“If we don’t care for service personnel and their families, we will not maintain an all-volunteer force…. We must build a safety net around those who serve.” — Brigadier General Ivan Denton, National Guard Bureau, May 12, 2015
And so began our day at a conference in Washington, DC, marking the first anniversary of the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge, a nationwide effort to build momentum among funders for programs that will support service members, veterans, and their families. That morning the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New Jersey was formally recognized as one of six new Impact Pledge grant members before 200 event attendees at a conference convened by the Council on Foundations and the Veterans Philanthropy Exchange.
Representing JWF, Jane Kessler, Amy Schechner, Lesley Frost, and I could not have been more pleased. JWF is one of only two organizations in New Jersey to join the Philanthropy-Impact Pledge, along with Health Care Foundation of New Jersey, and it is the only member in the state to focus on women veterans. JWF is an advisory council of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Since its founding, the Pledge organizers have announced more than $106 million in new commitments in support of veterans and military families, including efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness, improve medical care, and address the mental health needs of veterans.
The JWF’s involvement grew out a $25,000 pilot grant initiative approved by JWF in October 2014. The grant’s purpose is to focus on a single area of need for New Jersey’s women and girls, identify potential community partners, and leverage resources.
After selecting three potential topics — women veterans, incarcerated women and ex-offenders, and female asylees — the 18-member JWF subcommittee decided to target New Jersey’s 32,968 women veterans.
“I am so proud that JWF members elected to support the Impact Pledge, an initiative of the White House and philanthropic leaders across the country who have made a commitment to America’s veterans and military families,” said Jane Kessler. We join an impressive list of more than 30 foundations and corporate funders, including Robin Hood Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, New York State Health Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase & Company, and Robert F. McCormick Foundation.
“To be welcomed and recognized by the organizers as I walked in was a surprise, but one that put me at ease immediately,” said Lesley Frost. “Other attendees, especially women, initiated conversations with an obvious interest in learning about us, as well as sharing with us their efforts to support veterans.”
These conversations revealed that our focus on women veterans set us apart. “We, at JWF, are definitely on the right track by publicizing female veterans’ needs and getting groups together to find a holistic approach to supporting female veterans’ concerns,” said Amy Schechner.
For me, key phrases from the conference that continue to resonate are “transition,” “person-to-person interaction,” “we will win or lose on the local level,” and “anonymity is the enemy.”
JWF is already pursuing the next two steps:
• An invitation-only agency roundtable entitled Serving Women Who Have Served: Easing NJ’s Female Veterans’ Transition (July 14, 2015)
• A November conference on New Jersey’s female veterans’ issues
A final word: JWF is a think tank of accomplished women and a hands-on, participatory philanthropy. Its members pool their expertise, creativity, and philanthropic dollars to develop powerful initiatives and support the efforts of local organizations to empower New Jersey’s under-served women and girls.
We invite you to join us. Contact JWF’s director Susan Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-929-3005. JWF is an advisory council of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ, the largest community foundation in New Jersey. Together with the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and our partner agencies, JCF is proud to support JWF and help donors live generously, connect with their heritage, and build a vibrant Jewish community.