Two years ago, the Jewish Community Federation (JCF) launched an ambitious pilot to revolutionize its grant making efforts. Known as the Impact Grants Initiative (IGI), this new model adopted a venture philanthropy approach that offered high engagement opportunities for previously unaffiliated local donors and lay leaders while identifying high performing nonprofits that can make significant impact on local Jewish communities.
The concept of venture philanthropy, which combines theories and techniques used in venture capital strategies and business with philanthropic practice, provides a platform to highly engage donors and make strategic and tactical community investments. Typically, venture philanthropies focus on capacity building grants, instead of providing support for direct service delivery or general operations. They also provide funding as multi-year grants.
In January of this year, the IGI approach was adopted for an innovative partnership with the Israel Venture Network (IVN) to engage people in our local community in a unique collaboration with Israeli colleagues to identify and co-fund high performing social ventures in Israel. The team is made up of a diverse group of talented and thoughtful individuals including business owners, non-profit leaders, and high-tech entrepreneurs who spent months learning about Israel’s social issues and trends as well as the emerging field of social impact investment. This IGI culminated in a week-long trip to Israel to visit the seven enterprises under consideration and to make the final funding decision.
The team ultimately decided to fund three high-impact enterprises with the possibility of a fourth:
Susan’s House employs youth at risk in the production and sale of unique glass, jewelry and housewares. This venture is run by a member of the ultra-orthodox community, who mentors and guides his program participants to develop self-esteem, communal values, interpersonal relationships and job skills.
Mitam provides a variety of human resource services to non-profits in a sector in Israel that typically lacks the knowledge and financial capacity to hire full-time HR professionals.
Jobs4Moms is an online job search platform geared toward mothers seeking quality full and part-time jobs that have the flexibility necessary to combine parenting and a career that utilizes their skills and experience.
Pending: Rakea aims to revolutionize academic studies for young Ultra-Orthodox students by weaving Torah studies into math textbooks. Typically, these students forgo the core studies in math, science and English for exclusively Jewish texts, and leave behind an education that’s critical for employment outside the yeshiva.
Not only did this experience yield three exceptionally effective new Federation grantees representing an important and emerging sector in Israel, it also built and cemented bonds among the IGI team and created new relationships between the team and Federation.