Using Just Teens in Your Philanthropy Toolbox

By Danielle Segal

In the Sinai desert, Moses took a count of all the Israelites (Numbers 1:18), one of many times in the Torah that our call to action involved being included in a census. It was a way for us to take stock, have a finger on the pulse of the community and assess everyone’s contributions. In our current world of data, research and statistics, numbers are a vital tool as we assess our field of work. Just as valuable are the anecdotes, quotes, trends and more nuanced information that you can’t necessarily plot on a graph.

The Jewish Teen Funders Network, which grows and strengthens the field of Jewish teen philanthropy across the globe, released a study last week, “Just Teens: Transforming Tzedakah into Grantmaking.” For this report, which explored statistics, trends and tidbits within our field, two-thirds of our network said “count me!” and we were able to not only capture their data, but also delve into some issue areas that teens care about and values that shape their decision-making.

So now what? You have read our beautiful infographic and you have dutifully pinned it to your notice board and wonder how this can help you further your work. Here are some ways that professionals, at all stages of the Jewish teen philanthropy process, can utilize the report as a useful tool:

  1. Tell your teens

Sometimes it’s hard to see the bigger picture when our time is spent focusing on our own programs. For our teens who complete teen philanthropy program, more often than not granting to local organizations (60% of dollars granted to local organizations according to our study), it can be eye-opening and validating to see how other teens across the country, and world, carry out their grantmaking. How wonderful to show your teens that they are part of a worldwide movement of transformational tzedakah! They can even use it as a helpful resource for themselves as they fundraise for their cause, recruit other teens to their programs, or talk about their own accomplishments when applying to colleges or internships.

2. Ask your teens

We value teen’s opinions – that’s why we included their quotes on our study! Show it to your teens and use it as a jumping off point for a great discussion about their thoughts on the data. What points resonate with them? Are there any statistics that surprise them? Take it a step further and challenge them to think about how their giving shapes the field at large.

3. Thinking of starting a program?

New Jewish teen philanthropy programs start every year in a wide variety of host organizations such as synagogues, federations, foundations, JCCs, Jewish day schools, camps and more. Thinking of starting a program in your community? This study could be used as a tool to demonstrate some of the collective impact that our teen community can make. There are also examples of many different aspects of tried and tested curriculum components: Jewish values that inform mission statements, considerations about parameters on giving, grantmaking options, and quotes from existing teen participants. See the resources page on the JTFN website for further resources and curriculum.

4. Take it to a board meeting

More than the staff and the teens in each program, there are many people, both lay and professional, who contribute behind the scenes to Jewish teen philanthropy, be they funders, board members, advocates, CEOs or participant parents. Bring this study to your next board meeting, advisory council session or parent meet-up so that you can share with them the successes of the field. It will allow them to see your program within the wider sphere of Jewish teen philanthropy and could influence improvements and changes as your program grows.

5. Put on your PR hat

Do you have a magazine, bulletin or blog? Reference our study, or even write your own article inspired by some of our findings. Contact us if you have written something about this topic and we will happily repost!

6. Statistics and quotes

There are a range of statistics and quotes across this report that demonstrate not only the amount of money granted by our teen community (over 1 million dollars, which is an impressive figure in itself!), but also themes of grants, types of giving, quotes from teens, comparisons from previous years and ongoing trends. Whether you are continuing with an existing program, or starting something new, we hope the findings in this study help along your journey.

This article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Teen Funders Network

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