Why I give: Jackie’s story

By Jackie Henning • JFCS Grant Writer and Parent-Child Home Program Partnership Coordinator


As JFCS’ Annual Campaign, Give2017, kicks off, we are sharing personal stories from people about why they give to the campaign.


Everyone has at least one giving story. Here’s mine. Maybe parts of it will resonate with yours.


Chapter One ­– That was then:

I started working at JFCS in August 2005 as a Grant Coordinator. My first task was to meet with staff members from all our programs to learn about what we do. I was bowled over with information and unfamiliar vocabulary – kashrut, mitzvah, shul, tikkun olam, tzedakah. The 3 C’s of grant writing are be “Clear,” “Concise” and “Compelling”! I wasn’t sure if I could be any of those!


My first couple all staff meetings included campaign information about the United Way, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and JFCS annual giving. The requests were very respectfully presented in a context to help us think about giving and that it’s not about the amount, but about the participation. But I could hardly hear it – I was kind of overwhelmed and trying to adjust to a new life here.


At the same time, at home, it seemed like I was receiving two calls a night and emptying a mailbox full of solicitations from Habitat for Humanity, MPR, Animal Humane Society, Red Cross, Children’s Theatre, and my church – Plymouth Congregational. I can’t afford to be a major donor for any place. I gave to the places I always donated to and then to a few who wouldn’t let me shut the door until I gave them $10. Not very planned out, but it worked for me.


So, almost 12 years ago I was just hoping I would eventually fit into this agency – socially and linguistically. And the idea of yet another place asking for my financial support – well truthfully, the request just went onto my pile of “I’ll get to that later.” And I had a few thoughts along the lines of “Don’t I already give enough by putting in my time here?” 


Chapter Two – Then something happened:

It was the compelling stories from JFCS staff that started to change my way of thinking as I heard so many stories from the heart – not only at staff meetings, but every single time I met with someone here.


I heard about the young boy from our ACT program whose case manager had to stop and buy him shoes on the way to taking him to meet the bus for summer camp. And the 84-year-old woman who was driven by our Deikel Transportation driver to her hair appointment, the young boy with special needs and a single mom who found unconditional nurturing and a new life opening before him with his new Big Brother. And the woman with two young children who lost her job and couldn’t pay her rent, but was able to build some stability in her life when JFCS provided emergency assistance and connected her with supporting resources in JFCS and other community resources.


None of these people fell through the cracks – thanks to JFCS. I write grant proposals that are FULL of praising adjectives about our skilled, experienced, passionate staff and how we at JFCS are “family” to tens of thousands of people across the Twin Cities.


Chapter Three – My new story:

I started to realize that as my own life and priorities changed, so could my financial giving. If I work at a place that is family to so many, why wouldn’t I also financially contribute toward that effort? When I write so many proposals that include support from the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the United Way – why wouldn’t I want to show my support for them?


I’m becoming more intentional about when, to whom and why I give. I feel good supporting our work at JFCS, which has become one of my primary annual donation recipients. I’m even leaving a legacy gift for JFCS – because with a new granddaughter I think more about how I can ensure that this caring and great work can continue for generations to come. For me, it’s not the amount of money, it’s my statement. This is what I do and this work matters.


Now almost 12 years later, I’m proudly writing grant proposals that include statements like this – “JFCS core values are defined by the Jewish value of tikkun olam, “repairing the world.” I know how to pronounce most of those Hebrew words that intimidated me when I first arrived here.


I am proud to be part of the JFCS family to thousands of people across the Twin Cities and as part of that family, I will support it with my “pretty good writing skills,” some cash, and even becoming a legacy member too. Much like I do with my own immediate family – I’m always there for them.


That’s my giving story. What’s yours?


Thank you, Jackie, for being a valued member of the JFCS family and for sharing your story. If JFCS is part of your giving story, we’d love to hear from you, too! To contribute to JFCS’ Annual Give Campaign, click here.