The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Past Events


Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street - A film screening and panel discussion

On October 6, 2016, The Sillerman Center hosted "Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street," a film screening and panel discussion. The film and panel focused on community-engaged neighborhood development and community-informed philanthropy. The panel was moderated by Angela Vo (IASP) and panelists included Jose Barros of DSNI, Harry Smith of DSNI, and Maria Mulkeen of the Hyams Foundation.

Presentation: "Striking at the Root: Social Justice Philanthropy for the 21st Century" given at the Youth Philanthropy Connect International Conference

On July 7, 2016, The Sillerman Center staff offered the presentation and workshop, "Striking at the Root: Social Justice Philanthropy for the 21st Century" at Youth Philanthropy Connect's (YPC) International Conference held in Anaheim, California. Our presentation enabled grantmakers of all ages to explore the underlying theories and on-the- ground work of social justice philanthropy in the United States. Attendees also simulated the practice of social justice philanthropy by responding to community challenges presented in case studies. We were honored to be a part of the YPC Conference, which brought together young philanthropists to connect with and learn from each other and to explore new innovations in the field of grantmaking.

Click HERE to see photos from the conference!

Strategies for a Changing Northern New England: A Funders Briefing

On June 3, 2016, The Sillerman Center, in partnership, with the NH-based Endowment for Health and the national organization, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR), sponsored Strategies for a Changing Northern New England: A Funders Briefing. The event brought together funders and community and non-profit leaders in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine to learn about demographic trends and explore opportunities and challenges related to growing cultural diversity. This meeting is part of the Sillerman Center's ongoing project, Immigrant Integration in Northern New England.

Book Talk: "The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?"

May 2, 2016, The Sillerman Center hosted a book talk on “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” by Dale Russakoff. The event included a conversation and book signing with longtime Washington Post reporter, Dale Russakoff, author of the critically acclaimed bestseller, The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? (2015). 

Investment and Spending Policies Seminar

On April 4, 2016, board members, program officers and executives from a wide variety of foundations in New England attended our spring Sillerman Seminar, "Investment and Spending Policies" with Rob Brown, head of research at Just Capital. The seminar introduced professionals with vast experience in the program side of grant making to the capital markets and offered a variety of approaches for assuring that investments reflect the values and mission of particular philanthropic organizations. Thank you to Associated Grant Makers, our partners in this event.

The Business Case for Social Impact

On February 4, 2016, The Sillerman Center was extremely proud to co-sponsor an event coordinated by Gabby Zilkha, a current Brandeis senior. The Business Case for Social Impact took place during DEIS' Impact week. The goal of this event was to challenge the old notion that businesses are solely about making money. This panel brought together people who demonstrate the for-profit sector's power to solve social problems, to make the economy fairer and more equitable and to engender progressive cultural change. Each of our high-profile panelists shared stories about following their passions in the private sector and making positive impact that extends far beyond personal profits. 

Panelists included:
Nurys Camargo, Regional Director of External Affairs at AT&T and Founder of the Chica Project
Paul Francisco, Managing Director and Head of the Diversity Consulting and Sourcing Office & Head of Workforce Development Programs at State Street Corporation
Lynne Katzmann, Founder and President at Juniper Communities

Sponsored by: Brandeis University Business Program Undergraduate Representatives & Social Justice, Social Policy Undergraduate Representatives, The Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program, Hiatt Career Center, The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

The Justice article can be found here.


Massachusetts Youth Philanthropy Summit

On November 22, The Sillerman Center was honored to host dozens of youth philanthropists for a Summit on giving and social action. Youth and adults from New England gathered at the Heller School to talk about their philanthropy models, explore the causes they care most about and to learn about strategies for assessing community needs and creating a better society through giving. 

Some of the conference goers come to philanthropy via clubs at their high schools or as part of community-based organizations. Other teens who attended the conference are members of the newest generation of givers through their family's foundations. The Youth Philanthropy Summit was organized by the Sillerman Center in collaboration with Youth Philanthropy Connect and other local community foundations. The 2015 event program can be found here.

