Adena Philips was 11 when the founders of the bone marrow registry organization Gift of Life came to speak at her synagogue in Toronto. Too young to join the registry herself, she started selling pens to raise money for the organization.
While working as a consultant at Deloitte about 10 years later, she was approached by a friend to do a side project for a nonprofit organization. She asked which one it was and when she heard the name, she had to say yes. It was Gift of Life.
That project — and the pens — launched her work in nonprofit consulting. Today, she runs her own consulting business and splits her time between for-profit corporations and nonprofits. Having spent years volunteering in the Jewish community before she started consulting, Philips most enjoys working with Jewish organizations that are “asking big questions” with projects that “get at the core of what people value.”
“My work is more about process than it is about outcomes. I’m not a consultant who primarily does research and tells you what to do,” said Philips. “I don’t believe that that engenders sustainable change. I think sustainable change happens when all of the relevant stakeholders are engaged in the process.”
Her work has taken her to synagogues of every denomination. She spent a year with B’nai Jeshurun, a liberal synagogue in Manhattan, in a process to articulate the community’s values around Jewish identity and belonging as they relate to trends such as intermarriage, and recently worked with Central Synagogue, a large Reform synagogue, to understand how its congregants and online live stream participants were experiencing its high holiday services.
At Israel Policy Forum, an organization promoting a two-state solution, she worked with the organization’s staff to pilot a young professionals division, IPF Atid, including a fellowship program in 25 cities across the United States and running trips to Israel. “I see IPF as a complement to the current landscape,” said Philips, who is national chair of IPF Atid. “We’re building on the foundation of what already exists in the community, so it’s been really rewarding.”
Zen-ed out: Philips likes to spend her vacations either doing yoga or silent meditation retreats. She recently spent a month in India studying philosophy and yoga.