Archive for : AJFCA

Connected Through Service

Stephen Donshik’s article on the Jumpstart study, “Connected to Give,” highlights several key issues and raises a number of key questions. In particular, the following are three big ideas we at The Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies (AJFCA) want to echo from the article and how we have shifted our focus to address these exact needs in the community:

We need to be reaching out and engaging young people (especially graduates of intensive Jewish experiences like birthright israel) in our institutions, educating them on our mission and organizational structure and inviting them to participate in actual decision making at a high-level.

Will this happen overnight? No. Obviously, as Donshik pointed out, we need to invest in leadership development and strengthen the role of volunteers of all ages in our Jewish institutions. AJFCA made just this investment when we partnered with Repair the World to launch our Volunteer Initiative, hiring a dedicated full time professional in February 2012 to elevate the role and impact of volunteering within AJFCA’s member agencies, manage the expansion of outreach to young adults, and increase professional development and support to network volunteer managers. We have created a Community of Practice of approximately 75 agencies throughout North America that share ideas and resources on community volunteer engagement. Our agencies report that support from AJFCA and their peers helps to enhance their strategy for engaging young people in their communities in a meaningful way.

Once we had a strong sense of how our agencies were faring in the area of young adult engagement, we decided to pilot a Young Adult Ambassador program which would provide the structure and resources to allow the Volunteer Manager of three select agencies to focus on young adult recruitment and engagement in service. Although the pilot year is not yet complete, we have already seen significant returns for the participating agencies. For example, Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit had been reluctant to create volunteer programming specifically targeting young adults since the market for such opportunities in Detroit was surprisingly saturated. The Ambassador pilot helped them work through their perceived roadblocks, allowing them to identify ways to partner with existing programs in the community as well as giving more focused direction to the talented young adults who they had already successfully engaged on their board.

As a national association, we are also very interested in how we might partner with the leaders of the intensive Jewish experiences like birthright, Avodah and the new Repair Community Fellows model to connect their alumni with meaningful opportunities in our member agencies to further their Jewish community connection following their life-altering experience.

We need to prove to young adults that Jewish organizations are not just here for the Jews.

This one is easy for AJFCA and our 125 member agencies. Jewish family service agencies are strongly rooted in Jewish tradition and values. Judaism provides the underpinning of our missions and the foundational guide to our services, but not a limit to whom those services may benefit. In fact, more than half of our member agencies serve a client base that consists of at least 50% non-Jews. Collectively, Jewish family service agencies provide a strong Jewish response to human need. Yes, in case of disasters such as Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, our agencies are there to meet the needs of the general community. But every day they are open, they are serving the needs of the general community by caring for the elderly and disabled, the unemployed and addicted Jews and non-Jews alike. There are many recent studies which back up the fact that younger Jews raise this up as a core value. We need to make them aware that the Jewish family service agencies can connect them to the service opportunities they are seeking.

We need to be open to innovation in our organizations, no matter how large or historic the agency might be.

One of the aspects of institutions that actually attracts rather than repels young adults is that the organization is doing innovative work on issues that the young person finds meaningful. The concept of inviting young adults into the board rooms of our agencies might seem innovative to some, but our hope is to make that piece of our initiative old news and focus our innovation on how volunteers are helping our agencies produce value by filling a void or improving a process. This is something we spoke to in detail in the most recent issue of the Journal of Jewish Communal Service on big ideas and bold solutions. Here again, Jewish family services are continually innovating, and we need to publicize widely this opportunity for young people to engage with a Jewish organization in a way that works for them.

We whole-heartedly agree with the points made by Stephen Donshik in his recent piece. We invite Jewish organizations to partner with us in spreading the word to our future Jewish leaders of the many meaningful and relevant opportunities they can find to engage in the Jewish community through their local Jewish family service agency.

Jennie Gates Beckman is Manager of Civic Engagement and Repair the World Programming of the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA), Lisa K. Budlow is the Director of Programs of AJFCA and Lee I. Sherman is the President/CEO of AJFCA.

– See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/connected-through-service/#sthash.Ecazuap0.dpuf

PRESS RELEASE: Repair the World & AJFCA Launch Volunteer Initiative Program

 –Leading Organizations Partner to Inspire New Generation of Civically Engaged North American Jews–

NEW YORK, NY, APRIL 2012 – Repair the World (Repair), a national nonprofit that mobilizes Jews to serve those in need, has partnered with the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA), the membership association for North America’s Jewish family service agencies, on a Volunteer Initiative Program to increase the size and effectiveness the Jewish family services network’s volunteer base.

AJFCA, which supports a network of 125 agencies across the United States and Canada annually serves hundreds of thousands of Americans in need from all faiths and backgrounds. It will work with Repair the World, which connects Jewish Americans to meaningful service opportunities and builds capacity for organizations to run effective service programs rooted in Jewish values, to infuse AJFCA’s member agencies with new models of volunteering.

The Volunteer Initiative Program will focus on expanding outreach to young adults and increasing opportunities for this demographic to volunteer at AJFCA member agencies and will include a series of workshops, networking opportunities and information sharing sessions. It will also provide technical assistance and support to local AJFCA outposts to promote volunteering, provide service-learning resources and build the capacity of local volunteer leaders.

“The work of Jewish family service agencies is so important, especially given today’s economic climate. The need to build the volunteer capacity of those agencies is a shared concern for both Repair the World and AJFCA,” said Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World. This is a natural partnership and we are tremendously excited about the work ahead.”

Together, Repair the World and AJFCA have hired Jennie Gates Beckman to serve as the Initiative’s first Manager of Civic Engagement & Repair the World Programming. Based in Baltimore, Beckman will help lead the effort to effectively engaging thousands of people in vital volunteer work. Beckman, who has a Master’s Degree in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University, has worked in volunteer recruitment for the past five years at the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

“Today’s young adults will form the support base for our network of Jewish family service agencies tomorrow and into the future,” said Lee Sherman, President and CEO of AJFCA. “Repair the World and AJFCA share a recognition of the importance of engaging this group with the essential work of our agencies. Jennie’s experience inspiring young adults to volunteer in Baltimore makes her an excellent choice to lead this initiative.”

ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH FAMILY & CHILDREN’S AGENCIES

AJFCA is the membership association for approximately 125 Jewish family service agencies across the U.S. and Canada. Ranging in size from small departments of local Jewish federations to some of the largest human services agencies in North America, our members provide vital services to clients of all ages, faiths and economic backgrounds. They counsel families, feed the hungry, assist the elderly and protect the vulnerable. We are united by the values of our Jewish tradition and work together toward our common goal of tikkun olam, repairing the world.

ABOUT REPAIR THE WORLD

Established in 2009, Repair the World is a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes Jewish Americans to contend with the world’s most pressing issues through service.  Headquartered in New York City, we connect individuals with meaningful volunteer opportunities to help their local, national and global communities, and builds the capacity of individuals and organizations to run effective service programs rooted in Jewish values. For more information, visit weRepair.org.

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