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Lamenting the Loss of Federation Dollars

July 8, 2010 By:
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Programs that attract young people, including a sushi-rolling event sponsored by the popular Collaborative group, came out ahead.

Deciding which Jewish organizations and programs receive communal funding -- and how much -- has always been a difficult call. This year, volunteers and professionals described the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's allocation process as downright "impossible."

That's because the funds -- which comes from unrestricted dollars raised from the Jewish community -- shrank from last year by 14 percent, or by $1.8 million, to $16.3 million.

"It was truly heart-wrenching," said Gail Norry, co-chair of Federation's Center for Jewish Life and Learning, one of the three centers that reviewed grant applications and were involved in the decision-making process.

The decline is due to what Federation's CEO, Ira M. Schwartz, termed a "perfect storm": Last year saw a sagging economy, a decline in the stock market and endowment dollars, and perhaps most significantly, the long-term trend in philanthropy, in which donors increasingly are now designating their dollars to specific causes or institutions, rather than to general funds.

The result is that many existing programs received cuts, while some got no funding at all. Many social-services programs, including those centered on food distribution and job training, which got an emergency boost of funds in 2009 -- at the height of the recession -- got a smaller piece of the pie this year.

And the hope of financing new, innovative programs was largely dashed by economic realities, though some new programs, particularly those targeted at young adults and Jewish-identity-building for young families, got a boost. Programs for adult education, on the other hand, lost most of their funding.

'Not Going to Be Reversed'
In some ways, the numbers are misleading and only tell part of the story.

Federation officials say that the annual fundraising campaign declined by just 2 percent from the previous year, to $27.8 million, which marked a smaller decline than in most communities around the country.

And total revenue, which brought in money from endowments and other sources, including the United Way and federal funding, actually increased by more than $1 million, from $38.8 million to $40.6 million.

Among the revenues was nearly $8 million in the form of restricted and "pass-through" gifts, which donors earmark for use in certain priority areas and sometimes, for specific programs. These dollars go to Jewish causes, but they are not included in what in Federation parlance is referred to as the "allocable pool."

This trend in philanthropy "is not going to be reversed," said Schwartz. While he stated that he would clearly like to see an increase in unrestricted dollars, "that's going to take a lot of time, a lot of effort to do, if at all. And we may see incremental increases."

But even though the breakdown of the unrestricted funds doesn't tell the whole story, it provides a glimpse into the current priorities of the organized Jewish community.

This funding cycle, which extends from September 2010 through August 2011, comes in the wake of the January release of the 2009 "Jewish Population Survey of Greater Philadelphia."

That study painted a picture of a community growing slightly in numbers, but with more elderly men and women, and fewer children under the age of 18.

And, like other Jewish communities nationwide, the Philadelphia study found that the "under-40" subset is experiencing an increase in the rate of intermarriage and a decrease in connection to the Jewish community.

Those involved with recommending programs for funding said that they tried to consider the population study.

But Schwartz said that, by and large, the 2010-11 funding decisions came too quickly after the study's release in order to represent a true response. Future budgets, he said, will more likely represent realigned priorities in the wake of the study.

Who Gets What
The allocations involve a complex process in which groups submit grant proposals, and federation professionals and lay leaders determine which ones to fund.

The $16.3 million is funding nearly 70 programs. The figure also includes the budgets of the Federation's three centers -- Life and Learning, Social Responsibility, and Israel and Overseas -- as well as other budget items.

The centers themselves had a total of $12.7 million to award in grants.

Among the largest allocations were:

· $1.6 million for funding for six Jewish day schools in the five-county region;

· $420,000 for the Jewish Community High School of Gratz College;

· $700,000 for Jewish Family and Children's Services for safety-net services, counseling and care management; and

· $800,000 for the Jewish Agency for Israel for core funding of its Israel Department, and $500,000 for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for services for at-risk families in Israel.

Last year, the Center for Jewish Life and Learning received the smallest slice of the pie, with 25 percent of allocable dollars. This time, it received the largest, with 29 percent, though the total fell from $5.2 million last year to $4.7 million this year. (The percentages won't add up to 100 because they don't include the center budget and other items.)

This includes $847,000 designated for the seven community-based Kehillot -- funding that had traditionally come from the center's operating budget, rather than its programmatic grants.

