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Cultivating Programs for Next-Generation Donors

August 17, 2015

Money-treeFifteen years ago, as Charles Bronfman and his late wife Andy were ushering Birthright Israel into its toddler years, they inherently understood that next generations would have new ideas about Jewish life and new energy to contribute to it. One strategy they supported began in 2002, when Jeff Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), hired me to encourage next-generation donors to bring their own ideas and resources to bear on the Jewish world.

After spending a few months surveying the landscape and exploring best practices across the country, we set up a collaborative giving process for next-generation donors who wanted to give beyond tables at benefits by more directly funding critical issues in the Jewish world. With initial financial support from ACBP, the Samberg Family Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, I helped launch a next-generation giving circle, Natan, for Generation Xers, largely financial-types in New York, who wanted to support start-ups catalyzing new Jewish life in North America and Israel.

We then founded Grand Street, a network for Generation Yers inheriting opportunities to participate in their families' philanthropy. These men and women wanted to honor their parents' and grandparents' legacies and commitment to the Jewish community while also introducing their generation's ideas with respect to contemporary Jewish life.

Both of these experiences taught us about the power of the peer group as a place for next-generation donors to learn about themselves and as a training ground to learn about the nonprofit, Jewish, and philanthropic worlds. We saw how Grand Street members were willing to take risks and explore new ideas together, traveling the globe to learn from other Jewish communities and social entrepreneurship activities. Subsequently, we helped Grand Street members launch Slingshot: A Resource Guide to Jewish Innovation, and later the Slingshot Fund, and watched members challenge each other to become more strategic as they aimed to fund from both the head and the heart.

Ultimately, these initial ACBP investments had double-bottom-line returns. Our programs engaged next-generation donors, and those donors in turn leveraged ACBP's contributions by allocating more than $12 million to engage other next-generation Jews. Eventually, both programs became self-sustaining nonprofit entities and continue to thrive today.

As we learned how to work with Generations X and Y, earners as well as inheritors, philanthropic families and foundations approached us for help in engaging their own adult children. With Jeff Solomon's encouragement, we set up an in-house philanthropic service called 21/64 to share what we had learned with next-generation donors, their families, and advisors.

In 2008, after ACBP announced that it planned to spend down, the trustees generously provided 21/64 with a runway that enabled it to eventually reach sustainability and continue as an independent nonprofit entity, 21/64 Inc, specializing in next-generation and multi-generational philanthropic engagement and family enterprise.

To help it achieve sustainability, ACBP provided 21/64 with the financial support to hire a new senior professional so we could transition the program from a wholly underwritten initiative to a 501(c)(3) with diversified revenue streams. ACBP also gave the new entity the intellectual property we had created while it was a program at ACBP, including interactive tools designed to be catalysts for next-gen donors, their families, and advisors. During this phase, ACBP also lent 21/64 beautiful office space and support services.

As 2014 came to a close, 21/64 celebrated its independence with sustainable earned revenue streams. It transitioned completely out of ACBP, and I became the executive director of the new entity, joined by other program staff, including Danielle Oristian York, Barbara Taylor, and Sara Finkelstein, all of whom moved from ACBP to 21/64.

With this modest success under our belts, we began 2015 focused on three particular areas. The first is to raise funds to support our next-generation programs, including Grand Street and our new #NextGenDonors program for 21- to 40-year-olds from diverse backgrounds. The Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation provided an interim grant to sustain these programs, which remain at the heart of 21/64's founding mission and will continue through foundation support, which fills the gap between our costs and participant fees.

Secondly, we aim to be a thought leader in the space and are building new tools, writing a book, and creating a new training – the Art of Facilitation – all the while supporting families who are engaging the next generation. Lastly, we are considering how to add staff capacity and expand our board of directors as we grow.

As I type this, I sit steps away from the ACBP team, whose belief in the next generation and passion for innovation set the stage for what 21/64 could become. It is powerful to watch ACBP's legacy become part of the philanthropic landscape, and I feel grateful to have traveled all this way in the company of such generous and forward-looking people. We remain humbled by how far we have come and mindful upon whose shoulders we stand.

Headshot_sharna-goldsekerSharna Goldseker is executive director of 21/64, a nonprofit consulting practice specializing in next generation and multi-generational philanthropic engagement and family enterprise. This post, the twenty-fourth in the "Making Change by Spending Down" series produced by GrantCraft in partnership with the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, originally appeared on the GrantCraft blog.

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