In a nod to grim economic realities and increased communal need, Federation shifted a greater percentage of its resources to social-service and critical-needs programs, while, on the whole, initiatives related to Jewish identity and education received a smaller percentage than in the past.
"It's never easy to make these kinds of decisions, but clearly there was a reordering of the priorities," said Federation CEO Ira M. Schwartz. "Could we use more money? Yes, because the needs far outstrip our ability to provide for the full needs of our community here and overseas."
The funds that the federation distributes are derived primarily from donations to its annual fundraising campaign. The $23.2 million will likely represent the largest lump sum of local Jewish giving directly to Jewish causes during the new 18-month funding cycle, from March 2009 to August 2010.
However, the allocations do not always represent the largest source of funding for individual organizations, some of which also rely on private fundraising and government dollars.
The bulk of the funds — more than 72 percent — are being spent on local needs. Most of the remainder of the funds goes to Israel and other overseas needs.
Departure From the Past
This year's process of determining how the pie is divided marks a departure from the past. For one thing, most programs are being funded on an 18-month cycle, instead of the normal 12-month period; doing so has allowed Federation and constituent agencies extra months to evaluate and study the effectiveness of various programs, said officials.
In recent years, Federation also opted to direct monies to specific programs and initiatives, rather than providing dollars for an organization's overall operating budget. Most of its resources are disbursed to specific programs through its three main centers: Social Responsibility, Jewish Life and Learning, and Israel and Overseas.
In addition to the $23.2 million in direct grants to agencies, the board approved $1.1 million in emergency funds to handle unanticipated needs amid the current economic downturn; and nearly $1 million in dues to the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella of the North American federation system.
In all, Federation's 2008 annual campaign total, at $27.5 million, increased by $400,000 from the year before.
But unrestricted funds, not earmarked for specific projects, fell short by $1.9 million. That translated to $1.1 million less in direct allocations, according to Federation officials.
Tony Schneider, who chairs Federation's Committee on Policy, Strategy and Funding, which oversees the allocations process, said: "It's a very, very tough balancing act because all the needs are real."
He said that the emphasis was on existing programs that demonstrated their effectiveness and singularity, as well as on programs that could use Federation dollars to leverage additional funds.
"We still didn't have enough money to go around," he added.
Schneider's policy committee, comprised of eight people, considered recommendations from the separate boards of the three centers on what programs to fund and how much to give. The process that determined where cuts were made involved an extensive give and take between the policy committee and center boards, he said.
The committee's final recommendations were initially approved by Federation's 29-member board of directors in February, and got the final go-ahead by the larger board of trustees, 260 people, in April.
The largest slice of the pie went to the Center for Social Responsibility, which funds programs aimed at services for seniors and children, the distribution of food to the needy and grants used for families in crisis. Those programs are slated to get a total of $8.6 million, or 37 percent (up from 25 percent in the last funding cycle ) of the direct grants to the community.
Nearly half of those funds — $4.5 million — are targeted for senior programs, such as those provided by the Jewish Family and Children's Service and the Northeast's Klein JCC. Services related to immediate life needs, such as food, rent and bill-paying, received $2.1 million, as compared to $1.5 million for the previous cycle. Programs geared toward self-sufficiency, like job-training, garnered $1.5 million, up from $1.4 million.
The Center for Israel and Overseas, which primarily funds programs in Israel and the former Soviet Union, is slated to get $7.1 million, up from $6.2 million the last cycle, accounting for 31 percent of the available funding. The bulk of the overseas funding goes to programs that target at-risk children, hunger and emergency services. Slightly less than $1 million of these monies also supports local programs involving Israel-Diaspora relations.
Education Across the Board
In the third principle area of funding, overall dollars disbursed by the Center for Jewish Life and Learning are slated to fall from $9.2 million to $6.5 million, accounting for 28 percent of the total allocations. That $9.2 million, however, had been boosted by nearly $1 million in Jewish day-school scholarship funding that was approved for the second half of the 2008-09 school year.
Funding geared for adult education decreased from $726,000 to $403,000.
Dollars earmarked for supplementary schools dropped from $2.1 million to $1.9 million. Money for Federation's various neighborhood Kehillot programs fell from some $672,000 to $569,000, while money geared to strengthen synagogues declined just a bit, from $427,500 to $392,000.
Funds for youth programs, including scholarships for Jewish summer camps, climbed slightly, from about $485,000 to $525,000.
Susanna Lachs Adler, who co-chair's the Center for Jewish Life and Learning, said that she recognizes the current needs in the community, but will continue to press for more funding to benefit Jewish education and identity-building programs.
"We will continue to advocate zealously for increased funding that we think is important," said Lachs Adler.
She added that it's more difficult to demonstrate the impact of a program that builds identity than one that feeds hungry people: "How do you know until the next generation how people are living their lives?"