Today we held the final review session for Letters of Inquiry to the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC). In this, our third, year of the Challenge we saw a collection of applicants that was the very best yet. Those advancing to Round Two will be notified this weekend. Congratulations to all applicants — this year’s was the best group of LOIs we’ve seen yet — you made our job very difficult. I wish we could fund and work with all of you. Please check your email in the coming days to see whether your LOI has been accepted to the next round. For those advancing, we look forward to seeing your full proposals and meeting you in your interviews. To those who did not, please keep trying. You are on the right track and we see you all as our partners in building a bright future for our children and our children’s children. Yasher Koach and Shabbat Shalom to all.
It seems in the world of philanthropy every five years or so a new buzzword or phrase overtakes charitable foundations and other institutional and private funders. During the span of my career we’ve been through efficiency, effectiveness, strategic philanthropy, venture philanthropy, and impact, to name a few. As these concepts build on each other they travel in turn through the nonprofit and philanthropic sector as magic bullet of the day. As in many fields, trends in philanthropy tend to follow a similar trajectory from insightful and powerful to hackneyed and meaningless. The tragedy of this, of course, is that we often underutilize the philanthropic sector’s best ideas in practice even as we overuse them in rhetoric.
This month I have the privilege of addressing Jewish outreach professionals about fundraising at the Association for Jewish Outreach Programs’ (AJOP) annual convention in Baltimore. Though I’ve spoken about my experiences as a fundraiser, conducted trainings and mentored young fundraisers many times over, this one feels different.