Louisville women take philanthropy to next level

The Jewish Federation of Louisville has always been a community of philanthropists. Now, it is engaging women in that mission, and it’s working.
Here in Louisville, the Women’s Philanthropy Division has been taking a novel approach to getting women to be more active, building community.
When she started working at the Federation three years ago, Stacy Gordon-Funk, senior vice president of development, connected with two volunteers: Debbie Friedman and Ann Zimmerman. Together, they created new opportunities for women to connect within the Federation sphere.
“We had a 17-percent increase in women coming through to our events and, in conjunction with that, an 11-percent increase in women’s giving the first year,” Gordon-Funk said. “And the trajectory continues.”
Women are now giving more of themselves to Federation initiatives; they’re spending time together, connecting, learning and giving.
While established societies such as the Lions of Judah and the Pomegranates, which celebrate women who give their money to causes, are critical, Federation leaders stress the importance of developing other ways to relate and volunteer.
“The goal really is to connect women together,” said Julie Hollander, director of women’s philanthropy and outreach. “We also want to create a sense of community to support all these important things that we fund in the community.”
To name a few, there have been fitness events, wellness education, nature walks and trips to the ballet all through the connection series, the brain child of Friedmand and Zimmerman.
The women’s Tikkun Olam initiative this year is about food insecurity in the Jewish community and beyond. Women have been making sandwiches with Keneseth Israel to distribute to the homeless and will do the same at The Temple on Dec. 25 for the St. Vincent dePaul homeless shelter.
For Purim, they will have Wine and Wrap, an event when they will taste wine while putting together michloach manot – bags of treats – to be distributed through Jewish Family & Career Services’ Shabbos Friends.
“We want to it to be all about one-on-one relationships,” Gordon-Funk said. “Philanthropy is really the love of human-kind. When you’re in development, it’s about developing relationships. That’s what enriches our work.”
Zimmerman, who helped start the Connecting Series with Gordon-Funk, believes women have a special place in philanthropy.
“I think women are very aware of the needs of the community, the Jewish community and the community at large,” she said. “I think we’re very resourceful, we get along well, and we have the energy to commit to these ideals.”
Philanthropy is important to the community for many reasons, Hollander.
“I think that it’s important for women to be leaders in the community – philanthropic leaders and other leaders,” she said. “Women connect differently than men do sometimes. Finding a way that women really feel empowered and important in the work that we do is so important for them to give back.”
Women’s Philanthropy hosts an annual Challah Bake, in which members come together to make challah, which they share with their families. More than 150 women showed up for the event this year.
Robin Miller is the current chair of Women’s Philanthropy.
“My own personal mantra this year is to pay it forward,” Miller said. “Many of us are lucky to have benefited from the great services and programs that exist in the Jewish community, and you never know when you might need one of these services.”
“By donating and contributing to the campaign, we can ensure that these services are there for the next generation and for others. Some people maybe can’t afford to pay for the services. Fortunately, my family can, but without the support of the annual campaign then some of the services might not exist.”
Zimmerman, who has been involved with philanthropy her entire life, said it is not only a Jew’s “responsibility” but her “privilege” to take care of the community.
And women are especially suited to the job, she added.
“I just kind of believe in women, and I think it’s time we start running the world,” Zimmerman said. “I think we have really good ideas. I think we’re very compassionate, inventive and creative.”

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