Thursday, May 5, 2011Synagogue ‘coaches’ looking at what makes members tickby dan pineIn a weak economy, how can synagogues confronting declining membership get back in the game?Answer: Hire a coach.That’s the strategy of the Synagogue-Federation Partnership Membership Project, organized by the S.F.-based JewishCommunity Federation. The goal is to help synagogues learn more about themselves in order to do smarter outreach toprospective members.As the name implies, the project partners the federation with Bay Area synagogues, nine in all. Rabbi Marvin Goodman,who heads the Board of Rabbis of Northern California, is project director, while Jewish community consultant Amy Asinserves as project manager.Both are among five coaches that will help the nine synagogues through the project, which will take 18 months.Participants include Congregations Kol Shofar in Tiburon; Beth Jacob in Redwood City; Kol Emeth and EtzChayim of PaloAlto; Ner Tamid, B’nai Emunah and Sherith Israel, all of S.F.; Beth Am in Los Altos Hills; and Half Moon Bay’s CoastsideJewish Community.Organizers are currently conducting a membership survey, with up to 70 percent of congregants participating. They willthen analyze the data and follow up with focus groups and training of clergy, staff and lay leadership.The end result should be congregation-based programs to better equip synagogues to recruit and retain potentialmembers over the long haul.“It’s a bottom-up process,” Goodman said. “For a few years, we’ve had conversations where we listened to what wasgoing on in the synagogues, and what they thought they needed.”The member survey will extract not only important demographic data, but also probe the real feelings of congregants.The operating assumption is that all synagogues have their own unique cultural fingerprint. Identify that, andsubsequent membership appeals can be designed more effectively.“We think *the synagogues+ will learn more about themselves,” Asin said, “and the special needs and qualities of theircurrent members in a much more comprehensive way. We hope people who have a deep connection will respond, andwe also hope those more marginally connected will respond.”From there, a team of synagogue staff and lay leaders will work with one of the project’s coaches to interpret the data,conduct further focus groups and use the collected information to design custom membership programs.There is also a $2,000 stipend waiting for each congregation at the end of the project, money to help implement thoseprograms.Asin is quick to caution that programs are not the be-all-end-all solution. “We don’t want to eliminate*programs+, but open them up to possibilities of other things,” she said, “like relationship building.”She gives the example of a program for mothers of young children. Asin said the way to best engage them is not tocount how many people show up to any given program, but to ask the mothers if they made any friends, and if theywent on to sit by them at Shabbat services.Over the 18 months, project stakeholders will meet routinely to discuss their progress. Ultimately, the plan is toempower synagogues with the skills to do better outreach.But that’s for later. Right now, Goodman said, “This is about in-reach to understand the membership.”S.F. Jewish Community Federation Unveils New Model For Grant-MakingJune 23, 2011 by eJP
Effort being funded by $1,000,000 allocation from the Jewish Community Federation Endowment FundOne year after taking the helm as leader of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin andSonoma Counties (JCF), CEO Jennifer Gorovitz has unveiled the implementation of a new and innovative approach to21st century philanthropy known as the Impact Grants Initiative (IGI). “I am proud to report in the course of just oneyear, we have made great strides in not only stabilizing the organization, but transforming it to more effectively fulfill itsrole 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 associal venture philanthropy. “IGI provides a new generation of donors with the opportunity to work collaboratively toidentify 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 definerealistic outcomes, elicit and evaluate grant proposals, and conduct site visits that provide an “on-the-ground” look athow these nonprofits function. “This ‘hands-on’ approach marks a vastly different model from traditional philanthropyand acknowledges the growing desire by younger donors to be active in the causes they support and to stay connectedto 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 bya $1,000,000 allocation from the Jewish Community Federation Endowment Fund, which will be distributed over athree-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’ TheNext Big Jewish Idea, geographic barriers are falling. Projects launched by young entrepreneurs in one community aremoving ahead, forging new alliances in new geographic areas. All in all, a good thing for the Jewish people.CommentsThanks 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 worldof aging donor pools and increasing philanthropic choices, the IGI story above is just one example of a new overallstrategic approach.One of the roles of Federation is to ensure multiple doorways into Jewish life, and we’re doing that through programssuch 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 ownfuture 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 thefuture, as demonstrated by our work with Teen Foundations (http://www.jewishfed.org/teens ) and funding birthrighttrips ( 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 ).
