Milwaukee Jewish Teen Philanthropy Board hasn’t been cowed by the pandemic. The Milwaukee Jewish Federation program is still teaching grantmaking to teens by having them offer grants – with adult assistance.
This year, the group is awarding $15,000 in grants to local organizations and an additional amount from the Federation’s Israel and Overseas Committee to fund projects in Israel. Each Board member is asked to raise a recommended $120.
The group, founded in 2017, still meets monthly, though virtually, and there are still treats. Jennifer Saber, teen philanthropy coordinator, prepares them; a regular crew of parent volunteers helps her deliver them to Board members.
“There’s always a note with greeting from me and information about the upcoming meeting and a piece of Jewish text,” she said. “And there are always three items – something sweet, something salty and candy.”
Every so often, she added, she’ll tuck in a bit of Federation swag – a pad of sticky notes, a pen or pencil, or something else small and fun.
Board members hear from community leaders and talk – as a whole and in smaller breakout groups – about what’s involved in awarding grants.
“We spend time defining philanthropy and what it means to us,” she said. “We explore different Jewish values and choose organizations to donate funding to through the lens of the Jewish values important to us.”
Saber also ensures that the teens learn the nuts and bolts of grantmaking.
“We take the kids through the whole process from start to finish,” she said. That process starts out with creating a mission statement the group uses as a lens through which they consider the kinds of projects they want to fund.
Past recipients have included Bader Hillel Academy, Milwaukee Homeless Veteran’s Initiative, Pathfinders, Torah Academy of Milwaukee and Children’s Hospital.
Saber said a big piece for the teens is “learning the skills it takes – consensus-building and deciding the justice issues important to us, and our own personal values.”
They then send out requests for proposals from groups they’ve identified as being aligned with their mission, receive and read through each proposal, then choose recipients. In previous years, an end–of–year “Grants Celebration” was held, with the Board members and grant recipients gathering in person. This year, the event will be virtual.