(Pictured) Camp Pembroke, a participating BunkConnect Camp

As a Wexner Heritage alumna and a lay leader in the Jewish communal world for more than 20 years, I’m always on the lookout for social and philanthropic innovation. So when Joseph Hyman, the founder of The Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy (CEJP), an organization that is seeking to change the Jewish philanthropic paradigm, approached me last summer, I saw an opportunity to help shape the future of Jewish philanthropy. At a time when more philanthropic dollars are going to universal causes, the Jewish community needs to be more creative and entrepreneurial.

Since October I have traveled across the US and to Israel meeting with philanthropists and innovative social entrepreneurs – to help create cutting edge philanthropic initiatives and programs much like an investment bank for Jewish philanthropy. Funders are looking to mirror their business practices in their philanthropy and they are responding to outcome driven projects with the opportunity to leverage their investments. Winners in the Jewish non-profit community will be the executive directors and boards who can meet the outcome driven investment philosophy of these philanthropists. This is an exciting time to be at the intersection of ideas, capital and implementation. 

BunkConnect™ is an example of one such innovative partnership addressing camp surplus capacity and affordability.  Using technology from the hospitality industry, an online platform was created where Jewish non-profit camps can post discounted empty beds for first-time campers from middle-income families.  BunkConnect™ launched as a pilot in the Northeast, New England and Middle Atlantic regions for Summer 2014 with 40 camps participating. Next year more than 140 camps are expected to sign on for this impactful program. CEJP developed the business plan together with four funders and The Foundation for Jewish Camp.

Drawing inspiration from Venture Capital, CEJP organized a Jewish Philanthropy Summit in January 2014 connecting serious philanthropists with innovative and impactful organizations in need of funding, streamlining the discovery process.  With a focus on Israel Advocacy, seventeen organizations from the US, Europe, and Israel presented projects in “shark tank” fashion, over a day and a half in a fast-moving format divided into three segments – Media, Policy and the University Experience. The event brought together 40 philanthropists from around the country, resulting in over $1.2 million raised in six months for the presenting organizations. CEJP plans to convene Jewish Philanthropy Summits on additional subjects, the next one on Jewish Identity and Continuity (Fall 2014).

Philanthropists are looking for ways to use their expertise to launch new initiatives as partners and not just funders. CEJP is working with families from Baltimore, Chicago and Boston on a new Israel Advocacy Venture Fund open to national members, to empower families interested in supporting innovative strategies aimed at strengthening Israel and her relationships with key audiences, including (potentially) policy makers, media leaders, and other “influentials.”  In addition to contributing capital, each member will bring their ideas and expertise to the process influencing both the group and the recipient organizations.  Individual’s family contributions will be matched by a foundation for additional leverage.  The goal is for the investments from the Venture Fund to serve as a catalyst for partnerships for the recipient organizations. 

These are a few exciting examples of how Jewish philanthropy is changing with a focus on outcomes and leverage.  Funders have the opportunity to bring more of their own experience to bear in creating answers to the pressing issues in our community. At CEJP we have seen that 1+1+1=5 when the proper ingredients come together for a Jewish philanthropic partnership.  If I’ve learned anything, It is that the next exciting venture is one meeting away.

 Tracey Bilski is a Wexner Heritage alumna from New York 05 and an alumna of Camp Pembroke (pictured above).  She is Vice-President, Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy. www.cejp.com  Tracey is a philanthropic entrepreneur with more than 20 years of leadership experience.  She co-founded and chaired J-Teen Leadership (2008-2013), an award winning community service and Jewish engagement program for over 600 high school students that was recognized by Slingshot as one of the 50 most innovative Jewish organizations in North America (2013).  Tracey also serves on the Board of UJA-Federation of New  York. She has a BA from Brown University in Economics/Organizational Behavior and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Tracey is married to Mark Bilski (Wexner Heritage Westchester 07) and has three daughters, Amanda, Meredith and Charlotte.  Tracey can be reached at tracey@cejp.com.