Click here for photos from the event. (Photos Credit of Heratch Photography)


Sillerman Intern and Fellow Meeting
December 9, 2013

Sillerman Intern and Fellow Meeting
April 23, 2013


Silence is Not an Option: A Funders Briefing on the Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse
June 7, 2012, 8:30 - 10:00am
55 Court Street, Boston, MA

The issue of childhood sexual abuse has recently topped the headlines as the details of abuse at trusted camps, sports programs, religious organizations, schools and universities have surfaced in communities throughout Massachusetts and the nation.  Those of us familiar with the issue know that these stories are only the most recent -- and the harm to our children has been on-going and unspoken for far too long.

Please join our speakers: Monique Hoeflinger, Senior Program Officer, Ms. Foundation for Women, Claudia Jacobs, Associate Director, the Sillerman Center, Jetta Bernier, Executive Director, Massachusetts Citizens for Children and the Enough Abuse Campaign, and local grant makers for a discussion of best practices, concerns and next steps for funders -- and their grantees -- as we work together to end this unacceptable epidemic.

Changing the Rules of the Game: Emerging Russian Jewish Philanthropy
April 2, 6:30 PM, The Zinner Forum, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Cosponsored by the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy, this engaging debate will cover the unique aspects of the Russian-speaking Jewish community and its philanthropic practice in North America and globally.

• Ilia Salita, Executive Director, Genesis Philanthropy Group in North America
• Gene Rachmansky, Executive Committee, UJA Federation of New York, Attorney and Financier
• Leonard Petlakh, Executive Director, King Bay YM-YWHA
• David A. Mersky, Director of Education and Professional Development,Fisher-Bernstein Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership

Hearts on Fire: An evening with philanthropist Jill Iscol and changemaker Jacob Lief

March 29, The Zinner Forum, 6-8pm
Co-sponsored by The Sillerman Center and The Segal Program


Pizza and Philanthropy
Monday, December 12, 5:00 – 7:30pm, Heller G2

A celebration of student philanthropy at Brandeis will be held on Monday, December 12, 5-6:30 pm in Heller G02. Thanks to a grant from the Learning by Giving Foundation, students in the undergraduate sociology course Social Justice and Philanthropy will be presenting two $5,000 grants to nonprofit organizations working in the areas of homelessness and after school programs for at-youth risk in Waltham. Students will discuss their philanthropic process and celebrate their giving with the grantees.

Nonprofit Day 2011
October 11 and 12

Claudia Jacobs, Associate Director, Member of pre-conference responder panel and leading workshop
Cultivating Philanthropic Values on Campus, Erie, PA
Sponsored by The Nonprofit Partnership

Pizza and Philanthropy
Monday, May 2, 2011, 11am - 1pm, Heller G53

Students will share the process they undertook to select worthy nonprofits for funding.Please join us as the students reveal their decisions. Please RSVP to

Oral Presentations of the Sillerman Prize for Innovations in Philanthropy on College Campuses
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 3pm-5pm, Heller G2

Nine judges listened to four finalists for the 2011 Winner of the Sillerman Prize for Innovations in Philanthropy on College Campuses. Gleaned from 21 applications submitted by students at colleges and universities from across the U.S., the four finalists (from Harvard, Babson, Penn and Cornell) made their oral presentations at the Heller School, Brandeis University. Finalists presented their plans to increase philanthropy and philanthropic values. Winners will be announced by early May. 

