Jewish Communal Fund Helps Teens Give Strategically

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Jewish Communal Fund Tamar Snyder leads a session

In mid-March, 20 members of the JCC Rockland Teen Leadership Initiative (TLI) will review requests for funding from several local communal agencies.

They will have a maximum of $5, 400 to allocate toward grants for projects help those in need. Like most of us, the funds at their disposal are limited. It will be impossible to fund all of the worthy projects for which they receive proposals. How then will they decide which organizations to fund, and how much to grant each project?

Tamar Snyder, JCF’s Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives & Communications, met with the JLI teens to help them explore these challenges and devise solutions by creating an evaluation rubric to assess grant requests more objectively.

The evening session started out with the TLI members sharing their names, schools and favorite charities.   Participants then downloaded “Clink!: Making Change by Giving, ” Jewish Communal Fund’s free giving app, from Apple’s app store (just search for “Jewish Communal Fund” or visit clink.

Using Clink!, teens were presented with 28 issue areas, from women’s rights and poverty to Jewish education and Israel. By swiping away the causes that were less meaningful to them, teens were left with the three top issue areas about which they were most passionate. Unsurprisingly, the resulting topics spanned the entire spectrum of the app, with only two teens choosing the same three top issue areas. Clearly, narrowing down funding prospects based upon issue area would prove to be challenging for a group with such diverse interests.

After discussing ways to learn more about a charity – via site visits, viewing the charity’s website, reading the 990 financial form and speaking with staff members and volunteers – Snyder introduced the concept of an evaluation rubric.

Having a common set of questions to ask about each of the incoming proposals levels the playing field and enables a group to choose grant recipients more objectively. Together, the teens decided that each question would have the same weight and range from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

  • The teens posed very thoughtful questions to include in the rubric:
  • How much do I identify with the purpose or mission of this program?
  • How many people will benefit from this program?
  • Is the project’s budget appropriate and realistic?
  • How great is the need that this project addresses?
  • Does this organization have a track record of success in this area?
  • How long-lasting will the impact of this program be?
  • How financially sound is the organization?
  • How large is the organization?

Many of the questions did not have a black-and-white answer. For example, the teens discussed whether they would prefer to reach a larger number of people more superficially, or greatly impact a smaller number of people. They also spoke about whether they would prefer to give grants to a larger organization (which may have more experience, staff and other resources but may not view their grant as sizeable) or a smaller organization (for which even a $1, 500 grant would make a big difference).

This session encouraged the TLI teens to be more thoughtful about their own giving, be it in terms of monetary donations or when volunteering their time. They have learned that giving strategically is a difficult, but worthwhile, endeavor.

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