Jim Joseph Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: This funder supports Jewish learning, educator training, and research, with a special focus on the Bay Area. Nonprofits that benefit Jewish communities nationwide are also considered for grants.

FUNDING AREAS: Jewish educator development, learning opportunities for young Jews, Jewish education research.

IP TAKE: Letters of inquiry are OK as long as they cut to the chase in less than a page. Pitch a program that impacts Jewish teenagers in the Bay Area.

PROFILE: With a mission to foster compelling and effective Jewish learning experiences for young Jews, the Jim Joseph Foundation was established as a philanthropic fund in 1987 exclusively to fund the education of Jewish youth and young adults. The fund was incorporated into a private foundation in 2005, and is also known as the Shimon Ben Joseph Foundation.

Jim Joseph was successful as founder and president of a real estate company. You can learn more about his life and background in his memoir. Private foundation grantmaking began in 2006.

This funder’s three strategic priorities for grantmaking are to support training and development of Jewish educators, expand learning opportunities for young Jews, and build the capacity of high-performing organizations serving the field of Jewish education. Although education is at the heart of Jim Joseph grantmaking, it is viewed broadly to include summer camps, day schools, youth groups, congregational educational, and other in- and out-of-school learning opportunities.

The San Francisco Bay Area, where the foundation is based, is of particular interest to the Jim Joseph Foundation. During its early years of grantmaking, JJF focused on 13- to 23-year-old students in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Grantmaking has since expanded to include young adults up to age 30. National initiatives are considered when making grant decisions, but the staff and board look particularly for funding opportunities in the Bay Area. Note that JJF does not fund causes in Israel or anywhere outside the U.S.

About 40 percent of the foundation’s annual grantmaking for Jewish learning is made via partnerships with other funders, supporting research, and serving as seed funding for new projects. There are two primary types of grants that JJF awards. Major grants are usually multi-year grants that are presented at quarterly board meetings. From 2006 through 2015, the Jim Joseph Foundation awarded over $392 million in grants. Over half (51 percent) of these grants have fallen under its "Expand Opportunities for Effective Jewish Learning" category. It awards major grants and expedited grants that are multi-year and expedited grants that are for up to two years and up to $250,000 each.

In a past grant cycle, the foundation awarded $24 million in grants, with major grants going to teen education and programs for the outdoors. Past grants have exceeded $3.2 million, $4.2 million, and $7.5 million. Grants in the millions of dollars are fairly common. You can view a list of recent grantees on the Grantees and Featured Grantees pages.

Roughly half of JJF’s grants have funded expanding opportunities for effective Jewish learning, followed by support for educators, and then for research. Groups that serve teens tend to see the most JJF support, but it’s fairly well spread out among ages six through 30. Renewal grants have become increasingly common with this funder in recent years. Keep in mind that JJF does not support capital projects, operating debt, or endowment, and it rarely supports individual schools and camps.

The Jim Joseph Foundation is run by a staff of about 17 and a board of about 11. As a general rule, JJF does not accept unsolicited grant proposals. However, grantseekers can submit a brief (not more than one page) letter of inquiry to describe a potential idea or initiative.

To keep up with JJF, you can follow the foundation on Twitter @JimJosephFdn and subscribe to the RSS feed for its blog. General questions can be emailed to info@jimjosephfoundation.org or called into the San Francisco office at (415) 658-8730. 

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