From the Executive Director

A Year Unlike Any Other

By Chip Edelsberg on January 5th, 2016

2016 is unlike any other year at the Jim Joseph Foundation since I began working with Board Chair Al Levitt and the entire Board of Directors to build the organization that Jim Joseph, z”l, bestowed and envisioned. A schedule that calls for four of the Foundation’s Directors who were at the Board table a decade ago to rotate off the Board is now in effect. Dr. Susan Folkman concludes her dedicated service this first week of 2016. Dr. Folkman will be followed this year by Jerry Somers and Phyllis Cook, respectively (following the Foundation’s second and fourth 2016 Board meetings), each completing multiple terms as a founding Director.

In addition to Directors’ departures, this is my final year as the Foundation’s Executive Director. I am under contract until the end of 2016. But the Foundation’s search for its first ever professional Chief Executive Officer/President is proceeding smoothly, and it is conceivable the new CEO/President could begin onboarding in late spring.

At a time of transition such as this, I know it is critically important to have experienced staff positioned for future success. Fortunately, the current team of Jim Joseph Foundation professionals and our grants management and administrative staff works effectively together. It is a high functioning team, based on excellent results measurably achieved by most of the Foundation’s grantees and a comparatively small staff that implements the Foundation’s grantmaking. Continuity of personnel can be key to maintaining performance during a time of leadership change. I am confident my successor will find these talented professionals and skilled administrative team members to be the bedrock of the Jim Joseph Foundation’s philanthropic effectiveness.

It is a coincidence that as I prepare to work closely with my to-be-named successor that a new CEO Onboarding pilot program will be formally announced this month and launched in April. Funded by the Jim Joseph, Schusterman, and Weinberg Foundations, the CEO Onboarding program will be offered in partnership with Leading Edge (formally known as the Jewish Leadership Pipelines Alliance). At no other time in my 25 years of service to the Jewish community can I recall the level and intensity of focus that is being dedicated to talent-identifying, recruiting, employing, supporting and developing, promoting and retaining skilled individuals to undertake the work our community is compelled and required to do (Leading Edge, incidentally, will be experimenting with a new program of its own, called Leading Places to Work)

While governance, leadership, management and organizational change issues have consumed much of my time these past few months, the Foundation is poised to execute on an exciting slate of grantmaking opportunities in 2016.  The late March Board meeting grant docket is already full of several highly promising initiatives that are in proposal development. The Foundation is pursuing potential new investments in numerous areas of strategic interest, such as community-based teen education; Israel education; and Jewish overnight camping. The Board has asked its professionals to explore philanthropy in support of educational technology and new media, as well as research into Jewish education, broadly construed. We are also contemplating holding a few important convenings in 2016. As a professional team, we look forward to active participation in conferences such as JFN, JPRO, The General Assembly and NRJE. We plan to continue to blog regularly, with all Foundation professionals encouraged to share insights and lessons learned with the field. So, with the New Year just beginning, I have to say that it looks like it will be an eventful 2016 for the Jim Joseph Foundation.

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The Jim Joseph Foundation invests in promising Jewish education grant initiatives. We partner with effective organizations that seek to inspire young people to discover the joy of living vibrant Jewish lives.