Subscribe To our E-Newsletter
Parceling Out Federation's Dollars
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s board of trustees has approved $25 million to fund a range of communal programs over the next year that concentrate on Jewish identity-building and help maintain a safety net for Jews in need.
The trustees, a body that includes more than 200 members, approved the allocations and Federation’s annual budget at its July 10 meeting.
This year’s allocations process, like in years past, illustrated the difficulty in funding a broad swath of communal programs when restricted giving — money donated for specific projects — trumps unrestricted giving.
Of the $25 million restricted and unrestricted funds raised in 2012 that were available for distribution, the Federation volunteers tasked with divvying up the pie had less than half of that — $10.8 million — in unrestricted dollars to award to grant proposals.
The figure represents a small piece of the total $62 million in revenue raised by Federation in 2012, which officials say is the highest in the organization’s history. But $35 million of that came in the form of endowments, which are generally not available for spending.
Several of those involved in the allocations process said they were struck by how relatively straightforward it is to both determine the needs and gauge the impact of programs that feed the hungry or help the unemployed find jobs. In contrast, they said, it is more challenging to determine which programs to support — and how effective they are — when they involve identity-building like missions to Israel, engaging young Jews or reaching out to interfaith families.
In order to prevent a sizable cut to the many programs that rely on unrestricted Federation funding, the decision-makers took the unusual step of getting approval to use $935,000 from Federation endowment funds to help make up for the some $1 million decline from last year in available unrestricted funds.
Sherrie Savett, Federation’s president, told the trustees during the July 10 meeting that she hopes “we only have to do this one time and we never have to do it again.”
Savett said the situation confirmed that the Federation has to do a better job of convincing donors that they need to give to the unrestricted campaign, known as the Jewish Community Fund, without diluting the giving earmarked for specific endeavors.
Alex Stroker, the interim CEO, said in an interview that Federation “must do a better job in articulating the needs and creating greater synergy between critical community programs and donors’ passions.
“It starts with a conversation,” he continued, adding that lay and professional leadership were working on formulating a new strategy. “Funds raised in an unrestricted and restricted fashion have to work congruently rather than independently competing for donors’ philanthropic attention.”
Overall, the funding decisions for the 2013-2014 funding cycle — a complex, months-long process run mostly by Federation volunteers — didn’t contain a dramatic shift in focus from recent years. But some new initiatives are being funded and a few existing programs are losing their support.
A Complex Process
The complicated process works like this: Groups submit grant proposals for specific programs. Then, Federation professionals and lay leaders on the center boards — the Center for Jewish Life and Learning, the Center for Israel and Overseas, and the Center for Social Responsibility — sift through the proposals and make funding recommendations to the Federation’s nine-member Policy, Strategy and Funding committee, known as PSF. Back-and-forth discussions between the centers and PSF ensue until PSF comes up with a final set of recommendations.
Those recommendations are then submitted to Federation’s board of directors, which provides the final set of recommendations to the board of trustees for approval.
Shari Odenheimer, who chairs PSF, outlined the process for the board of trustees and told them that regardless of the available funds, “each program was evaluated on its own merits and its own measurables.”
Some of the single largest grants included longstanding commitments:
$1.3 million for needs-based scholarships to eight local Jewish day schools;
$725,000 to the Klein JCC for its senior socialization and support services; an additional $154,000 is going to Klein for its in-home support of seniors, home delivered kosher meals and volunteer coordination.
$700,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel for its core programming of engaging Jews worldwide with Israel; JAFI is also getting $575,000 for programs that promote Philadelphia’s partnership with the Negev region of Netivot-Sedot, support youth in Israel and pay for a young shaliach to come to Philadelphia as part of cultural programing;
$800,000 to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for two programs: $400,000 for welfare relief for elderly Jews in Siberia and $400,000 for services for at-risk youth in Israel;
$692,000 to Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia for its care-management program, and for its array of services to adults who have disabilities, are unemployed or have been the victim of abuse or neglect; JFCS is getting an additional $675,000 for its healthy aging-at-home program and $118,000 for its Center for Special Needs; and
$549,500 for JEVS Career Strategies program, which provides vocational counseling.
The Center for Social Responsibility, which focuses on seniors and social services, was awarded a slightly higher amount of unrestricted funding than the other centers, getting a bump to $3,841,500 from $3,837,039 the previous year.
The center also received $3.3 million in restricted gifts, nearly two thirds of which went toward the creation of Mitzvah Food Project’s new Choice Food Program, a food distribution program at the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia. Additional funds for food relief included:
$157,000 to the Jewish Relief Agency, which runs a monthly food distribution program; and
$135,000 to Federation’s Mitzvah Food Project.
