March 10, 2005

by Reb Yudel
"The reality is that there is a limit to how much funding is available for Jewish creativity"

The Jewish Week reports:
After five years aiding the launch of some of the country’s most innovative and successful programs to reach young Jewish adults, the organization Joshua Venture is closing its doors at the end of this month.

In a Feb. 18 memo e-mailed to those connected with the group, Joshua Venture executives wrote that although the project has “achieved real impact and the need for the program still exists … the current incarnation is not sustainable despite efforts by the board, founding funders and other funding partners to move it forward. Therefore the board has decided to close down operations.”


I guess I want to know more about the discussion about the "success" of these programs, a topic which all grant-makers are duty-bound to address.

The consultant hired to "assess the organization’s prospects" -- did he or she go into the perceived effectiveness of the programs?

DNC writes, "If measured by the quality of its programs and the success of the programs it incubated, Joshua Venture has been a hit." I'd like to see success defined, especially in the language that grant-makers understand. She writes, "its failure seems to mirror the challenge its programs face in their struggle to grow out of the startup phase and become structurally sound and financially self-sufficient for the long term." If a program is unable to maintain its own base of customers or develop its own funding streams, maybe it is not quite as "effective" as they claim.

At the heart of this is the perrennial qustion, How do you measure success? Do you go by the rules of the marketplace, or do you find a way to fund something because it seems like the right thing to do?

Posted by: asc at March 10, 2005 11:29 AM

Three application deadline delays, the loss of Brian Gaines- didn't anyone else see this coming? I can't figure out how Joshua Venture couldn't manage to continue. Something is not being said, and as a finalist for the last cohort, I think JV owes it to us to explain exactly why it closed.

"Even with three major backers – the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund and the Righteous Persons Foundation – each contributing between $750,000 and $1 million over Joshua Venture’s five years, plus six-figure donations from other major foundations and individuals, money ran short."

Two cohorts of eight for a total of sixteen fellows over five years, each provided with the equivalent of $100K in cash, services and other benefits for $1.6M over the whole endeavor for fellowships. If what Jewish Week reported is true, that each of the three major donors contributed $1M per year for five years, it means there was $15M available for operations, program expenses, etc. Even if staff and operations expenses were $1M annually and no additional money was raised, there's $8M left for cash reserves, an endowment or program and operations expenses for another five years. Where'd the other money go? Hard to tell- there is no 990 or annual report available as far as I can tell.

Why are JV, Bikkurim and Natan the only programs like this? For all that our communities bemoan rampant assimilation and disaffiliation, they fail to allocate ample resources and programming dollars to help combat the continuity problem by empowering our peers. There should be a national JV-style program with twice as many fellows, and given the amout of money being donated to continuity programs each year, it should be a relative snap.

Those of us who have been developing institutions and organizations relevant to our generation's mindsets deserve more than a just a shot at one of eight JV fellowships every other year, and now none not at all. If our communities are serious about recapturing the imagination and energy of our generation, a robust supporting mechanism must be put in place to nuture the vibrant ideas of hundreds of young leaders doing great things for our communities.

To that end, I'd like to propose to petition UJC's Renaissance and Renewal Pillar, each of the major national Jewish movements and organizations along with the supporting foundations of JV to create an entity to follow up on what JV started and ensure that future programs can continue to enrich Jewish life and culture in America from the bottom up.

If you'd like to sign on to help me get this started, email me at jewishfringe at kfarcenter dot com.

Adam Davis, Director

KFAR Jewish Arts Center

Posted by: Adam Davis at March 14, 2005 11:44 AM
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