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JCF Blog

Money Isn't Enough

Posted by: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford on 4/15/2015

The generosity of the American Jewish Community generally and the greater Hartford community specifically is quite remarkable.  Plenty of anecdotal information suggests that our embrace of Tzedakah (often defined as charity) as a core Jewish value has led to higher charitable giving by the Jewish community than the secular community at large.

The degree to which the Jewish people believe in the idea of charity and philanthropy never ceases to amaze me.  I’ve seen it first hand in the current Aim Chai Endowment Campaign where donors have consistently made the largest gifts of their lives in order to sustain the long term future of the community.  It is a source of inspiration for me.

Of course it really isn’t all that surprising when you realize that as a people we have been building and sustaining communities for thousands of years.  Given the persecution we have faced across time, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that we have built a culture of supporting each other in times of need.  

However, the time has come for us as a people to acknowledge the truth about philanthropy.  Money isn’t enough.  Let me be even clearer – there will never be enough money to solve our most intractable problems.  I have no doubt that this sounds deeply pessimistic, but hear me out.

Philanthropic generosity has tremendous impact on our community’s ability to care for the sick and indigent, protect and educate our children, sustain the State of Israel, preserve our beliefs and culture and pass along our most important values to the generations that will follow.  I’m not saying that the generosity of the Jewish community is irrelevant – it has had enormous impact.  I’m saying that money alone is unlikely to be the solution to our biggest challenges.

While the Foundation has embraced an ambitious 10 year target for building assets – growing to $250 million within a decade – our most recent strategic plan led us in some new directions including the concept that strengthening community organizations may be as critical to creating community vibrancy as grant making. We understand that the stronger the organization, the more likely they are to use our grant money in the most effective way.

As a community we are only as strong as the weakest thread in the chain that holds us together.  We’ve talked a lot about the common threads that connect our community in the Aim Chai Endowment Campaign, but what if by investing in our institutional infrastructure we could turn those threads into steel cables that could hold us all up?  What does this look like?  

We are working on that through our new Center for Innovative Philanthropy. The Center supports capacity building for our partner organizations, to strengthen their institutional infrastructure and provide them with the tools for long-term sustainability and growth. The Center will engage donors through philanthropic advisory services, designed to help them achieve their goals and explore alternative approaches to giving. And the Center will support community-based research to help drive decision-making and engage the community in conversations about the data. Together, we expect that these add up to increased impact for every dollar in our community. It will take time to get there, but we know that every step along the way will improve our community. 

What are your thoughts about the Center and our new direction as a Foundation? Please share in the comments below. 

And if you have a question, call us (860-523-7460) – we’re ready to listen, anytime.

Michael Johnston is president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford. 
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