Philanthropy catalyzing next-generation donors

Fifteen years ago, as Charles Bronfman and his late wife, Andrea, were ushering Birthright Israel into its toddler years, they inherently understood that the next generations would have new ideas about Jewish life and new energy to contribute to it. One strategy they supported began in 2002, when Jeff Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, hired me to encourage next-generation donors to bring their own ideas and resources to bear on the Jewish world.

After spending a few months surveying the landscape and exploring best practices across the country, we set up a collaborative giving process for next-generation donors who wanted to give more directly, funding critical issues in the Jewish world. With initial financial support from the Bronfman philanthropies, the Samberg Family Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, I helped to launch a next-generation giving circle called Natan. It was created initially for Generation Xers, largely financial types in New York whose members wanted to support startups catalyzing new Jewish life in North America and Israel.

We then founded Grand Street, a network for Generation Yers inheriting opportunities to participate in their families’ philanthropy. These men and women wanted to honor their parents’ and grandparents’ legacies and commitment to the Jewish community, while also bringing about their generation’s new responses to contemporary Jewish life.

Both of these experiences taught us about the power of the peer group as a place for next-generation donors to learn about themselves, as well as find a training ground to learn about the nonprofit, Jewish and philanthropic worlds.

We saw how Grand Street members were willing to take risks and explore new ideas together. These members traveled across the globe to learn from other Jewish communities and social entrepreneurship activities. Subsequently, we helped Grand Street members launch the Slingshot guide to Jewish innovation and later the Slingshot Fund. We watched the members challenge each other to become more strategic, as they aimed to fund from both the head and the heart.

Ultimately, these initial Bronfman philanthropies investments had double bottom-line returns. Our programs engaged next-generation donors, and those donors in turn leveraged the Bronfman contributions by allocating more than $12 million to engage other next-generation Jews. Eventually, both programs became self-sustaining nonprofit entities and continue to thrive today.

As we learned how to work with Generations X and Y, both earners and inheritors, philanthropic families and foundations approached us for help in engaging their own adult children. With Solomon’s encouragement, we set up an in-house philanthropic service called 21/64, serving next-generation donors, families and their advisers from a range of backgrounds.

In 2008, after the Bronfman philanthropies’ spend-down was announced, the trustees generously provided 21/64 with initial funding that enabled it to eventually reach sustainability and continue as an independent nonprofit entity. 21/64 Inc. specializes in next-generation and multigenerational engagement in philanthropy and family enterprise.

To help us achieve sustainability, the Bronfman philanthropies provided 21/64 with financial support to hire a new senior professional so that it could transition from a wholly underwritten program to a 501(c)(3) with diversified revenue streams. It also gave 21/64 the intellectual property it created while it was a Bronfman program, as well as office space and support services.

As 2014 came to a close, 21/64 celebrated its independence with sustainable earned revenue streams, transitioning completely out of Bronfman philanthropies, and I became the executive director.

With this modest success under our belts, we began 2015 with three particular areas of attention. The first is to raise funds to support our next-generation programs, including Grand Street and our new #NextGenDonors program for 21-40 year olds from diverse backgrounds. The Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation provided an interim grant to sustain these programs.

Secondly, we aim to be a thought leader and are building new tools, a book and a new training program, all the while supporting families who are engaging the next generation. Lastly, we are considering how to add staff and expand our board of directors as we grow our newly launched organization.

As I type this blog, I sit just steps away from the Bronfman team, whose belief in the next generation and passion for innovation set the stage for what 21/64 could become. It is powerful to watch the Bronfman legacy become part of the philanthropic landscape and I feel grateful to have traveled all this way in the company of such people. We are humbled by how far we have come and mindful upon whose shoulders we stand.

Sharna Goldseker is executive director of 21/64, a nonprofit consulting practice specializing in next-generation and multigenerational engagement in philanthropy and family enterprise.

This article is part of the “Making Change by Spending Down” series, produced in partnership by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and GrantCraft, The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) and GrantCraft, a service of Foundation Center, to share insights and lessons as the Bronfman philanthropies spends down its endowment by 2016 and closes.


Goldseker to speak at Day of Philanthropy

Sharna Goldseker will speak Thursday, Oct. 29 at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s Day of Philanthropy in San Francisco.

Goldseker will lead a breakout session for financial advisers on “Unlocking Intergenerational Relationships.” The executive director of the nonprofit consulting practice 21/64 will address generational differences and offer suggestions on how to talk about money and philanthropy with the younger generation.

She will join Steve R. Akers, managing director of the Bessemer Trust Co. in the tax and estate planning session, which begins with a continental breakfast and registration at 7:30 a.m.

Day of Philanthropy takes place at the Four Seasons Hotel, 757 Market St., S.F. Register at