New federation CEOs experimenting with funding modelsMarc Blattner, the new CEO at the Federation of Greater Portland in Oregon, and other new federation chiefs havecreated large grant programs meant to fund innovative programs and attract new donors. (Courtesy Jewish Federationof Greater Portland)NEW YORK (JTA) -- A generational changing of the guard throughout North America’s largest Jewishcharitable network is opening the door to new chief executives increasingly open to experimenting with changes to thecentury-old funding model favored by local federations.In some communities, boards of directors are tapping CEOcandidates with little or no experience within the federations system, drawing from other corners of the charitableworld or the business sector. In other cases, up-and-comers from within the federation system are using their first crackat the CEO position to demonstrate a willingness to consider changes.In particular, the new CEOs are experimenting withchanges that expand the list of organizations eligible to receive federation funds, potentially forcing longtimeconstituent agencies to compete for a limited pool of dollars.Just last week, the Jewish Federation of Greater LosAngeles -- headed by Jay Sanderson, a newcomer to the federation system -- concluded its “The Next Big Jewish Idea”contest, which featured an open submissions process and a $100,000 prize. This comes just weeks after the JewishFederation of Portland, also led by a new, first-time federation CEO, concluded a process in which it decided to giveaway $300,000 -- the equivalent of 10 percent of its annual fundraising campaign -- in an open process.For more than acentury since the first Jewish federation was founded in 1895, these organizations generally have stuck fast to atraditional umbrella model: The local federation runs an annual fundraising campaign that raises money from a wideswath of small and large donors, and the charitable dollars are allocated by a committee of federation veterans topartner agencies, including nursing homes, Jewish community centers and nursing homes. The partner agencies spendthe money as they wish, which normally means core costs like payroll and rent.Defenders of the system argue that itunderscores a commitment to shared responsibility, puts funding decisions in the hands of informed planners and boardmembers, and ensures that a full range of communal needs are addressed -- not just trendy charitable causes.Yet as donors have aged without being replaced and communal participation has shrunk, this venerable model has beencriticized in some circles as rigid and entrenched. Critics complain that in practice the existing system stifles necessarychange by making it difficult for new organizations to receive funds and fails to speak to younger philanthropists whowant a much bigger role in determining how their charitable dollars are spent.“The model was created to be an umbrellafor agencies to raise money for all parts of a community,” said Sanderson, who came from outside the federationsystem, having previously served as the CEO of the nonprofit Jewish Television Network . “But across the country theneeds have changed, but the federations haven’t.”Sanderson is part of a new wave of leaders who not only are new tofederation leadership, but also in many cases relatively new to the federation themselves, coming from a variety ofprofessional backgrounds.“Some communities are hesitant to bring in someone without the usual Jewish developmenttrack,” said Stu Silberman, CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville, Ky., an entity created through the 2009 merger oflocal federation and JCC.Silberman left a career in marketing and business development at Ford last year to take the job. His more recentpredecessors came from backgrounds in social work.Sanderson, who spent 20 years working in Jewish media beforebeing appointed, believes that hesitancy could have dire consequences, particularly in the next few years -- 19federations, including five in major Jewish population centers -- are currently working to fill leadership vacancies.“Itneeds a lot of rethinking,” Sanderson said. “Will the communities in this country have courage to try someone whohasn’t worked in the federation system for 25 years? Not that they aren’t good people, but sometimes I think goodthinking comes from people who weren’t born and bred in the federations.”“There is a lot of recycling,” he added, “and Idon’t think recycling is the answer.”Within the new leadership there is a sense of frustration over a system that they sayoften stifles innovation, but division as to how best to address it.“Often federation allocations become budget fillers -- we fill the holes in our partners’ budgets,” said Marc Blattner, theCEO of Portland federation. “We believe we shouldn’t just do that, but put some risk capital into the community.”
