Jewish Federation holding its own 'shark tank' to attract bold ideas to strengthen the community

Deadline near to apply for grants

CINCINNATI -- Last year, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati announced two new grant funds to support innovative ideas for the Jewish community.

Its mission was to provide seed money for Jewish-based ideas that would enhance community living and solve critical issues.

The Jewish Innovation Funds grants were awarded to five recipients who came up with some fresh, bold projects to unite and strengthen their community. The recipients made their presentations just like the contenders on the popular television show "Shark Tank."

This year, JFC is getting ready to do it again.

"In less than a year, we've watched our dynamic grant winners impact hundreds of lives and contribute significantly to a vibrant Jewish community in Cincinnati," said Danielle Minson, Chief Development Officer at the Federation. "Plus, we've been pleased to welcome interest from Jewish Federations in other cities who are seeing our program as a model. Now we're back, bigger and better."

The grants have not changed since last year.

There are two kinds of grants: "macrogrants" for large-scale initiatives and "microgrants" for smaller projects. The Federation offers $10,000 to $50,000 and $500 to $1,500 for creative ideas that either enrich or address issues in the Jewish community, respectively.

The deadline to apply for a macrogrant is April 6, and for a microgrant it's May 31.

There is a story about the genesis of the grants.

The 2016 winners, whose projects are already under way, have already set high standards. They include:

  • Ish: It's Nosh Your Typical Market, an Israeli arts and culture event slated for September in Washington Park;
  • Six Points Collective: a nonprofit Jewish organization specializing in creative spiritual experiences for young Cincinnati professionals and millennials;
  • The David Project, a national Israeli advocacy organization that has been working with Cincinnati Hillel to increase non-Jewish support on campuses;
  • Moishe House Cincinnati, which has brought to Cincinnati the concept of peer-led, home-based programming for young Jewish adults.

The Jewish Innovation Fund grants started with generous members noting that the community had many needs and wants. They sought to encourage innovative solutions, so they started a "giving circle," which can best be described as a group of people who come together to donate monies.

Minson said they learned about the advantages of the giving circle by working with Amplifier, a network of giving circles inspired by Jewish values.

"We've now added giving circles to the Federation's traditional funding structure, which is another meaningful way to connect donors and community," she said.

In fact, the Federation's adoption of the giving circle was publicized so much that last year they were invited to the Amplifier's national conference, which increased the program's profile.

"We learned last year that there are broad-ranging needs in our community and no shortage of creative people ready to step up with ways to address them," said Ben Fisher, who is back for a second year as a giving circle member. "Now we're widening the tent, providing even more support for high-impact initiatives."

The Jewish Federation and its funding partners are going into the second year with 12 funders, up from eight in 2016, and $120,000 in funds, up from $80,000 last year.

Investors will meet to decide how to allocate awards for this year; then in June, some of the applicants will be invited to pitch their ideas to the judges.

Cincinnati is home to one of the oldest American Jewish communities, including the first Jewish hospital and the longest-running Jewish Federation.

To learn more about the Jewish Innovation Fund grants, visit jewishcincinnati.org/innovation.

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