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The Women from BJWCF

Posted: November 3, 2011

We had the pleasure of hosting a “lunch and learn” session for the Boston Jewish Women’s Community Fund last week. The purpose of these sessions, I was told, was for the women in this giving collaborative, to learn “up close and personal” about one of the places where their generous contributions were making a difference.

We naturally approached this session thinking we needed to do a “show and tell” for our guests.  After all, this is a significant donor group and we needed to impress them.  What emerged was quite different.  Within minutes of arriving, these women set us at ease and we understood almost immediately that this was not a group who wanted to hear a lot of perfunctory expressions of gratitude.  They wanted to dive into the substance of what we try to accomplish and offer questions, insights and observations to help us succeed.

What followed was a passionate discussion about the ways training and information about addressing complicated mental health issues for seniors could change daily practice to give confidence to line staff.  They were most intrigued by the ways our maintenance staff was able to learn coping behaviors for the most difficult aspects of their jobs--for example, carting away boxes of “treasures” (old newspapers, coupons that expired a decade ago, broken knick-knacks) from a hoarder’s apartment, knowing this was a necessary step in keeping that person safe.  But not content to simply absorb the information, the women were quick to offer ideas to expand the impact and engage in steps we can continue to take to advance our practice.

As we planned this session, we stepped into the funders’ shoes to consider what approach to take. We know that some funding decisions are based on numbers:  x number of people served, X number of dollars saved, etc.  Other funders decide based on mission - they fund what makes THEM feel good. Our goal was to offer both so that BJCWF could see the impact of their grant from both perspectives. We certainly got the sense that regardless of their giving orientation, each of the members of BJCWF left JCHE feeling good about the gift.

So while they came to lunch and learn, and we to “teach” (and lunch!), by the end of the session any observer would have been unable to distinguish the teachers from the pupils, and although the grant money was long since allocated, we certainly walked away the richer.

See more photos here.

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