From Our Blog

Mythbusting Around Scale

By on January 18th, 2012

Taproot CEO Aaron Hurst made clear (virtually) that his session entitled “Proven Levers to Scale Impact” would be a ‘SCALING SMACKDOWN’. The session did not disappoint. For me, this ‘how to’ approach put some practical meat on the bones of the conversation around scaling impact that resonated through halls the at the GEO conference this week. In the last year, Taproot has attempted to answer the following questions: What are the discrete paths for nonprofits looking to scale impact and how can funders support this quest? This of particular obsession in my world — the world of Jewish philanthropy.  The self-identified ‘innovation ecosystem’ in the Jewish world has been in engaged in a two year conversation about mezzanine level support for ...More

Education Initiative Results in More Students in Jewish Educator Programs – January 2012

By on January 13th, 2012

The Jim Joseph Foundation is now two and one-half years into the implementation of its Education Initiative: major grants awarded to Hebrew Union College (HUC), Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Yeshiva University (YU). The Foundation has engaged for this Education Initiative the American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.) to conduct both formative and summative evaluation. A.I.R. will submit its first report in June of this year. In the interim there are some exciting developments to report. First of all, it is important to remind the field that funding pre-service credentialing and training of professional Jewish educators is core to Jim Joseph Foundation’s philanthropic strategy. Thus, the fact that HUC now offers a new Executive Master’s program and has enrolled 16 students in ...More

December 2011

By on December 13th, 2011

The Jim Joseph Foundation just completed its 28th board meeting since its inception in 2006. Directors’ action on grant proposals at this meeting will ultimately result – once grant agreements are formalized – in the Foundation’s having awarded grants now totaling more than $250 million. The Foundation has paid more than $150 million from these awards to worthy grantees whose righteous work educates Jewish youth and young adults. There is a refrain echoing from this column: that $250 million in grant awards benefitting an estimated 237,000 young Jews are certainly “big” numbers. But in and of themselves, these numbers cannot give the Foundation assurance that its carefully considered grants represent investments which demonstrably help the Foundation achieve its strategic priorities. I have ...More

November 2011

By on November 13th, 2011

Jim Joseph Foundation grantees currently report that in total, more than 235,000 individuals benefit from a variety of Jewish educational experiences made possible by the Foundation’s funding. We work very closely with grantees in their monitoring of these numbers. Moreover, we strive continuously - with the help of qualified evaluators and talented organizational personnel - to make sense out of what these myriad Jewish experiences mean. As I have repeatedly mentioned in this column, Jim Joseph Foundation relies in part on independent, third party evaluators to promote grantee/Foundation learning. We also use evaluations to assess progress grantees make toward targeted outcomes of Foundation-funded initiatives. Attached for your perusal are recent evaluations that we find to be instructive Moishe House, ...More

October 2011

By on October 14th, 2011

In Memory of Jack Slomovic, z”l A special message from Board President Al Levitt and Executive Director Chip Edelsberg For whatever success the Jim Joseph Foundation has enjoyed in its brief history, the Board of Directors has been integral to this good work. Over the six years Foundation Directors and professionals have worked together, we have developed deep and caring relationships with one another. It is thus with a profound sense of loss that we share with you the death of Foundation Director Jack Slomovic, z”l. Our purpose here is not to write an encomium to a great man. (Several extraordinary tributes have already been created - one of which, written by Ben Shapiro, is attached.) We do want you to ...More

September 2011

By on September 14th, 2011

One of the areas of foundation work that I find rarely discussed is how various foundations use site visits their professionals conduct to advance philanthropic effectiveness. At the Jim Joseph Foundation, we budget for each of the foundation’s program officers and senior executives to make one trip per quarter for grantee visitations. I am confident little in these dozens of annual site visits diverges from common practice. Nevertheless, I think it is helpful to describe how we at the Jim Joseph Foundation go about this piece of our business. It is obvious that being in the field is the best way to see grants “in action.” Observing key personnel actually doing the specific work that an individual grant requires is an ...More

July 2011

By on July 14th, 2011

Since its inception in 2006, the Jim Joseph Foundation (JJF) has committed itself to continuous improvement. Often continuous improvement is just a catch phrase or a professed (but typically, undocumented) pattern of performance. JJF, however, is refining a set of measures it uses to assess its improvement efforts. For JJF, “getting better” points the foundation to a number of behaviors and indicators. First, as is well known to readers of this column, we work closely with grantees to track the number of beneficiaries of JJF grant support. So, for example, it is affirming to JJF that 2,625 youth are in Jewish residential summer camps in the summer of 2011 (1,615 in JWest camps and 1,010 in the five JJF-funded Specialty camps) ...More

June 2011

By on June 14th, 2011

While I was in the process of composing this month’s Jim Joseph Foundation (JJF) Executive Director Update on JJF’s developing effort in researching Jewish teen education and engagement, JTA released Lynn Schusterman’s Op-Ed “Uping the Ante: Why I’m Doubling Down on the Teen Years.” Lynn lauds the success of youth groups and Jewish camps for engaging Jewish teenagers in “a compelling, meaningful and value-added manner.” Lynn exhorts funders to spend dollars supporting organizations which offer effective programs and to award grants to organizations which will replicate best practices. JJF’s grant support of organizations which the foundation has assessed to effectively educate Jewish teenagers is substantial: JJF has awarded $72 million to these organizations in the foundation’s first five years of its ...More

May 2011

By on May 14th, 2011

The Jim Joseph Foundation (JJF) has made significant investments in organizations which serve Jewish young and so-called “emerging” adults. We have done so because JJF believes there is convincing evidence that young people value relevant Jewish learning; that quality Jewish experiential education speaks to these adults and is increasingly accessible to them; and that viable organizations with thoughtfully conceived initiatives merit foundation funding. While working closely with the likes of young-adult oriented entities such as Birthright, NEXT, Moishe House, Reboot and Repair, JJF also makes grants to enhance Jewish learning offered by organizations whose beneficiaries are Jewish teenagers. JJF currently funds, among others, Jewish middle and high school Israel education and a major day school affordability project; ...More

April 2011

By on April 14th, 2011

Jim Joseph Foundation (JJF) is five years into its grantmaking. The Foundation has established strong funder-grantee relationships. It is beginning to accumulate interesting and telling data on its major funded initiatives from the 21 evaluations for which JJF has contracted. One area of grantmaking that evidences great promise is the Foundation’s strategy to support organizations which capitalize on peer-to-peer networks to engender young adult engagement with Jewish life and learning. The outstanding work of four organizations is featured in the linked micro-documentary. I encourage you to view it so that you can appreciate how Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educator / Campus Entrepreneur Initiative, REPAIR’s service learning programs, as well as Birthright NEXT and Moishe House peer educator activities deepen the Jewish lives ...More

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.