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Meet Our Partner of the Decade: The Lenny Zakim Fund

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We’re so lucky to have found a long-standing partner and friend in Boston’s Lenny Zakim Fund (LZF). LZF makes a meaningful impact on all of its grantee organizations by providing not only financial support, but also informative workshops, networking events and collaboration opportunities. While LZF supports a number of small nonprofits, they never make any of us feel like one of many.

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary and over five years of working with LZF, we’re able to do so much more because of the support LZF has given us over the years. Honoring LZF as our Partner of the Decade is our small way of saying thank you! We’re excited to share this interview with Jude Goldman, LZF’s fearless leader and Executive Director.

Jude

Jude Goldman, Executive Director – The Lenny Zakim Fund

First and most importantly, tell us about Lenny Zakim, an inspiration to so many, who focused on making a difference one person at a time.

The late Lenny Zakim, Boston’s civil and human rights leader, was a phenomenal man who had a passion and a talent to bring diverse people together to fight for rights, to right wrongs, and to celebrate together. Lenny was a teacher, a leader and inspiration to many, many people and he believed that each individual person can – and must – make a difference. Sadly Lenny left us all too soon, after a battle with multiple myeloma. But before he passed away, he created The Lenny Zakim Fund, a legacy that continues his work for social justice.

In a time when many funders are looking for big numbers and big organizations, it’s amazing to find an organization like LZF that is really looking out for “the little guy.” One of the things we have always loved about working with LZF is that our missions seem to be so much in alignment. Your website articulates it beautifully: to support those who fall below the radar screen so that they can achieve their full potential. Tell us a bit about how you and your staff make this happen.

At The Lenny Zakim Fund we believe that small, grassroots organizations often have the power and the creativity to tackle big problems and make a significant differences in lives and communities. Social justice is created by people who are part of a community, understand a problem that faces their community, and have a clear vision of how to address it. Lenny said “They have the will. They have the creativity. But they lack the means. We give them the means.” and quite simply that is why The Lenny Zakim Fund exists.

We have been part of the LZF community since 2007 and it never ceases to amaze us that LZF serves such a diverse community in such meaningful ways. What is the thread that ties together all of your grantees?

While The Lenny Zakim Fund’s mission addresses very broad concerns such as combating illiteracy and poverty or working to end violence, and while the programs LZF supports are geographically diverse, serving communities from Worcester to Fall River, each and every one of these programs is effectively promoting social justice at the grassroots level. The average budget size of a 2013 grantee is under $200,000 but the impact is tremendous. These agencies and their leaders are small, but they are powerful. They change the lives of individuals and families impacted by violence, they make sure that people have good, nutritious food, and they ensure that the very special needs of young adult survivors of cancer are addressed in appropriate and impactful ways thanks to the wonderful work of The SAMFund.

The impact of LZF’s programs goes far beyond the dollars themselves. We’ve implemented so many strategic ideas from the incredible seminars and institutes you provide during the year. What topics have resonated most with the nonprofit community in the greater Boston area?

As our board chair, Susan Rothman always says, it is not the job of The Lenny Zakim Fund to make small agencies bigger, but it is our job to make them stronger. Grassroots leaders are brilliant, creative, talented, and have developed focused and effective solutions to some of our society’s toughest problems. But…very few of them launch or run these important programs because they know how to fundraise, make a budget, understand employment law, know how to recruit and manage the volunteers they depend on, and many more aspects of organizational management. Yet these are exactly skills and this knowledge that they need to be sustainable and to succeed. Through semi-annual Institutes and ongoing morning seminars, The Lenny Zakim Fund makes sure that these powerful leaders and vital programs have the tools and skills that they need to ensure their viability and effectiveness.

What is your hope for The SAMFund going forward? 

Congratulations to The SAMFund, we are so thrilled by and proud of your success, and we are delighted that The Lenny Zakim Fund has been able to contribute to over five years of your wonderful and important work to support young adult cancer survivors. The SAMFund perfectly exemplifies the mission of The Lenny Zakim Fund – thank you for all that you do. The SAMFund has experienced an incredible first decade – granting a million dollars to young survivors of cancer is a tremendous and beautiful accomplishment. A strong, thoughtful, forward-thinking organization, as you enter your second decade, the LZF and I wish you success to fulfill The SAMFund’s mission to meet the needs and realize the dreams of the wonderful young people whom you serve.

Thank you to The Lenny Zakim Fund for all you have done to support The SAMFund!

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