Engagement Snapshot: A Strategic Approach

Monday, November 28, 2011

By Beeta Jahedi, Assistant Manager, Professional Education, Philanthropy New York and Robert Hyfler, EngAGEment Initiative Program Consultant, Philanthropy New York

(This post originally appeared on the Forum’s Forum, the blog of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, on November 21, 2011 and is reprinted with permission.)

It was with great enthusiasm that Philanthropy New York signed on to the EngAGEment initiative and the funding partnership with Grantmakers In Aging. Philanthropy New York and our local co-funders, the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, quickly developed a senior staff working group to develop our local approach to the challenge of increasing foundation funding in age-related issues. A three-pronged strategy emerged:

  • Encourage our 280 grantmaking member organizations and their 2500 individual staff members and trustees to look carefully at age-related issues through the prism of their existing areas of focus and then integrate age-related concerns into their current mix of priorities.
  • Connect age-related concerns to Philanthropy New York’s own central focus on policy. To reinforce this priority, a close working and advisory relationship was forged with the New York Academy of Medicine and the city’s “Age Friendly NYC” initiative.
  • Increase the footprint of age-related issues within the institutional fabric of Philanthropy New York.

To date, three of our educational programs have reinforced these strategies. They include a kick-off forum which parlayed a demographic overview presented by the New York City Department of City Planning with a funder’s panel on how the aging of New York City is profoundly affecting their approach to funding.

second event was held in conjunction with a Grantmakers In Aging Regional Issues Forum at the Museum of Modern Art, with the theme of “Creativity and Healthy Aging.” During this program, funders were exposed to the science of creativity and the idea of the arts as a vehicle for both therapy and elder empowerment and heard from keynote speaker, MacArthur Award winner, and choreographer Liz Lerman of the Dance Exchange.

third cross-cutting forum linked education with age-related issues and highlighted (using local projects) intergenerational education collaborations, opportunities for elders in higher education, and the older adult as an active learner. Also featured was the use of database technology to expose elders to educational opportunities.

Future forums currently being discussed will expose funders to the intersection of aging and workforce development issues and the ever-evolving opportunities for grantmaking in the areas of aging and health.

To better integrate age-related concerns into the ongoing work of Philanthropy New York, both a members’ listserv and a designated presence on our website are in the planning stage. As we proceed with our initiative, the optimum challenge is to bring our awareness and educational efforts to the next step of active grantmaking and multi-funder collaboratives. Already, members of our Working Group have met individually with other funders, encouraging and mentoring them in age-related issues. It is our hope that what we have planned, along with web-based marketing efforts, will create even greater successes in this area.

This October, Beeta attended the annual conference of Grantmakers In Aging held in Washington, DC, where GIA’s new CEO John Feather warmly welcomed all participants. The conference, exciting throughout, had a number of sessions and events most relevant to our New York initiative.

The intensive session “Habla Ingles? Language Access and Advocacy for Diverse Aging Populations” discussed the importance of understanding the history of a population, cultural competency, and making a “systems level of change,” encouraging funding over 10 years or more.

It was most inspiring that The Eisner Foundation awarded the inaugural Eisner Prize of $100,000 for Intergenerational Excellence to The Intergenerational Center at Temple University, led by Dr. Nancy Z. Henkin. The importance of intergenerational programming across all age-related programs was prominent and present throughout the conference.

Finally, “Seniors Out Speaking on Medicare,” an intimate roundtable session led by Barbara Greenberg, Foundation Advisor for the Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation, illustrated the exciting potential in age-related funding. The session highlighted a creative program in Westchester County, NY initially funded by the Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation that has now spread to several sites nationwide. The program uses the model of “Medicare Minutes,” one-page sheets that can be read in one minute to inform seniors about updates to Medicare. The program also takes into account language barriers and makes region-specific translated versions of the minutes available. Through a large force of volunteers, the program accomplishes three main goals: providing good information for the public, engaging the elderly (persons 50 years and older), and affecting broader public policy.

For more information about Philanthropy New York’s EngAGEment initiative, contact our program consultant Robert Hyfler at bobhyfler@comcast.net.

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