Members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis’s Youth Philanthropy Indy (YoPhI) Teen Board completed a year-long philanthropic initiative at a ceremony earlier this month, awarding more than $10,000 to local nonprofits. For the 2019-2020 funding round, the 28 members of the YoPhI Teen Board chose to support proposals in three focus areas: Environmental Sustainability, Education, and Equity.
The YoPhI Teen Board comprises a diverse group of teen leaders to take a significant role in our community. The Teen Board members come from different backgrounds, representing five different area synagogues and eight area high schools. The program empowers Indianapolis-area Jewish high schoolers to solve authentic community issues as they grow into their role as the next generation of community leaders.
“To be a Jewish philanthropist means to take your Jewish values and use them to make that change,” Board Member Allie Barrett said. “I chose to join the YoPhI Teen Board after hearing that I would have the opportunity to raise money that could make a tangible change in my community.”
In its second year, the program has doubled in size, both in terms of the number of Board Members and the amount of money given. The inaugural 2018-19 cohort created a great sense of momentum for teen-led change in our community. The 2019-20 cohort really seized on this momentum and raised the experience to the next level, David Heilbron, the JFGI Director of Youth Philanthropy and Connection said.
“The second YoPhI Teen Board was an amazing year-long philanthropic journey. The growth we saw since the inaugural year is outstanding.” Heilbron said. “I am so fortunate to work with these amazing high schoolers.”
To support their grantmaking, the Teen Board members first identify the key values that they want to exemplify in the community. From this values-driven process, the cohort meets monthly to discuss the issues they wanted to focus on, to solicit grant proposals from local nonprofits, to conduct site visits for applicant organizations and to allocate to selected grantee organizations.
The Teen Board members, inspired by the Jewish values of Tzedek (Justice), Binah (Understanding), Rachamim (Compassion), and Kavod (Respect) decided to focus their grantmaking efforts to support changemaking efforts in three focus areas that fit their chosen values and their desired impact.
“Understanding the relationship between values and giving is essential towards understanding what it means to be a Jewish Teen Philanthropist, because values drive giving,” Board Member Jordan Paraboschi said. “For example, one of the values that we chose as important for our own giving process was ‘Respect.’ We then used that accepted value to look towards organizations that promoted an ideal of mutual respect for one another.”
After choosing their focus areas, the Teen Board members split into smaller committees to solicit proposals from local non-profits. These subcommittees also spent time learning about their topic to better understand the needs and assets in the community that create opportunities for change.
“This year we decided from the very beginning that we wanted to show our support for those who are trying to make a change for the environment,” Environmental Sustainability committee member Rivkah Bunes said. “This is the only earth that we have and we want to take care of it. We felt that, as teenagers, it’s basically up to us now to keep our world clean and beautiful, where we can all live happily and safely.”
The Teen Board received 23 grant applications and selected to support four proposals. They provided funding for Warren Branch Teen Programs through the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, Adopt-a-Block Tree Distribution at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. Volunteer Training & Recruitment through School on Wheels, Inc., and Resident Allowances through Trinity Haven, Inc.
Recipient organizations were honored at a Check Granting Ceremony on June 2, when YoPhI Teen Board members shared reflections on their philanthropic process and celebrated their accomplishment with family, friends, and community partners.
At the Check Granting Ceremony, four Teen Board members received certificates in Youth Philanthropic Leadership from the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The certificate track offered a deeper dive into the field of philanthropy and was awarded for the completion of three experiential learning modules supported by Lake Institute faculty and staff.
“The certificate program gave us a chance to not only learn more about philanthropy and the inner workings of philanthropic work, but it also gave us a deeper insight into our personal goals and how to accomplish them,” Board Member Maddie Mundy said.
Beyond local partners, the YoPhI Teen Board is part of the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN) Foundation Board Incubator, an initiative funded by Laura Lauder and the Maimonides Fund. The national program is designed to teach teens about grantmaking, non-profit management, fundraising, and building Jewish identity and values. As part of the JTFN Foundation Board Incubator, the YoPhI Teen Board joins a group of youth philanthropy programs that spans the globe including programs in San Diego, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, Melbourne, Seattle, Houston, and Israel.
“I joined the YoPhI Teen Board because I want to make more than one type of impact. Joining this group of intelligent, dedicated teens has been so much more than I had envisioned,” Board Member Jenna Himelstein said.
The YoPhI Teen Board is currently accepting applications for its 2020-2021 cohort. Details and application forms can be found at https://www.cognitoforms.com/JewishFederationOfGreaterIndianapolis/yophiteenboardapplication20202021. Applications are due by Sunday, July 12.