November 15, 2007
Engaging young philanthropists—our approach
(Page 2 - Previous Page)With the help of 25 Jewish funding professionals across the United States, 50 innovative and effective Jewish organizations and projects are featured annually in Slingshot: A Resource Guide to Jewish Innovation. Then the 50 organizations are invited to apply to the Slingshot Fund for resources to build their capacity for engaging the next generations. In its inaugural year, nearly $400,000 was raised and allocated by these next generation funders.
The real lesson in this example is how it was set up. We gave the next generation the proverbial keys to the car and in the end, they have taken better care of it than we could have ever imagined.
I have never experienced a more thoughtful and meticulous process where funders are trying to build a fund and a grant-making process that reflects their Jewish and generational values. They are asking applicants what they need in order to do their work, investing in operating support, providing value beyond the grant money through their networks and different skill sets. And they are inviting people of all ages and income levels to get involved by opening up charitable giving on their Web site.
In being flexible about how these next generation funders became involved, the community succeeded in engaging the next generation, channeling philanthropic dollars into Jewish life and building relationships with people who hold our communal future in their hands.
Today, 20- and 30-something Jews are leading an array of organizations from nonprofits to hedge funds. As responsible managers of those organizations, they have the skills to lead. I believe that if we place our trust in them, they will be responsible stewards of the Jewish future as well.
Adding members of Gen X and Y to our allocation tables is an important first step, but if we can also acknowledge that the "kids" are now "adults" who can bring expertise, resources and leadership to the community, we can be less focused on "engagement" and more assured of our future.
It is a rare opportunity in Jewish history to have the resources that we have as a community. Even more exceptional is our opportunity to allocate those philanthropic resources with four generations around our communal tables.
Although multigenerational philanthropy requires us to hold the tension between our traditions and the innovation of the next generations, it seems well worth it to achieve continuity. Are we up to the challenge?
For more information about the 21/64 division, visit http://www.2164.net.
For more information about the Jewish Slingshot Fund, visit http://www.slingshotfund.org/.
Courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Sharna Goldseker is the vice president of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and director of its 21/64 division. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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