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Impactful Giving this Holiday Season
December 17, 2015
Impactful Giving this Holiday Season
Posted by Wendy Wilsker

I think a lot about charitable giving– much more than the average person. After spending more than two decades working in the nonprofit sector, I have had the privilege of getting to know dozens of major philanthropists – understanding why and how they give and seeing firsthand the impact that philanthropic support has on the beneficiaries of those organizations as well as on the donors themselves. Speak to any philanthropist and they will tell you that they get much more back than they give. And so I was delighted to read Marjorie Ringrose’s article in this week’s Boston Sunday Globe magazine. 

Ms. Ringrose challenges her readers not to ask how much a nonprofit spends on overhead but to ask instead about their social impact. At Jewish Family & Children’s Service, our mission is simple: We improve people’s lives. With 42 different programs and more than 90 services, our comprehensive and collaborative model of care gives our clients the opportunity to walk in our door with one question, one need and leave with many problems addressed and sometimes solved. Recently, our Department of Evaluation and Learning completed a comprehensive project examining our clients’ participation in our programs, primarily using social networking analysis techniques.

The results of this project show that approximately 25% of our active clients utilize more than one JF&CS service, demonstrating a significant level of integration. Furthermore, active collaboration and consultation among staff in support of clients, while not part of this analysis, also add tangible value to our multi-service approach. One of the main results of this project, in the form of a visualization, also demonstrates that our Center for Basic Needs Assistance acts as a connecting hub within the agency. Individuals and families struggling with poverty face many complex challenges. Our data shows that we are helping them in precisely the way that experts consider “best practice” – referring clients seamlessly to and from services that will meet their basic needs so that they can achieve the stability they need to move from crisis to self-sufficiency.

As one of our donors recently shared with me, “At JF&CS you get the biggest bang for your buck”.

I also learned a new term in this article: “charitable buying.” Ms. Ringrose proposes that we “stop thinking of a charitable donation as giving and start thinking of it as buying. Buying is different from giving – when you buy a product, what matters most is how well it works, not the overhead of the company that makes it. Charitable buying also encourages a sense of ownership. You bought it, it’s yours, and so you should take care of it. One key is to stick around after the Giving Season is over.”

I love this premise. Truly, our nonprofits need the long-term care and support of their friends and loyal supporters. At JF&CS, we believe that giving is not enough. We need volunteers to lend their hands to supporting our clients and to providing professional expertise on our committees. There are literally hundreds of ways to become meaningfully involved with JF&CS. During this season of giving, I invite you to consider “buying in” to JF&CS. Your charitable support and volunteer time will increase the impact that our clients experience every day. You will truly improve someone’s life. 

Wendy Wilsker is the Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Throughout her life, her Jewish identity has been deeply entwined with tikkun olam and tzedekah. She began her career in development at Combined Jewish Philanthropies and has led development at the American Jewish Committee, the Rashi School, and Lahey Clinic. Prior to joining JF&CS, she served as a consultant and executive recruiter to local and national nonprofit organizations.
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