Why Site Visits Matter

The following post is written by Beth Zwick , Senior Program Officer of the Ruderman Family Foundation, and originally appeared on the Council on Foundations website.

In summer 2012 I was a brand new Program Officer and wasn’t sure what to expect when I joined a group from the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) on a rural bus tour of eight youth camps in three days. My traveling companions were members and guests of the JFN Disability Peer Network. We were all trying to understand better how well children with disabilities are included in the Jewish camping movement.

What an invigorating introduction to the field! By the end of that somewhat bumpy bus tour I had seen as many models of disability inclusion as there were camps and had spent long hours on the bus debating the merits of each. My traveling companions included professional staff from large foundations and individual philanthropists making giving decisions on their own. After each camp visit we took another shaky bus ride to the next stop while discussing grant making for inclusion at camp and beyond. To anyone dedicated to disability rights, inclusion is always a topic of passionate debate.

That one bumpy bus trip led to many dramatic developments in the funding field—far more progress than anyone could have predicted. A major Jewish inclusion summit emerged directly from the trip when a couple of funders decided to organize it. Several funders launched new funding streams, groundbreaking research was conducted on Jewish camping, and a major inclusion initiative eventually emerged from the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Most importantly, important relationships among the funders in attendance were sparked and deepened in ways that still reverberate in the field. All of this cross-fertilization and much more can be traced to our three days together crammed into that bus.

I’m writing to invite you to join us on another day of site visits, this time in Philadelphia on September 18. ALL funders are invited—not just JFN members, not just Jewish funders, and not just disability funders. Anyone interested in social justice issues will find it a fascinating day. We’ll visit a series of programs in Greater Philadelphia modeling disability inclusion and learn from each other about best practices in inclusive grant making. The organizers at JFN have designed this trip to be “hardly Jewish at all” and most of the participating members fund broadly outside the Jewish community.

For more information or to register please contact Ruthie Rotenberg, JFN Director of Peer Networks, at [email protected]. We won’t be traveling on a bumpy bus this time, but I hope you will consider joining us on September 18 for what promises to be a stimulating ride.

Who knows what may come of it?...