One of the groups that got a boost was Tribe 12, a newly formed cooperative that serves young adults and is run by Ross Berkowitz, executive director of both the Collaborative and LimmudPhilly, which received $50,000 and $20,000 respectively.

While LimmudPhilly's funding represents a $30,000 cut for the annual weekend learning program from last year, it was one of only two adult-education programs to get anything. Several well-known adult-education initiatives, including the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School run by Gratz College, lost all of its Federation funding.

At the same time, Tribe 12 is bringing to the area the PresenTense Community Entrepreneur Partnership, which is essentially an idea incubator for young-adult programming. With a grant of $50,000, it was one of the few new programs to be awarded any funds.

"He's had tremendous success," Norry said of Berkowitz. "He seems to be reaching a lot of young people."

Also in the area of Jewish life and learning, this year's allocations have implications for the recently merged organization, the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education/Jewish Outreach Partnership, which lost funding for some programs, but got additional monies for others.

Last year, the PJ Library program, which is administered locally by ACAJE/JOP and distributes free children's books to Jewish families, received $25,000. This year, PJ library is getting $200,000 to expand the program to provide programming and leadership development in an effort to engage families with young children, including interfaith families.

ACAJE/JOP has entered into discussions with Federation to take over the management of the Kehillot, which help plan events and foster collaboration among synagogues in Bucks, Bux-Mont, Center City, Chester, Delaware, Lower Merion and Old York Road.

Schwartz said that the change represents an acknowledgement on Federation's part that it should focus on fundraising and strategic planning, and let better-equipped agencies specialize in programming and community development.

Rabbi Phillip Warmflash, ACAJE/JOP's executive director, said that the overall decline in Federation allocations was the steepest he had seen in 17 years working in the Philadelphia community.

Warmflash said he felt confident that, if there had been more money available, ACAJE/JOP would have gotten some of it. He added that if unrestricted giving to Federation doesn't rebound, "we have to find ways to guarantee our own funding and survival."

The biggest portion of Center for Life and Learning dollars -- 35 percent -- is going to fund scholarships for day-school students, although the amount, $1,625,000, declined more than $300,000 from the previous year.

A little more than $400,000 was set aside for Hillel programming on various college campuses in the area, which is about $70,000 less than last year.

The area of social services also took a hit. Those involved with the allocations process said that with fewer dollars, there was a clear need to support basic services for the elderly and disadvantaged.

In the previous 12-month period, Federation's Center for Social Responsibility was awarded 29 percent of the pie, the biggest slice; this time, it received 26 percent and the second largest total. Overall center funding dropped from $5.8 million last year to nearly $4.2 million. More than half, or $2.3 million, went to senior services.

Murray Spain, chair of the center, acknowledged that he's concerned that the reductions will have an impact on the delivery of social services. Still, he said that emergency funds are available.

"We are not going to leave our community in the lurch or in need," he said.

Taking into account restricted and pass-through dollars, programs for seniors and the poor actually got a total of $9.2 million, including a $3 million donation toward construction of new, low-income, senior housing in Elkins Park.

The largest chunk of the unrestricted funds went was awarded to the Klein and Stiffel JCC in Philadelphia. It's Gateways to Aging Well, an initiative that provides more than 2,100 seniors with a wide array of support services, received $990,000.

Organizations serving needy families also saw a decline in allocated funds, from $1.4 million last cycle to $1.2 this time around. The Jewish Relief Agency, which provides 2,750 households with a food aid package each month, saw a 43 percent reduction to its food-distribution program, from $300,000 to $175,000.

Funding for programs in Israel and overseas continued to decline, as it has in recent years as Philadelphia -- and many communities -- focus more on local needs. The Center for Israel and Overseas, which funds programs related to Israel and the former Soviet Union, was awarded 23 percent, or $3.7, of the unrestricted dollars, compared with 24 percent in the previous funding cycle.

Adding in restricted dollars, it received $4.9 million.

Programs focusing on Israel-Diaspora relations received $1.8 million, with $1.3 million steered toward the Jewish Agency for Israel: $800,000 to go toward the core budget of its Israel department, and $500,000 toward JAFI Partnership 2000 initiative in which Federation helps fund programs in its sister city in Israel -- Netivot, in the Negev Desert.

Organizations assisting disadvantaged youth in Israel and the former Soviet Union were awarded $1.5 million in grants, including for programs run by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Programs focusing on basic needs overseas, particularly nutrition and food security, were awarded $652,660. 

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