Brills Spur Collaborative Funders Group

Brills Spur Collaborative Funders Group

Multi-generational donors focus on professional development

For years, members of the Atlanta Jewish community who are large donors had yearned to bring together a group of like-minded — and like-funded — individuals to become educated about needy issues before being asked for their money. Thanks to a mother and daughter-in-law duo, that kind of collaboration is happening.

“I’m learning so much from the younger generation,” said Lisa Brill, shown with daughter-in-law Staci.

“Usually you find a need, then find a funder,” explained Jori Mandel, deputy director of the Atlanta Jewish Foundation, which is part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. “For me, money is important, but creating the process is also important,” Mandel said. She explained that she has wanted to create a model for other collaborative endeavors.

Then, at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Lisa Brill and her daughter-in-law Staci contacted Mandel. “Together we created this scenario planning process,” Mandel said. That included the Jewish Funders Network on the national level to be a partner in the process. JFN is an education and support group for family foundations, federations and individuals that has developed resources and training to assist funders in figuring out the needs of their community and helping tackle them.

“At the beginning of the quarantine, Staci and I had both been thinking” about what happens after the pandemic, recalled Lisa Brill. “We’re going to come out of this, but how can we best do it? We have a great community, with a capital ‘C.’ We have such respect for Jori and we wanted to make sure this would be a community project, not a Federation project. We were clear from the get-go that this would be a standalone, bottom-up versus top-down project. We’re engaging with the Federation, but it is not a Federation project.”

Together the women brought together a task force of about a dozen people, from different generations and random parts of the city to help create the process. “We needed to be ready whenever COVID is over,” Brill said.

Brill told eJewishPhilanthropy, an online newsletter, “We’ve been in Atlanta since 1979.” She was referring to herself and husband Ron Brill, who co-founded The Home Depot with Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank. “This is a dynamic city. We’ve seen the highs and the lows, and we know that things can always get better.”

The new group is officially called the Atlanta Jewish Foundation Funder Collaborative Powered by the Jewish Funders Network.

Jori Mandel is deputy director of the Atlanta Jewish Foundation.

The task force of major donors and family foundations initially met four times, becoming educated about various issues in the community. Online seminars and discussions highlighted two main issues: mental health and professional development. After an additional meeting, in mid-July, the group decided to focus on “growing the talent pipeline,” according to Mandel.

More funders might be brought into the process, Mandel said. “By the end of the summer, we will have something that people can get behind.”

Brill said, “It’s been fascinating. There have been no financial commitments.” She said she’s also enthusiastic about the process, including different generations. “I’m learning so much from the younger generation. It’s a true blessing to do this with one of my daughters-in-law. This is truly the power of family philanthropy.”

That’s also been an attraction for Mandel. “It’s intentionally multi-generational. We are trying to foster what will be a big transition of wealth” to a next generation in the coming years.

Mandel is responsible for bringing in national or local experts to educate the funders group. “It’s less about the organization that will [eventually] receive the money, and more about the need.” She noted that the participants came with an open collaborative mind and will give what they feel passionately about.

JFN has helped develop funder collaborations around the world, Mandel said. “The Atlanta group is interested in learning what works best on the national level. They are not wanting to recreate the wheel. JFN is helping me develop the framework so that Atlanta can be a model for the South.”

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