Diane Switzer, chair Jewish Community Foundation Governors

Serving as the centre of philanthropy and legacy giving for the Jewish community, the Jewish Community Foundation manages over $75 million in assets, and would not be where it is today without the support and guidance of its volunteer leadership team.

Meet Diane Switzer, chair of Jewish Community Foundation’s Board of Governors. By virtue of her role, Diane Switzer also serves on the board of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.

  1. You have served the Jewish community as a volunteer leader for over 30 years. What does strong leadership look like to you?

What has worked for me in my volunteer roles is leadership that is quiet but not passive. It requires active listening and then empowering people with skills and passion to act on the task at hand. Leadership requires you to plan for the future. This may be looking at the year ahead or even to generations ahead. Anticipation and planning are hallmarks of building a strong community. 

If we are not changing and evolving, we are withering. How things were done in the past is not how they will be done in the future. However, we work within existing financial, organizational, professional and volunteer capacities, which can slow down change. At times progress and change within the charitable sector can seem glacial, but patience pays off, leading to cohesiveness and harmony. 

Our community is blessed with so many talented people in all spheres of community life and business. Our organizations ebb and flow from strengths to challenges but inevitably individuals and groups, usually a mix of professionals and lay leadership, step up to ‘right the ship’.   

  1. What drives you to volunteer?

I converted to Judaism 45 years ago. By choosing to become Jewish I joined a community that offered me so many places to get involved, but I had to work hard to feel like I belonged. The Jewish community is rooted in history and experiences which were not part of my life. It took a long time to ‘feel’ Jewish. Volunteerism played a big part in my sense of belonging.

I grew up with parents who volunteered their skills to youth groups, libraries and service organizations. As kids, we learned from their example. I now see my own adult children volunteering their skills in places that matter to them.

  1. You have served as chair of the Jewish Federation and now as chair of the Jewish Community Foundation, tell us how those experiences have been different?

The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation share a common mission to build a strong, vibrant and inclusive community. How we accomplish that mission is where we differ.

The Federation is dynamic. Its fast-paced operations are based on an annual cycle of planning, raising funds and dispersing those funds to meet annual needs.

The Foundation exists to ensure we have a strong and stable community into the future. With $75 million currently held in investments, the income from the fund is directed to various causes: Some of which our fund holders are passionate about, some projects which are identified by the planning department, and some emerging issues identified by the Foundation’s granting committee. The Foundation takes a long view with both its investment strategy and its donor relationships. Some relationships take years or even decades to cultivate resulting in future gifts, and our professional and lay-led investment committee carefully and strategically manage our investments with an eye to the future.