Five Takeaways from the JFN Conference for Jewish Teen Philanthropy

The entire JTFN team joined our colleagues at the Jewish Funders Network for the annual JFN International Conference in Miami Beach from March 9-11. We were delighted to spend three days with more than 350 other Jewish funders and foundation professionals, spreading the word of teen philanthropy. We also participated in panel discussions and attended many thought-provoking sessions. Now that we've had time to process the experience, here are our five key takeaways from the conference:

  1. Teens are where it’s at. Engaging teens in Jewish life was a focal point of conversation. One session featured a panel of teen engagement professionals from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and the Jewish Education Project, with funders and foundation staff recognizing the importance of engaging youth in educationally rich programs that meet teens where they are. Another session, titled "Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Is," highlighted how teen philanthropists are collaborating and enjoying the group giving process, and how it brings forth thoughtful, mature and intelligent philanthropic decisions by teens.

  2. It’s all about relationships. In workshops and plenaries, almost everyone emphasized the importance of creating, building, and sustaining meaningful relationships. This is the key to effective engagement and central to education, both for teens and adults. It's important to remember that you are not just the program leader or facilitator, but can also be a mentor, a role model, a teacher, and a friend.

  3. Power of the network. Nothing replaces the excitement and energy of bringing people together in person. It’s important, every so often, to leave our desks behind, close down our email, and meet face-to-face. At gatherings, you never know what you might learn, what great new idea you may hear about, who you might meet. We are especially excited to have this excitement and energy at the Jewish Teen Philanthropy Summit this June in New York City!

  4. The future is bright. Like the motto on the sunglasses found in each participant’s tote bag, we left energized and validated in our belief that the future of Jewish teen philanthropy is brighter than ever. The work being done by all Jewish teen philanthropy programs is shaping the future, cultivating and training philanthropists at a young age, and supporting teen leadership today, and tomorrow.

  5. Celebrating our success. At the JFN Conference in 2006, a network for Jewish teen philanthropy programs was just an idea. Eight years later, the network has grown from 25 to 133 Jewish teen philanthropy programs, with thousands of teens engaged in Jewish philanthropy. We took a moment to raise a glass to the growth of this field, and to what lays ahead.