Judaism Unbound Episode 47: The Jewish Funders Network - Andres Spokoiny


Andres Spokoiny, the President and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, [1] joins Dan and Lex for a deep dive into questions of Jewish philanthropy. Spokoiny takes on big-picture questions like "what is Jewish giving" and also tackles the particulars of how such giving can be conducted most effectively. He also provides his thoughts on broader trends in 21st century Judaism.

(0:01 - 14:15): To begin, Spokoiny gives an overview of what the Jewish Funders Network is and contrasts independent philanthropy with philanthropic giving that occuring within the Jewish Federation system. He continues by laying out how the idea of "adjacency"  [2] can be crucial for start-up projects and outlines the struggle Jewish organizations have to "fail intelligently."  [3]

(14:16 - 29:21): We broaden the conversation, asking some big questions. How are healthy relationships between funders and non-profits maintained? What do we mean when we use the term "Jewish giving?" Returning to a conversation we have discussed in the past, we also explore the shift by American Jews away from "Jewish-specific" giving and towards philanthropy to organizations that are not serving the Jewish community specifically. [4] Continuing forward, Spokoiny distinguishes between the challenges of a start-up and the challenges of bringing an organization to scale.

(29:22 - 45:25): Spokoiny outlines three major transformations occurring in the Jewish world right now, referring to them as transformations of meaning, community, and structure. [5] To close the episode, we look at the ways in which organizations and funders measure success in the Jewish world, along with whether those metrics may need to shift due to the transformations referenced earlier.

Image Credit: JFN

Image Credit: JFN

[1] To learn more about Andres Spokoiny, read his bio at this link. To learn more about the organization he leads, visit the Jewish Funders Network website.

[2] Read more of Spokoiny's thoughts about the "adjacent-possible" by reading this piece he authored for eJewish Philanthropy, entitled "The Next Big Thing, or The Next Near Thing?"

[3] Spokoiny mentions two organizations, Moishe House and OneTable, as exceptional examples of when there has been a commitment to bringing a project to scale. Learn more about these projects by listening to past Judaism Unbound episodes with Moishe House CEO David Cygielman and OneTable Executive Director Aliza Kline.     Episode 19: Moishe House - David Cygielman    Episode 31: Designing OneTable - Aliza Kline

[4] To further explore trends in philanthropic giving by American Jews, check out this 2013 article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, entitled "Jewish Donors are Generous, Especially to Non-Jewish Causes."

[5] To hear more from Spokoiny on big-picture philanthropic issues, take a look at this interview of him, entitled "It's Not Your Grandfather's Charitable Organization Anymore" and conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.