Five Days of Recognition

by Drew Unger | Dec 14, 2020
When this year’s Endowment Book of Life brunch was cancelled, the Jewish Foundation had to find another way to honour signees.

Adam Nepon didn’t sign the Jewish Foundation’s Endowment Book of Life (EBOL) for the recognition. He wanted to honour his late brother Jonah and give back – through part of an insurance policy – to a Jewish community that supported him and his eight siblings while they were growing up. Still, he was looking forward to the annual EBOL brunch, where donors and their families get together to share stories and talk about the importance of giving back. “It’s not why I do these things, but the brunch is pretty cool,” he says. “It’s nice to have friends and family together.”

Nepon decided to sign the book in the summer of 2019, well before COVID-19 made it impossible to get together, but the EBOL brunch, which would have honoured him and five other signees, was scheduled for November 2020. In March, after the novel coronavirus caused the first lockdown, the Foundation was still hopeful that, by the fall, people would be allowed to gather again. Of course, that was wishful thinking. 

This summer, when it became evident that the brunch would not happen, the Foundation had to come up with another way to acknowledge their signees. It was important to them to keep the same feeling from the brunch – personal, compelling, intimate – but they also recognized that this was an opportunity to try something different. “We wanted to recreate the Endowment Book of Life celebration as best as possible,” says John Diamond, the Foundation’s CEO. “But we also had an opportunity to bring that celebration to more people.” 

A week of storytelling  

As part of the Endowment Book of Life process, signees tell their stories to a writer who develops an article that is then put into the book. Those stories, which are always inspiring and heartfelt, are also blown up and displayed on stands at the Asper Jewish Community Centre and the EBOL brunch. With the November ceremony now cancelled, and with six moving stories in hand, the Jewish Foundation decided that it shouldn’t just honour its signers on one day, but rather, it should celebrate their giving over an entire week. “They may not do this for the accolades, but we like to celebrate their giving and commitment to community,” says Diamond. “This amazing collection of diverse stories deserved a full week of celebration.” 

For five days at the end of October, the Foundation posted a new story on their social media channels, which is something they haven’t done in the past. While those posts received much more engagement than usual, the real centrepiece for the program were the daily articles in the Winnipeg Free Press. The Foundation took the same pieces that were to appear in the Book of Life itself and published them in the paper, revealing a new story each day of the week. “We had a great reception,” says Diamond. “We received emails, phone calls, and at least one person committing to participate in the program because of what they saw.” 

For Nepon, a business consultant and the owner of MBA Consulting & Co., a week of recognition was more than he would have ever expected. The Free Press article was particularly beneficial, as it generated numerous calls and emails from colleagues and friends. “You can’t buy advertising like that,” he says. “It goes to show the collateral benefits of giving.” 

What Nepon is most happy about, though, is that EBOL week brought the benefits of giving to a wider audience. He has aspirations of engaging 25 more people under the age of 50 to sign the Endowment Book of Life before 2025. The attention that the Facebook posts, Free Press articles and testimonial videos, created, will go a long way to helping him achieve that goal. “A brunch is always nice,” he says, “but this brought a lot of awareness to endowments and to the Jewish Foundation.”