High Impact Philanthropy: A Conversation with Leading Foundation Professionals in the New Normal
April 11, 2011, 6pm - 8pm, Zinner Forum, Heller School

Moderator: David Mersky, Hornstein Faculty and Managing Director of Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, Inc.
Panelists Include: Sanford "Sandy" Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Elenore (Nellie) Garton, Vice Chair of the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation; Mary Phillips, President of GMA Foundations

Creating Social Change in the Rural South: A Funder's Perspective
March 23, 2011, Noon - 1pm, Heller G3, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Janine Lee, Executive Director, Southern Partners Fund

Fundraising in re: Advancing an organization's goals: the role development/advancement might play in strategic planning
March 11, 2011
Boston University

2011 Council on Foundations
Family Philanthropy Conference
Claudia Jacobs
January 23-25, 2011
Marriott Marquis, New York City, NY

Philanthropy Education: Teaching Philanthropy Through Doing
Elenore Garton, Senior Researcher
In general, people have no idea what it takes to be a successful high impact grantmaker. College students are learning to be more generous, better future givers, and better citizens  through courses in philanthropy which feature students deciding on actual grants to non-profit organizations.Funded by individual donors and foundations, students are granting $10,000-$60,000 in experiential philanthropy courses around the U.S. This session features donors, instructors and students speaking about the impact these courses have had.

Flipping Evaluation On Its Head
Elenore Garton, Senior Researcher
Evaluate and support! Apply this imperative to organizations at different stages of their life cycle-before, during, and after grant making-improve your own success as a grantmaker. This session explores measuring philanthropic impact using both quantitative and qualitative measures. Explore ways to tailor evaluation approaches to different types of grants.


Undergraduate Philanthropy Course Awards Grant
December 6, 2010

Showcasing the new Brandeis undergraduate Social Justice and Philanthropy course, Instructor Elenore Garton and her students described the process they undertook to select a nonprofit organization to receive $10K of funding provided by the Sunshine Lady Foundation. The experiential component of the course involved, conducting site visits, evaluating multiple grants and making an award. SOC 143a was offered through the Brandeis Sociology Department.

The recipient of the $10,000 grant, Venturing Out, represented by Executive Director Laura Winnig and volunteer Larry Buckley, viewed the student presentation and received a large virtual check.

Philanthropy on College Campuses: Its Origins, Forms, and Social Implications
Andrew Hahn, Claudia Jacobs and Elenore Garton
November 18, 2010
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Alexandria, VA

Film Screening: "A Small Act"
The Sillerman Center co-sponsored the screening of  "A Small Act," an award-winning documentary by Jennifer Arnold. For more about the film see: www.asmallact
November 17, 2010
Zinner Forum, Heller School

Luncheon Meeting for Sillerman Interns and Fellows
What Do You Think of the Giving Pledge?
November 9, 2010
Heller G2,

Bilezekian Family Foundation
Foundation Roundtable: Using Internships Wisely
Claudia Jacobs, "Philanthropy Internships"
October 28, 2010
Heller G53

The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan
September 27, 2010
Zinner Forum, Heller School

Sillerman Center Director Andrew Hahn interviewed Charles Bronfman, Chairman, and Jeff Solomon, President, of The Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, about their book, The Art of Giving. This event was co-sponsored by the Sillerman Center, the Hornstein Program and the Fisher-Bernstein Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership.


Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World
August 9, 2010
Michael Edwards, Author and Former Director, the Ford Foundation, Governance and Civil Society Program

The Power of Hope, Thankfulness, and Making a Difference
August 8, 2010
Bobby Sager, Founder, Sager Family Traveling Foundation & Roadshow

Foundations and Health Care Reform 2010
July 27-28, 2010
Heller G7

The Institute on Healthcare Systems, the Schneider Institutes and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy hosted over 60 healthcare foundations for a one-day conference on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  The primary focus was the role of regional actors in levering or supporting reform.

Consumer Education Policy Brief.pdf
Delivery System Policy Brief.pdf
Payment Reform Policy Brief.pdf
Safety Net Policy Brief.pdf
Workforce Policy Brief.pdf

SPIFFY Roundtable: Key Findings from Dynamic Families:
How Small Family Foundations Decide to Make Big Changes in Public Policy
May 19, 2010

Just as a citizen can organize votes or create a coalition, or media coverage can shift the way policy is made, foundations of any size can be instrumental in influencing policy.  By leveraging their wealth and (often) personal connections to those in power, foundations can influence public opinion, change service practice, gain media attention for an issue, or sponsor research that helps to shape how elected officials approach new laws or regulations.

