Jewish Family Service and Charles Schwab: A First Date?
What could a small team of JFS professionals and volunteers possibly have in common with a group of corporate employees who spend their days helping people achieve their financial goals? Turns out: EVERYTHING.
I recently had the exciting opportunity to represent JFS in a full-day interactive working session with an impressive team of Charles Schwab employee volunteers in a program called the Pro Bono Challenge. Our “shadchan” (Hebrew for matchmaker) is Common Impact—a NY-based organization that pairs worthy nonprofits with corporate expertise to advance specific goals. The JFS team consisted of me (a development committee volunteer); Dawn Richard, JFS development director; Alaina Green, associate marketing and communications director; and Aaron Hyatt, JFS board member.
One critical commonality, we learned, is that we are both trying to understand how to best serve the needs of our end user—the reason we are in business in the first place. For Schwab, the end user is the customer. For JFS, the end user is, of course, our client. However, without our donor and volunteer base, we would have nothing to offer clients, so we focused on the donor/volunteer constituency. The Schwab employees put their sharp tactical, analytical, and creative skills to work as we brainstormed together.
Together we dove into the question of how to launch Authors of Hope, a new donor recognition program created by the JFS Development Committee over the past year and a half. There was clearly chemistry between us. We are each passionate about JFS’s work and it is fun to share that with folks new to the mission. Our Schwab partners were impressed and amazed by the work of JFS, none of them realizing the impact we have on so many different populations throughout the Denver metro region.
None of them could fathom that an organization called “Jewish Family Service” serves the basic needs of a “virtual United Nations”—young and old Coloradans in need of employment services, food and rent assistance, mental health, and disability and senior services.
In the end, the “Schwabbies” identified specific strategies that we can integrate into how we promote JFS among existing and future donors and volunteers and leaders.
Some of my observations from the day were:
- When you are engrossed in a particular project or mission it is invaluable to have it looked at with fresh eyes. The insights and observations that our Schwab partners offered will have a lasting, even transformational, impact on how JFS staff and volunteers do our work on behalf of our clients.
- The corporate world is hungry to find meaningful ways to engage in and give back to the communities in which they work. The culture of Schwab promotes this as recent changes highlight. For example, Schwab has a relatively new position of Community Relations Manager whose job it is to have impact in the community with programs such as the Pro Bono Challenge.
- The employees had to apply to be a part of the program. They each chose JFS and our stated development goals as a mission that they were attracted to and had professional and personal experience that would add value. And did they! Their ability to stay focused on goals, breaking down objectives into tactics, and drive to help was infectious.
We also walked away with concrete tools to put to work toward building capacity for the organization to continue to serve as a critical safety net in our community. It offered us fresh perspective, lots of ideas, inspiration, and new friends and contacts to support our work.
Will there be a second date? We certainly hope so. But in the meantime, I am grateful to Common Impact and to Schwab for this invaluable day of connection, commonality, and team work. It was truly inspiring.
Below are ways YOU can put our Schwab action points to work as a JFS supporter!
10 WAYS TO TAKE ACTION AS A JFS SUPPORTER:
- Become an Author of Hope contributor at the level that is most meaningful to you. Your example WILL inspire others to contribute toward our shared vision. Contact Dawn Richard, development director, at 720.248.4605 for more details.
- Make a point to volunteer at least once a year, possibly with your family, at a JFS program. Contact Nancy Benyamin, director of Volunteer Services, at720.248.4642 for guidance in what would be right for you and your family. There is simply nothing like seeing the clients and services first-hand to give you the emotional motivation to serve.
- Include your role at JFS on your LinkedIn profile. The JFS company page will link to it, thereby giving JFS exposure in your network. The best referral is a personal reference.
- Make a personal page for Colorado Gives Day (Tuesday, December 6, 2016) inspiring and enabling your personal and professional network to make a gift to JFS. Our Schwab friends even suggested that we establish a competition for whose page could get the most hits and/or raise the most money. Friendly competition, anyone?!? If you need any help setting up your page, please contact Alaina Green at 720.248.4590.
- Does your employer (or YOU if you are an employer) offer a philanthropic match program or time off for paid community service? Schwab does! The sands are shifting in the business world to do more proactive corporate community service as a way of engaging and retaining a high quality work force. Contact your HR department to see if your company offers matching opportunities to make your donations go further.
- When you have a personal experience with JFS (and make sure you do—see number 2), post a brief synopsis/story on either social media (Facebook or Twitter and tag Jewish Family Service of Colorado) or even just an e-mail to your inner circle of friends and family. This enables your sphere of influence to understand what is important to you, and at the same time, promotes JFS to others.
- Host a parlor event at your house with friends, extended family, colleagues, and associates, and invite a speaker on a topic that is relevant to JFS’s work. For example, do you have aging parents/grandparents and worry about issues that you will need to address with/for them in coming years? JFS has an expertise in elder care and can also describe what JFS offers in this arena.
- Make and post a video about your connection to and feelings about JFS and the work we do. With our smart phones, this is an accessible and powerful tool. Be sure to tag Jewish Family Service or let the marketing department know about it so they can share it, too.
- Take advantage of every encounter with friends, colleagues, family, and clients to mention why JFS is important to you personally, and to our community. Relay any such conversations back to JFS Development staff so they can follow up!
- Speak to a JFS professional about how you best can use your personal time, talents, and treasures to most powerfully serve the needs of JFS and its clients.