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The Impact Grants Initiative Brings Local Organizations Together to Engage Families in Jewish Life

The Impact Grants Initiative (IGI) is an engaged, empowered, and effective approach to grantmaking. In 2011, the Federation’s Board launched the IGI as a way to provide donor-participants with a “hands-on” way to make a real difference in our community by making high impact grants that focus on a pressing community need. Through the IGI approach we have provided innovative Jewish programs within traditional organizations or new nonprofits with multi-year funding to succeed, and capacity building support to thrive. And ultimately, the grants awarded as a result of this new model help build a more vibrant, connected and enduring Jewish Community.

Deborah Pinsky is the Executive Director of the Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC).  The PJCC was awarded a grant from JCF’s inaugural North Peninsula Regional Impact Committee, for a project that will be executed in partnership with Kevah, an organization dedicated to fostering Jewish identity and community through the study of classical Jewish texts.  The two organizations, one an established institution, the other a younger “Up-starter,” are joining together to address a community-wide challenge – engaging North Peninsula families with young children and teens in Jewish life. Collaborative partnerships like these are just one example of the many benefits of the IGI approach.

Following is a conversation between Sara Bamberger, ED of Kevah, and Deborah Pinsky, ED of PJCC, on their IGI experience and their emerging fruitful partnership.

How is the JCF IGI process different from other grant application processes that you’ve been involved with?

Deborah Pinsky, PJCC: It’s rare that a large, local, deeply committed group of community leaders is involved “soup to nuts” in a grant process – from conception and framing of the RFP, to reviewing and evaluating the requests, to interviewing applicants and making grant decisions. One result, for us, was the committee urging us to put our heads together with Kevah, which had submitted a funding request with overlapping themes, ideas and methods. The resulting conversations turned into a joint proposal for Do Justice: Fighting Hunger; a project we expect to transform Jewish engagement and leadership development on the North Peninsula.

Sara Bamberger, Kevah:  While this is the first IGI grant we’ve received in partnership with another organization, this actually isn’t our first IGI grant — Kevah has been fortunate to receive IGI grants from other JCF IGI grantmaking groups. One of the things that makes the IGI grant process unique is the liaison piece.  Each grantee is assigned one or two committee members as ongoing liaisons during the life of the grant.  This means that the relationship between the funder, JCF, and the grantee, is deeper than simply the funder sending a check, and the grantee sending an end-of-year report. Rather, the liaisons are in touch with us throughout the year, to help us identify and address any challenges along the way, and ultimately ensuring the best outcomes for the project.  This is ideal for the organization implementing the program, and for the funder, which hopes to maximize outcomes.

How was the grant application process helpful to your organization?

Deborah Pinsky, PJCC: The process not only resulted in suggesting a possible collaboration, but gave us enough time to work with Kevah to conceptualize the new partnership and our joint proposal. We were strongly encouraged to be innovative and to think out-of-the-box, which is exactly what we did. The grant also commits funds to an expert-led process that will help us develop, measure and evaluate project outcomes in conjunctions with other IGI grantees in the South Peninsula. We’re looking forward to that. Finally, it’s exciting and unusual for applicants to be encouraged to request multi-year grants. In today’s environment, longer-term funding commitments are more crucial than ever for long-range success, especially for a project like ours that creates a partnership between organizations with very distinct profiles and cultures.

What was it like working with the IGI committee through the application and interview process?

Deborah Pinsky, PJCC: It was great. Both the staff and committee members were highly committed to a give and take process that could best lead to the outcomes they sought. One outcome, of course, was the PJCC-Kevah collaboration that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The caliber of the committee members also led to a very thoughtful RFP and the knowledge that we had to come well-prepared for our “final interview”.

What does this grant enable your organization(s) to do that you couldn’t before?

Deborah Pinsky, PJCC: The Do Justice: Fighting Hunger project launches a robust multi-year effort combining so many great things — organic gardening; learning about and feeding the hungry; engaging in meaningful, interactive, family-focused Jewish learning about social justice and Tikkun Olam; giving families incredible hands-on experiences with Urban Adamah and Wilderness Torah; identifying and training new Jewish leaders; and enabling Kevah learning groups to become embedded for the long-term on the North Peninsula, with an on-site presence at the PJCC. It’s simply going to be transformational for our community.

Sara Bamberger, Kevah:  For Kevah, this grant offers a unique opportunity to enter a new market in an innovative way.  Also, we’ve never partnered with a JCC before, and we are thrilled at having the opportunity to use Kevah as a platform for the PJCC to deepen its ability to provide quality Jewish content, as well as a way to create ongoing programming that takes place outside the JCC’s walls.

For more information on the North Peninsula Regional IGI, contact Adina Danzig Epelman, Program Officer, Regional Grantmaking at 415.512.6216.

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