Beth Steinhorn on the Conference on Volunteering and Service

By Beth Steinhorn

For the last few years, Repair the World has convened a delegation of Jewish non-profit professionals at the annual Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service (June 27-29 this year). So much exciting work has happened in the world of service and volunteering within the Jewish world over the last decade. The delegation offers a chance for some of the leaders of this movement to get together, share ideas, and learn from one another.

As a longtime attendee of the conference, being part of Repair the World’s delegation has really enhanced the experience for me personally. I attend the conference to present workshops, network with colleagues, share the work of my clients, and, of course, to learn about new developments in the field of engagement and service.

When Repair the World created the first delegation, I was eager to be part of the community of professionals who connect with Repair’s mission and to participate in Repair’s summit the day before the conference as well. While my work as a volunteer engagement consultant connects me to many Jewish organizations – as well as secular ones – this delegation is a sign of how far the Jewish world has come in terms of recognizing the power of volunteerism and service as well as the importance of embracing best practices in engagement.

The delegation provides a great opportunity to network with colleagues from Jewish organizations, to learn about the best practices that they are developing, and, simply put, to be part of the larger community. I have had a chance to share our resources and research as well. I have been especially excited to connect with the growing network of Jewish volunteer centers. While I have been able to share tools with them, I also have learned a great deal about how they are developing new community resources to connect Jews and others to meaningful service opportunities.

Through the delegation, I have developed new partnerships and strengthened others. It was at the Points of Light conference a few years ago where I first met Sheryl Parker from UJA Federation of NY who has since gone on to lead the Service Enterprise Initiative for UJA. I have also been working with Points of Light as a trainer of Service Enterprise and the conference is a great way to connect regularly with Sheryl and other Service Enterprise leaders. They share their experiences with me and I share lessons from our cohorts with them.

Another example is my work with the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies (AJFCA). Since meeting Jennie Gates Beckman from AJFCA at the Points of Light Conference, I have presented at the AJFCA conference, regularly collaborate with Jennie on various engagement initiatives, and, this year, will be moderating a session that she and Sheryl designed. Finally, since the delegation has now been around for a few years, I have really found it valuable to see some of the same people year after year so that they can update me on their work and I can do the same.

The Summit that Repair has convened prior to the conference is also a great chance to learn firsthand about some of Repair’s latest research. I regularly incorporate that information into the trainings and consulting I present to congregations, federations, and Jewish family and children’s agencies, among others, so I try to spread that information widely among my clients and constituents.

Ten years ago, the Jewish world was not really talking about volunteer engagement as a field and the research and tools around Jewish engagement were still in their infancy. To see so many people committed to the field and to building this growing foundation of research and best practices is inspiring. I am pleased and excited to be part of it as a contributor, learner, and member of this national community.

As President of the JFFixler Group, which helps transform organizations through innovative volunteer and member engagement, Beth Steinhorn has become one of the most inspiring and respected voices in the field of service.