Parent Engagement
May 11, 2010

Parent Engagement - the key ingredient

Research and on-the-ground experience have consistently demonstrated that families have a major influence in their children's  educational achievements.  Parental engagement with their children's schools is positively linked to improved educational outcomes for their children. 

Speakers: Michele Brooks, Assistant Superintendent, Family & Student Engagement, Boston Public Schools

Karen Mapp, Ed.D., Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Trustee, Hyams Foundation

Olu Crayton, Associate Director of Boston Parents Organizing Network (BPON), a BPS parent and former community organizer


Ford Foundation's Ubinas Talks at the Heller School
November 19, 2009
Luis Ubinas, President of the Ford Foundation, spoke at the Heller School on "Pathways to Lasting Social Change."  He discussed new directions for mobilizing philanthropic resources for and measurement of social change.  The Sillerman Center co-sponsored this important event.

Book Discussion: Change Philanthropy
November 16, 2009

In collaboration with Associated Grant Makers, the Sillerman Center's Elenore Garton moderated a discussion of the book Change Philanthropy: Candid Stories of Foundations Maximizing Results Through Social Justice by Alicia Epstein Korten. Jeffrey Zinsmeyer, President, Discount Foundation and Cassie Schwerner, Vice President of Programs, Schott Foundation joined the discussion about how foundations can engage in work that advances equity and social justice in civil society. Strategies and tools were discussed to help individuals and foundations leverage their resources to address the challenges in these economic times.

Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best
October 29, 2009

Aaron Dorfman, Executive Director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, discussed the committee's Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best.  Dr. Susan Ostrander of Tufts University and Henry Allen of the Discount Foundation participated as the academic and philanthropic respondents raising such questions as how philanthropy can advance social justice.

"Ready by 21": For funders interested in children and youth issues
The Zinner Forum, The Heller School
September 30, 2009

This discussion, led by Elizabeth Gaines of the Forum for Youth Investment, focused on the role that funders can play in supporting the Massachusetts Ready by 21 Action Plan and how philanthropists can fill in gaps effectively. 

More Bang for your Buck: Small Foundations Engaging in Social Policy

September 22-24, 2009

The Grantmakers for Children Youth and Family (GCYF) Annual Conference in Minneapolis provided a great venue for the Sillerman Center to present its work on foundations engaging in public policy work.  The interactive session was attended by representatives of all types of foundations, infrastructure groups, consultants and others.

Presenters: Jason Franklin, Elenore Garton, and Rebecca Stone 

Teaching Philanthropy Workshop
June 12, 2009

The Zinner Forum at the Heller School is still reverberating with the enthusiastic philanthropic conversations that took place on June 12th.  Bringing together faculty and students of the Sillerman Center, the Campus Compact/Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund's Students4Giving project, and the Sunshine Lady Foundation's Learning by Giving project enabled the group to study the similarities and differences in the curriculum, students and communities where philanthropic courses are being taught.  Teaching philanthropy is becoming a new academic area of study and a "movement" across the country. 

The Art and Craft of Your Own Philanthropy
June 5, 2009
Brandeis alumni joined Andy Hahn, Director of the Sillerman Center, and Claudia Jacobs and Elenore Garton at the Alumni College 2009 event.

Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy: The Next Generation of Grantmakers
Workshop: Foundations and Public Policy: Leveraging for Impact
May 2-3, 2009

This workshop, part of the training and retreat for young foundation professionals and other philanthropic leaders, began with presentations from three panelists.  The first part of the session was focused on how foundations can (and can't) engage in policy work and the mechanisms at their disposal.  The second portion of the workshop provided exemplars of different kinds of foundations engaging in a variety of policy work.  The third portion was the interactive session helping workshop participants to understand their own work through the policy lens.  Small groups worked on case studies of foundations from which they developed policy engagement strategies.

