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Posts tagged ‘Sarah Lefton’

An Interview with an Impact Grants Initiative Grant Maker

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:

Lois Wander, a first round IGI Initiative committee member

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.

For more information on IGI: please contact Adin C. Miller, Senior Director of Community Impact and Innovations.

Redrawing the People of the Book

Sarah Lefton, Executive Director of G-dcast

Sarah Lefton, Executive Director of G-dcast

Sarah Lefton has held some impressive titles – tech media producer, journalist, and entrepreneur are just a few. She was also named as one of the Forward 50 most influential Jews of 2009.

I heard a story from a friend that made me reply ‘Who knew that’s Jewish?’ said Sarah, “and that made me realize I could teach people things and start an interest in a learning adventure.”

That’s why since 2008, she and her crew of editors, animators, educators, and 55 diverse guest writers and narrators from across the globe have been working feverishly to restore credibility to the phrase The People of the Book. “Animation allows you to have fun because it’s playful,” she says.

Sarah’s goal is to raise basic Jewish literacy by introducing the building blocks that make Jewish life accessible. Her work has impacted everyone from kids to teachers, from secular to Hassidic, sometimes even people she wouldn’t expect to hear from.

To date, G-dcast has created 62 short films – all available for free on their website – based on Jewish texts that have been viewed nearly a million times on the web, social media networks and mobile devices. Their companion curricula are in use by over 3000 educators at institutions across the Jewish spectrum and around the world.

ABOUT G-DCAST: By making quirky and charming cartoons of our classic Jewish texts, G-dcast is animating today’s telling of the Torah. Their new division targets educators and parents of young teens by creating films explicitly for a young adult audience to encourage conversations about Jewish life. As an IGI recipient, G-dcast received a total of $150,000 from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund which will be distributed over a three-year period.

Kosher animals song

Have a hard time remembering which animals are kosher?  Lucky for you Dan Saks of Deleon and the Macaroons has written and sung a catchy tune about exactly that! 

Lucky for us, producer of this video Sarah Lefton will be hosting a talk at our upcoming FedFest One Hundred celebration on April 10, 2011 in San Francisco.  She will be discussing ways to bring Jewish moments into the home every day.  If you would like to hear her presentation, please register today.  The lecture is FREE to Federation donors.  Not a Federation donor? Please consider making a gift today.

Princess of Persia

G-dcast has released a great new video featuring Esther, the young woman at the middle of the famous Purim story.

Sarah Lefton, the creator of G-dcast, be at our upcoming FedFest One Hundred celebration, hosting a presentation called, “Igniting the Spark through Jewish Moments in Your Home.”  She will lead a group of innovative Jewish educators in showing parents how easy it is to bring Jewish moments into the home every day. This workshop will provide ideas, resources and practical tools.

If you are a Federation donor, we would like to invite you to FedFest One Hundred on April 10, 2011, where you can watch other G-dcast shorts, attend Lefton’s presentation, and meet other Jewish innovators.


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