Blattner arrived in Philadelphia only a few years after the federation there instituted a major reform. Rather then thefederation providing core allocations for which the agencies determine the usage, recipient organizations now have topitch specific programs -- along with measurable metrics -- that fit into the federation’s goals. In short, they have tocompete for the money. In Philadelphia, it was another CEO from the outside -- Ira Schwartz, who came to thefederation after serving as the provost of Temple University -- who pushed hard to implement the new approach.Blattner, along with other new executives like Jennifer Gorovitz, the CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of SanFrancisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, have each created large grant programs meant to fund innovativeprograms and attract new donors.The money offered by San Francisco’s Impact Grant Initiative and Portland’sCommunity Impact Grants was opened to any organization with an idea, with an emphasis on programs willing tocollaborate with one another in pursuit of the federation’s larger goals.The allocations committee, traditionallycomposed of federation stalwarts, was opened to young philanthropists in an attempt to attract new donors withdifferent understandings of the needs of their community.“We are saying you don’t have to be there for 20 years,” Gorovitz said. “We want the young people. We want theentrepreneurialism. We have to accelerate the process and bring people to the table earlier.”It is this kind of donor,more then anything, who Gorovitz and Blattner believe will be attracted to the new approach -- the people, Gorovitzsays, who “are accustomed to having a direct and tangible impact in the work they do.”“*New donors+ view the umbrellamodel as distancing them from the tangible impact of their investment,” she said.Where San Francisco and Portlanddiffer, however, is the source of the money. While the $1 million in grants allocated by San Francisco came fromendowments, in smaller Portland Blattner convinced the board to release 10 percent, or $300,000, of its annualcampaign to fund innovation.Blattner concedes that the Portland federation’s traditional partner agencies weredisappointed. But, he noted, some made, or increased, their allocations by securing grants.“I talked to the agencies and said, ‘There may be a short-term loss for a long-term gain,” Blattner said. “If we try thesame things, we’re going to see the same diminishing returns we see today.”Blattner and Gorovitz, a former lawyer whodescribes herself as coming from “a fourth generation federation family,” insist that they remain devoted to thetraditional model and the traditional agencies, describing their approaches as simply being an “alternative avenue” toaccomplishing longtime goals.Skeptics note that many of the experimental approaches have yet to translate into a major boost in donors or dollars.And even among the CEOs implementing new approaches there are disagreements -- Blattner and Sanderson, forexample, each raised concerns about other initiatives.Scott Kaufman, who has been leading the Jewish Federation ofMetroDetroit since 2009, voiced concerns about any changes to the traditional allocations model, which he called “thelifeblood of the community.” He doubted an alternative could be more then supplemental. However, Kaufman said, heremains open.“We have to look at the models in real time,” he said. “In a year we could be having a very different conversation.”
Federation rewards innovative programs that reach ‘next generation’by dan pine, staff writerSarah Lefton is used to scrambling for money.As founder of G-dcast Entertainment, a quirky nonprofit that creates short animated Torah lessons for the Web, sheknows how hard it is to secure funding. So imagine her surprise when the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federationdecided quirky is good and gave her a three-year grant.G-dcast is one of seven Bay Area Jewish nonprofits to benefit from the federation’s Impact Grants Initiative. Under theIGI model, initial grantees were chosen not only for their creative approaches to Jewish life, but for their appeal toyoung adult Jews. “This is G-dcast’s first real local money,” Lefton said. “It’s also our first multiyear grant. This allows us to do somethinginternally innovative.”She’s not the only one. Other IGI grantees are Wilderness Torah, Moishe House, Hazon, Storahtelling, the IdelsohnSociety and the Kevah Groups Torah study program. Collectively, the grantees will receive operating support grants fromthe Jewish Community Endowment Fund ranging from $77,000 to $150,000 over three years. In all, the grants total $1million.Federation CEO Jennifer Gorovitz and Director of Community Impact Adin Miller cited several reasons for launching theIGI.“We wanted to ensure that the seed funding of the Endowment Fund was used for the highest and best strategicneeds of the community,” Gorovitz said. “For our first launch, innovative programs that reach the next generation areessential. We wanted to have a tool that engages the next generation of young adults in the work of the federation.”She referred to the IGI strategy of enlisting 26 young federation donors, who spent six months evaluating grantproposals, conducting site visits and paring down an original list of 37 applicants to the final seven.Federation involvement doesn’t end with the writing of a check. Out of that initial IGI committee of 26, at least 16budding philanthropists will develop relationships with some of the seven nonprofits.“They agreed to serve as liaisons,”Miller said, “representing both the federation and the organizations, helping to frame the grant agreements andmonitoring the success of these organizations over the three years.”As for Lefton, she already knows what she wouldlike to do with at least some of her grant money: Make another movie.So far, G-dcast has created more than 60 short films based on Jewish texts. The films have garnered more than a millionviews online, while a companion curriculum is used in Jewish classrooms around the world.With her IGI grant, Leftonhopes, among other things, to make a film based on a story she once heard about a diabetic Jew who buried his ownamputated leg so it would be ready for resurrection when the Messiah comes.“My jaw was on the ground,” she recalled.“I said, ‘That’s Jewish?’ This so interested me that I set up an appointment at Sinai Memorial. The funeral director said,‘Yeah, there are probably several body parts in the freezer.’ ”She saw this as fascinating window into a Jewish practice most Jews probably know nothing about. It also came to her“as a completely formed animated film.”All she needed was funding, and now she has it.Next, the federation will pursueanother round of IGI funding, which will in part target Israel-based nonprofits. So far the process has satisfied Gorovitzthat the federation is on to something.“IGI is a successful engagement and grant making method,” Gorovitz said, “andwe will be expanding its use in the coming months. We’ve engaged a new generation with federation.”
