By 2021, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) had run the LIFE & LEGACY® Program, designed to help Jewish communities build endowments, for close to 10 years. Harold Grinspoon posed a question to his professional team: “How are we protecting the investment of HGF and our Federation/Foundation partners in the communities in which we work so that endowment building remains a priority?” At that time, about 30 communities had completed the program’s four-year curriculum; the Foundation decided to engage Rosov Consulting to conduct an evaluation of the impact made in those communities. Since the Grinspoon Foundation provided one-third of the investment and each participating community provided the remaining two-thirds, HGF felt that each community would want to learn about the effectiveness of their investments, too. Rosov Consulting had to design an evaluation to determine the impact that LIFE & LEGACY had in each community, and to yield insights that would help protect the investment and move the initiative forward.
Rosov Consulting first engaged with a team at HGF to more deeply understand their goals for the evaluation. Together, they decided to interview some of the Legacy Coordinators—individuals who run the LIFE & LEGACY program in each community—and some of the executive directors of the partner organizations (primarily local Jewish Community Foundations or Jewish Federations) in the communities who had completed the four-year curriculum. The interviewees were asked what they experienced as the impact of the program to date and what they thought would be helpful to sustain the program moving forward. Rosov Consulting and HGF also agreed that a survey of the participating organizations in the first five cohorts would be beneficial, targeting a subset of the 758 organizations participating in the program from the now 72 communities. The idea was to understand not only what HGF’s partners experience, but to really understand how the grassroots organizations (different than the partners) experienced the curriculum and uncover any barriers or challenges to moving their initiatives forward.
Rosov and HGF spent significant time determining the best way to approach these organizations, the right questions to ask, and how to ensure that the answers received would lead to information to help them decide what comes next. Rosov Consulting then conducted the interviews and put the survey in the field. After assessing the results, Rosov provided an analysis to HGF digging into the data and explaining how it should inform future planning.
Among the HGF team internally, Rosov helped them find common ground through conversations about the results as they digested the interview and survey answers.
The evaluation showed the impact of the LIFE & LEGACY program, both in terms of endowment growth and overall change in philanthropic culture in the participating communities. It affirmed that the Legacy Coordinator in each community was a critical component to ensure that endowment building/ legacy giving remains a priority.
After the HGF team reviewed questions that Rosov Consulting included in the evaluation, and shared them with their board, they developed a new program, LIFE & LEGACY Plus. This initiative provides an additional four years of funding to all 72 communities, regardless of what year of the program they are in (or if they finished the program already), a significant additional investment.
The HGF professional team utilized the evaluation to help the board better understand the positive impact the program has had to date, beyond the data collected quarterly and the need for this additional investment. The challenges to sustaining the program and questions from the evaluation directed at HGF were instrumental in moving forward effectively:
- Local Legacy Coordinators are crucial to keep motivation and momentum alive, to help support small or struggling organizations, and to encourage continued prioritization, but many host organizations are unable to make the position permanent after Year 4:
- How can HGF encourage and support communities to make the Coordinator a permanent staff position?
- Board buy-in matters to prioritize legacy giving:
- How can board buy-in be best solidified and maintained over time through direct education, continuing touches, and/or requirements for board participation/engagement?
- Trainings are very well-received, but teams need both refreshers and new full trainings for new staff (and lay/professional leaders):
- How can HGF best attend to the need for ongoing additional trainings, including motivating refreshers for ongoing staff and repeat trainings for new staff?
- Given that Year 1 trainings and the formalization workshop from Year 2 are cited as most helpful, how can HGF maximize the impact of these trainings through refreshers, online trainings, etc.?
- Given the enduring discomfort in having conversations, as reported in the survey, what other supports can HGF provide to overcome this discomfort?
HGF also learned that they needed to spend more time engaging boards of directors throughout the first four years of the curriculum. They hired a consultant to help develop a board assessment tool and associated resources to offer to communities to improve the engagement of boards of directors around endowment building and legacy giving. Based on additional information shared by the surveyed organizations, HGF is planning to develop communities of practice for respective organizations (e.g., JCCs, Jewish Family Services) providing them with the opportunity to meet with peers from other communities to share success and brainstorm about challenges.