Ninety Women of Vision Foundation members and guests gathered on May 10 at the Hotel Palomar to host Ellen Cannon at the group's annual spring luncheon. Cannon analyzed findings of Federation's 2009 Jewish Population Study and proposed funding strategies for the Jewish Women's Foundation of Greater Philadelphia to consider when awarding grants to local and Israeli programs.
"Educating ourselves about the challenges facing the Jewish community, and specifically women and girls, is the first step in tackling them," said Renée G. Sackey, Women of Vision chair.
Susan Raynor, Penni Blaskey and Barbara Gadon co-chaired the event.
Women of Vision awards annual grants to innovative programs that empower Jewish women and girls to transform their lives. Event organizers said that they selected Cannon as the keynote speaker because of her expertise in public policy and the American Jewish community.
Cannon, a Ph.D., has taught political science and public policy at Northeastern Illinois University for more than 25 years. She serves as a policy analyst for Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, and is a faculty member of the Wexner Heritage Foundation, an educational institute for Jewish communal leaders.
Cannon's talk focused on the major trends that were revealed in the study -- that the greatest increase in the local Jewish population is in the age group 50 and above; that the lowest population is in the youngest age group (below 18 years old); and that the 18- to 34-year-old age group, overall, feels least connected to Jewish communal life.
According to Cannon, "Women of Vision, and all foundations and funders must also look at the larger economic crisis when deciding how their grants can have the most impact."
She emphasized that "pragmatism and non-emotional statistical data are the two most important guidelines in funding programs in the current climate of economic instability."
"The good news," said Cannon, "is that Women of Vision's grants have the potential to continue to transform the lives of women and girls, because the Foundation's mission is to invest in programs that teach women skills that change and improve their lives," adding that "these programs also need a component that measures outcomes."
Cannon cited studies indicating that when women learn job skills, become economically independent, and have the emotional support that develops resiliency, there is a ripple effect. She explained that by improving their own lives, women improve the lives of their families and their communities.
Sackey acknowledged an immediate, positive impact of Cannon's ideas on Women of Vision: "Her analysis helped our Grants Committee evaluate the proposals we received this year."
Women of Vision has awarded $342,000 in grants since 2001.
The Foundation's endowment currently stands at $1.4 million, and the 374 members each have an equal voice in grant making.
According to Sackey, two 2010-2011 grants will be announced in July. Awards will go to programs in the Philadelphia area and in Israel.
"Our two grant finalists in Philadelphia both address the college-age population -- the Victor Center program at Einstein, which focuses on the prevention of Jewish genetic diseases that affect one in five Ashkenazi Jews; and the Hillel program at Temple, which focuses on mentoring for success in business and the community," she explained.
"Cannon also encouraged Women of Vision to promote our name, mission and accomplishments," said Sackey. "By marketing ourselves across a broad spectrum of media and community venues, we can be sure we are making strategic grants to programs that demonstrate measurable and sustainable results.
"In this way," she continued, "our philanthropic dollars can bring about social change."
For more information, call Susan Lundy at 215-832-0849; e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org ; or log on to: jewishphilly.org/wov.