Jewish LGBT organizations stake claim in SFby Heather Cassell San Franciscos Jewish LGBT community is filled with pride this year as it appears that the city by the Bay is emerging as a hub of LGBT Jewish leadership nationally and internationally.Keshet opened its new office doors June 1 and in May A Wider Bridge was named an UpStarter by UpStart Bay Area.UpStart is a social justice Jewish entrepreneurial organization for innovative and new Jewish groups that was founded by former Bureau of Jewish Education director Toby Rubin in 2006. Similar to venture incubators, it provides a variety of organizational development opportunities, professional training, and support with a unique Jewish perspective and purpose.Both organizations are housed with a number of other nonprofit Jewish organizations in UpStarts San Francisco office."We are at a really exciting momentfor LGBT inclusion and equality in the Jewish community," wrote Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, in an emailinterview. Klein pointed to the recent ordination of the first openly gay rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary, theflagship seminary of the Conservative movement, and the outpouring of support from the Jewish community for apledge to end homophobic bullying that the organization circulated last fall."Its vitally important for us to be in the BayArea – some of the most vibrant, creative, dynamic queer Jewish culture and community life is here," Klein added. "Byhaving a presence in the area, we can help strengthen and build on this energy at this key time."San Francisco is thehome of the third largest metropolitan Jewish community in the U.S. There are approximately 36,000 queer Jews in theBay Area, according to the LGBT Alliance Study published in 2010 by the Jewish LGBT Alliance of the Jewish CommunityFederation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties. It only makes sense that LGBT Jewishorganizations congregate in the heart of the "gay mecca," queer Jewish leaders expressed.Keshet is a nationalorganization that provides support, training, and resources to ensure that LGBT Jews are fully "included in all parts of theJewish community," according to its website.Lisa Finkelstein, director of JCFs LGBT Alliance, sees Keshets presence inthe Bay Area as a sign that the queer Jewish community is thriving and only is going to grow stronger to "create ahealthier sustainable community."Rebecca Weiner, education director of Congregation Shaar Zahav, agreed."Itsymbolizes that weve really created an infrastructure in the Jewish LGBT world" that provides an opportunity for real"measurable impacts in terms of inclusion and addressing homophobia and really educating," said Weiner, a 25-yeareducator.The two organizations join a network of established queer Jewish institutions that include: the Bay Area JewishHealing Center, Congregation Shaar Zahav, Jewish LGBT Alliance of the JCF, and Nehirim.Keshets new office steps intothe place of Jewish Mosaics former satellite San Francisco office, which closed when Boston-based Keshet and theformer Denver-based Jewish Mosaic merged in June 2010.The new office is headed by out lesbian Sasha T. Goldberg, 30,the former associate director of Nehirim, a queer Jewish culture and spirituality organization that hosts retreats andother programs. Goldberg, who took the position in May, has lived in the Bay Area for more than a decade after movingfrom Chicago. She earned her masters degree in Judaism from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and was aconsultant to educators on LGBT issues.Building bridgesArthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge,understands bridges. The organization that works to bring queer Jews in North America and Israel together to learn fromeach other and build relationships became the first to be accepted into the UpStart program, according to bothorganizations leadership. It is also the only LGBT program selected by the committee out of the competitive process thisyear, Rubin pointed out."Im really proud that we have been selected," said Slepian, who has orchestrated bringingqueer Israeli Orthodox and youth leaders to tour the U.S. and spoke to more than 1,000 individuals during the past year.He said he looks forward to taking the opportunity to build upon creating "opportunities for organizations in the U.S.and Israel to work together." Slepian is currently planning an LGBT trip to Israel later this year with several otherorganizations. Additionally, the organization is planning a series of programs for college campuses, Slepian said."Ourorganization is about education, engagement, and experience. Thats what really we are trying to bring to LGBT Jews andthe broader LGBT community in terms of being able to connect with Israel [either for] the first time or to strengthen theconnections that one might already have," said Slepian.The three other organizations that were selected by UpStart:Amir, the Kitchen, and Urban Adamah. The organizations already started working with six UpStart alumni organizationsand alongside each other for the next three years on their respective projects.For more information,visit http://www.keshetonline.org, http://www.awiderbridge.org, or http://www.upstartbayarea.org.