Health Care Investing for Foundations: Strategies for Filling the Gaps
April 30, 2009

Immigration Dinner and Debate
March 11, 2009

Foundation Trustees and staff, as well as philanthropists interested in or already funding projects that involve immigration, attended a small private dinner co-sponsored by the Sillerman Center and the Associated Grant Makers (AGM) of Boston. The dinner enabled a discussion with the featured speakers of the Annual Zinner Distinguished Lecture Series event "After the Crossing: Implications of Alternative Policy Responses to Illegal Immigration."  Rinku Sen and Steven Camarota were available before the debate, which began at 7:30 pm in the Zinner Forum at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

Workshop: Social Justice Philanthropy
Council on Foundations' Family Foundations Conference, Indianapolis
February 2009

The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy sponsored a workshop on social justice philanthropy at the Council on Foundations' Family Foundations Conference in Indianapolis.  The purpose of the workshop was to:

•    Introduce family foundations and philanthropists to the idea of incorporating social justice ideals and practices into their work

•    Facilitate better organization and collaboration within the Social Justice Philanthropy Collaborative on how to take the messages of social justice philanthropists to wider audiences

Graduate Student Paper Competition on Contemporary Themes in Philanthropy

The Sillerman Center recently chose from an array of entrants the paper that best captured the essence of contemporary thought in philanthropy.  The winning paper was entitled "Using Small Grants for Community Change: A Case Study of the Skillman Foundation's Community Connections Small Grants Program." The author will be awarded in the fall.

Sillerman Prize for Innovations in Philanthropy: Compete to Win
Why do people give? What would change the awareness and behavior of university students so that their own philanthropy increases?  The purpose of this competition is to identify innovative strategies for advancing philanthropy on university campuses.   


Business-Inspired Philanthropy: Hope, Hype and Reality
November 20, 2008

The event featured Michael Edwards discussing philanthrocapitalism along with Joanna Jacobson, Andrew Hahn and Dean Lisa Lynch.  Edwards' book, Just Another Emperor? The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism, lays bare the myths surrounding philanthropy and shows it to be exactly what it is - an essential part of our capitalist system with all the flaws found elsewhere.  Edwards takes a critical look at this new philanthrocapitalism phenomenon and argued that despite its great potential, the movement is oversold in both its proposed means and promised ends.

Is U.S. Philanthropy Ignoring Poverty in Its Own Backyard?
March 4, 2008

A debate about how best to promote social justice, featuring Phil Buchanan, President of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and Rob Reich, Associate Professor, Stanford University.  The event was moderated by Ellen Remmer, president and CEO, The Philanthropic Initiative.

Sillerman Inaugural Event featuring Joel Fleishman
January 29, 2008

Philanthropy expert Joel Fleishman inaugurated the opening of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at the Heller School with a standing-room-only lecture calling for family foundations to become more transparent and accountable, while also crediting them with nurturing and empowering social change such as the environmental revolution, women's rights, and the civil rights movement

Fleishman, a former trustee at Brandeis and professor of law and public policy at Duke University, praised the Sillerman Center for targeting family foundations, helping them become more effective, accountable, and strategic in their philanthropy.

Robert Sillerman '69, and his wife, Laura, established the Sillerman Center to promote activist philanthropy that leads to social, community and policy change.  The Sillerman Center will provide research-supported advice on effective grant-making strategies, develop best practices, and help successful ventures reach scale, according to executive director and professor Andrew Hahn.

Sillerman said the inspiration for the center grew out of his Brandeis education during the tumultuous Vietnam era.  "We became the generation that responded to things by not saying yes or no, but why," Sillerman.  "I don't know if we'll change the world, but if we play a small part in changing the conscience of my generation and the generation behind me, we will have done something."

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