Samuel Bronfman Foundation, Into the Breach
04/19/2012 - 16:07
Helen Chernikoff

 

G-dcast.com is one of the success stories of the Jewish start-up sector, the same grassroots movement to reach young and disinterested Jews that brought you Eden Village Camp, OurJewishCommunity.org and the Jewish Meditation Center. Over 3,000 educators around the world use G-dcast.com’s funky parsha-of-the-week videos, which have been viewed over a million times on the web. Check ’em out: this week’s features a musical rendition of Parshat Shemini -- "The Kosher Animal Song" -- from Sephardic indie rock outfit DeLeon.

Then why is G-dcast.com about to find itself out on the street?

“It’s not just my problem,” said Sarah Lefton, the founder and director of G-dcast.com, which has doubled its budget and hired three part-time staff in the past year, but can’t make rent. “All of the young Jewish organizations in San Francisco have the same problem.”

This phenomenon whereby young, innovative Jewish organizations struggle to grow has been the subject in recent years of much agonizing over how to help start-ups transition into the next stage of their organizational life so that they can do more of what they do, and bring whatever it is – videos, text study, environmental bike rides – to more people. Just yesterday, the Samuel Bronfman Foundation became the first major Jewish funder to step into the breach in a major way.

The foundation is offering up to $100,000 over multiple years to organizations that are at least six years old, but have budgets of less than $5 million. Applicants must be at least thinking about – if not already formally planning – their next stage of development, and this funding is designed to help them get there. This is unusual; it means the grant’s recipients can use the money for “operations.” Often, funders want their money to go only to programming.

“My experience is that people want to fund sexy programs involving films and kids, and nobody wants to pay for our office space,” Lefton said.

The Bronfman program is a turning point, said Nina Bruder, the executive director of Bikkurim, an incubator for new organizations that recently released a report documenting barriers to start-ups' growth and making recommendations.

“Any of these on its own is rare - multi-year funding, general operating support, and support for post-start-up organizations,” Bruder said. “So to offer all three components together is highly unusual, desperately needed, and will undoubtedly be much appreciated.”

 

 

 

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