice course. The supplement was developed in collaboration with experts in Jewish education and leading activists including Ruth Messinger…

Pic of the Day


Tweet of the day courtesy of Shammai on Twitter.


MATT DUNHAM/AFP via Getty Images

British serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Maurice Samuel Ostro (second from left)… 

Activist investor Carl Icahn… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch and the director of Chabad activities in Greater Philadelphia, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov… Writer and professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro… Chair emeritus and founding chair of the Jewish Electorate Institute, Ralph Grunewald… Secretary-general of the World Council of Religious Leaders, Bawa Jain.. Editor of the Talent Network at The Washington Post, Susan K. Levine… Marrakesh, Morocco-born co-founder, president and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner… Co-director of Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, Nadia Matar… Past president of Hebrew Free Loan in Detroit and founder of Brilliant Detroit helping children out of poverty, Carolyn Glaser Bellinson… President of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Amy Kurtz… Head of communications for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Media Group, Ty Trippet… Regional director of the Westchester region of the Birthright Israel Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey… CEO of FinePoint PR, she is the author of “Brag Better,” Meredith Fineman… U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) … Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim… Rachel Rubenstein… Eric McDonald…

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