The Impact Grants Initiative (IGI) employs a high engagement and empowerment approach to grantmaking modeled on social venture philanthropy. We launched the IGI last year 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 the multi-year funding needed to be successful, as well as the type of nonfinancial support that helps them thrive. And ultimately, the grants awarded as a result of this new model help build a more vibrant, connected and enduring Jewish community. In fact, the IGI approach has proved so successful that we have launched another grant round for engaging young adults, another to engage our young Russian community, and incorporated it into our current Regional Impact effort in the South and North Peninsula, and will soon launch one focused on Israel. We spoke with Lois Wander, a participant from the first grant round to get her feedback on her experience:
How has being part of the first IGI grant round changed how you approach philanthropy?
“I really appreciate the new approach to treat the grantees as ‘investments,’ a la the venture capitalist model. It allowed us to select grantees that were innovative and new, yet with a solid business plan to help mitigate risk. A large focus of our criteria was to support organizations that were scalable and serving a current need. I think we achieved that with our grantees.”
How have you been involved with the grantee since they received the grant? What has that experience been like for you?
“Yes, I along with Brett Goldstein serve as the liaisons for G-dCast, led by Sarah Lefton. Sarah is a real dynamic leader, with tons of enthusiasm and skills. We’ve met with her several times the past year to hear her progress, provide suggestions and resources. We’re excited to follow her progress.”
Do you think the IGI is a good approach for a more hands-on approach to grantmaking?
“Absolutely! I really enjoyed the process of designing the application and goals and assessing the applications. I always appreciate hearing other people’s opinions and the lively discussion that inevitably ensues when strong minded, passionate people come together. “
What about as a way to involve young adults with the Federation?
“I think it’s a great way to get young adults involved with the Federation. You learn a lot about philanthropy, including new approaches, and get to know some great people in the process.”
Year-one reveals promising results
The Impact Grants Initiative committee met to review the seven grantees’ progress to date and their second year plans. On the whole, the grantees have made tremendous strides in building their own capacity to engage more people in the Jewish community. For example, Kevah expanded its services from 250 to 420 participants, the Idelsohn Society engaged 25,000 visitors through its Tikva pop-up store, and the Russian Moishe House has attracted 745 participants through nearly 50 programs. Other organizations took a little longer to launch, but they expect to make great progress in their efforts by the end of 2012.
IGI reflects the Federation’s move towards more results-oriented grantmaking and better positions the organization to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future. This effort is funded by a $1,000,000 allocation from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, which will be distributed over a three-year period.