Week 4: Phil

How do you foster donations in the economic landscape of a worldwide pandemic? For Phil Lewis, this question has pushed him to transform the way he looks for funding. As a board member for the Jewish Holocaust Centre, he has overseen the ongoing evolution of the JHC during the pandemic. Keeping the stories of the Shoah alive and relevant when visitors cannot come to the Centre has required unique and creative solutions.

Before the pandemic, the Jewish Holocaust Centre hosted around 25,000 students per annum. School groups could come to the Centre and meet with some of the few remaining survivors, whose stories could be preserved against the passing of time that warns of the dangers of prejudice racism and anti semitism and the importance of being an upstander.

Phil has had to radically reshape how he finds the funds for the Jewish Holocaust Centre. Where before the pandemic, he could meet with his donors face to face, embrace them, and have conversations about the future of the Centre and its important work, he now has to make that connection over the phone and virtually online. Phil views his donors as partners in keeping the voices of the Holocaust alive. They have a vital role to play in sustaining the memorials, and Phil enjoyed being able to show them first-hand the innovations the Centre has made. Now, he must accomplish all of this by picking up the phone. The worldwide economic impacts of the pandemic have also affected his donor base. He exercises compassion and understanding as he reaches out, and understands that not everyone is able to give at this time.

Nevertheless, Phil has managed to adapt in the new landscape that every for-purpose organisation now faces. The Centre has also rapidly developed new approaches and exhibits, utilising the available technology to provide a virtual museum experience, available to schools locally and interstate, an opportunity that presented itself due to the crisis. The award-winning Ask a Survivor programme offers recorded interviews with Holocaust survivors, where they answer eighteen of the most frequently asked questions by visitors and students.

Phil uses his experience as a funder to mentor with LaunchPad Leadership, helping participants maximise their impact in the community and guiding them through the complexities of for-purpose funding. One of the greatest concerns for these organisations during the pandemic is keeping their lines of funding secure. Phil emphasises the need for stewardship and fostering greater connections with one’s donors. They are partners in a non-profit’s journey, and that relationship is crucial in keeping a philanthropic mission alive and well. For Phil, this means keeping donors engaged in the process. He likes to showcase the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s projects, innovations, and improvements as a way of demonstrating the impact of donations and bringing home the good that his donors accomplish with their generosity. Even if those achievements can only be displayed on a Zoom call, Phil is still able to drive home the impact that their generosity has on him and the thousands of students and visitors who benefit from the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s work.

The principles that sustain community and philanthropy are reflected in stewardship practices. As Phil expresses, the pandemic has really emphasized the need to find community and realise you’re not alone. Not only does he need to keep the connection to the survivors alive, he also must make those connections between the present generation and the past. He works to find the human spark that keeps those important memories secure against the passing of time. As someone very close to the legacy of the Shoah, Phil sees community and Jewish values as vital for survival.

From his perspective, the Jewish people have survived the endless persecution, pogroms, and the Shoah because of the strength of its community and its strong sense of family. Jewish values are at the heart of this community, and to Phil, those values allow it to survive and thrive.

There is always a way in which we can give back to the community, and help in some way to heal the world. These values drive Jewish philanthropy forward with a common purpose, but what happens when that community of leaders feels isolated from each other, or cannot seem to break through the barriers that keep them from each other? At LaunchPad Leadership, leaders who have felt disconnected are brought together under these values to establish that sense of community, and to share in mindfulness as funders, thought leaders, and activists. In the world we live in, especially under the constraints of a pandemic, values that sustain community, compassion, and stewardship are essential for survival and health.

Mentors like Phil are there to help boost Jewish philanthropy by providing vital support and education as Australian Jewish for-purpose organizations pivot to the new realities the pandemic has imposed on the world. LaunchPad Leadership is there to provide new skills and techniques for leaders who have been compelled to adapt their old methods to better reach their communities and become more effective in delivering on their objectives. Under all of the networking, the skills-based workshops, and the leadership development is the bedrock of Jewish values. As Phil puts it, everything during LaunchPad is done through a Jewish lens.

By bringing leaders together into purposeful workshops and close networking events, LaunchPad Leadership strives to foster stewardship in the Australian Jewish for-purpose sector. The result is an explosion of collaboration aimed at building community and bringing help to those who need it most.

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