JF&CS News Winter 2016

Posted by Wendy Wilsker

Have you seen "Improving Lives," the newly named JF&CS Newsletter? When we considered an appropriate name for this publication, we wanted to highlight the essence of the JF&CS mission and the bottom line impact of philanthropic support. When it comes right down to it, every day, throughout every single one of our programs, we are improving the life of an individual and their family. You—our friends, our volunteers, our donors—are our partners in this work.

Often I am asked how we measure the impact of our programs and services. For social service agencies, understanding and reporting on outcomes are becoming increasingly important aspects of our work. More and more funders—including foundations; private donors; corporations; and national, state, and local governments— are requiring evaluation as part of funding agreements. So five years ago, JF&CS launched our Department of Evaluation and Learning (DEL). In collaboration with program staff and agency leadership, DEL supports performance measurement and monitoring of all JF&CS programs and engages in comprehensive program evaluations. These evaluation activities allow us to use a breadth of data to report on and improve our services.

JF&CS has led the way locally and nationally on methods for nonprofit measurement and evaluation. High-quality quantitative data is gathered via a customized cloud-based database, administered by DEL. However, quantitative analysis usually only tells part of the story. We also gather qualitative feedback from our clients so that we can better understand the increase in confidence a new mom feels as she creates a stronger emotional bond with her infant as a result of spending a year with her Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® volunteer. Music and dance ease the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and, after a qualitative interview project, we know that our clients feel both physically and emotionally uplifted after participating in our Tremble Clefs choral group and Parkinson's dance class. Quite simply, whether we measure by numbers or words, we know that we are improving lives.

Not only do we improve the lives of our clients, but we also have evidence that we are improving the lives of our volunteers and philanthropists. Every time I meet a woman who has volunteered with the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program, I am told how she has become a better mom herself and how much she has grown from the experience of volunteering. Families often volunteer at Family Table to celebrate birthdays and other milestones. And it was with joy and tears in their eyes that Dale & Marilyn Okonow announced that they would make an additional philanthropic contribution to name the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson's Family Support program in memory of Dale's beloved parents. Studies have shown that people who volunteer and give live longer and happier lives.

And so, it is with tremendous pride and gratitude for me to share that as a result of your generosity, we experienced a record fundraising year in fiscal year 2016! Thanks to you, we raised $6.6 million in cash and bequests and received an additional $1.2 million in new multi-year pledge commitments. On the pages that follow, you will learn how you have helped to improve the lives of our 17,000 clients and their families and how your support has made a significant difference.

Quite honestly, our work will never be done. Every month and each year, we learn of new communities in need, we adapt successful programs to support new demographics, and we develop new programs to help families in need. We rely on your generosity to support us in our goal of improving people's lives. Thank you so much for your generosity.