Maintaining the Safety Net
Apart from a small uptick in dollars for programs serving special needs individuals, the funding for social service programs was similar to prior years, with initiatives being run by JFCS, JEVS Human Services, the Klein JCC and the Abramson Center for Jewish Life receiving the largest grants.
“We are maintaining a strong Jewish social safety net,” said Brian Gralnick, who directs the Center for Jewish Responsibility. In addition to funding an array of existing programs related to basic needs and aging, the center is funding three new programs:
$45,000 to the Rhawnhurst NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) for a program that enables seniors to call one number to obtain needed transportation;
$10,000 to the Friendship Circle, a Chabad-run program that matches teenage volunteers to work with children with special needs; and
$30,000 for a partnership between JEVS and Tikvah House, a group home for Jews suffering from chronic mental illness.
The Center for Jewish Life and Learning was awarded a total of $3,791,787,
a decline from $4,415,300 the previous year. But some of the programs that might have faced steep cuts are getting shored up by $3,658,231 in restricted giving, according to Brian Mono, who directs the center.
One example is scholarships for Jewish overnight camping, which previously received $90,000 in unrestricted funding but was cut to zero. However, Federation is still expected to hand out about $200,000 in scholarships next year from restricted gifts, Mono said.
The Life and Learning Center board’s funding decisions were consistent with funding in some areas with years past. For example, the center awarded a total of $485,000 in grants to regional Hillel campuses and programs, up slightly from last year. And a few got sizable increases, such as the Jewish Graduate Student Network, whose funding rose from $45,400 to $80,000.
In other areas, funding was cut or eliminated. One program that lost some of its funding is jkidphilly, run by the Jewish Learning Venture. Jkidphilly includes the popular PJ Library program, in which young families can receive free Jewish children’s books and CDs. Jkidphilly also has a website and runs a number of programs aimed at young families. Last year, it received $720,000 in unrestricted dollars.
Success: Difficult to Measure
According to Lewis Gantman, co-chair of the Center for the Jewish Life and Learning board, members wanted to continue to fund the program, but some on the PSF board had questions about its effectiveness.
After much back and forth, a compromise was reached. Funding for jkidphilly was combined with dollars for the JLV’s early childhood education program — for a total of $580,000, compared to $780,000 from last year for the two programs. An additional $150,000 has been set aside for jkidphilly to be distributed after the parties involved can agree on determining new ways for measuring its success.
Gantman argued that JLV does something that is hard to measure. “How do you measure community engagement? The frank answer is,” he said, “we are not sure. The reality is it is going to be on an ongoing learning process. I don’t think anyone has the answer.”
Federation’s Stroker said there’s a recognition, not only locally but in Jewish organizations nationwide, for the need for longitudinal studies that can measure the long-term effect of identity-building programs.
Rabbi Philip Warmflash, who heads JLV, said that he plans to work closely with Federation to determine how to measure the jkidphilly program and figure out ways to get more young families to join synagogues and enroll their children in Jewish preschools.
The goal of the program, he said, is to “help families find more ways of doing Jewish.”
Meanwhile, the future direction of Federation engagement with different neighborhoods is yet to be determined. The Kehillah program, which sought to bolster community programming in specific geographic areas, was initially run by Federation. In 2010, Federation and the JLV signed a three-year memorandum of understanding for JLV to take control, but now those three years are over. The program received $257,000 last year.
But Federation leaders, including Stroker, said there is still strong interest to have some kind of organized programming in various communities, such as the Old York Road corridor and the Main Line. As a result, Federation has set aside $200,000 for what is tentatively being called a “neighborhood partnership initiative.” It’s unclear exactly what this program will entail or whether JLV — or another Jewish agency — would administer it.
Stroker said Federation leaders are currently reaching out to lay and rabbinic leadership in various geographic communalities throughout the greater Philadelphia area.
“Once we bring them all together and really figure out what are some of the commonalities, then we can figure out how to implement the program,” said Stroker.
The Jewish Life and Learning Center has allocated about $75,000 in additional funding to programs that target teens to try to keep them engaged post-Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
These funds include:
$348,000 to the Jewish Community High School of Gratz College for core funding and $50,000 for a synagogue partnership fund that aims, according to a Federation document, to “enhance the ability of the high school to provide services in partnership with synagogue and high school programs.”
$45,000 to JLV for a new program called jteenphilly, an outgrowth of jkidphilly; and
$31,000 to Moving Traditions’ teen programs, up from $18,000 last year.
In the day school world, this round of funding represents the first time that Cheder Chabad, the primary and middle school that moved onto Federation’s Radnor campus last year, received Federation support.
The nearly decade-old school, which mostly serves the children of Chabad-Lubavitch families, is getting $33,000 of the $1.3 million that Federation has set aside for need-based day school scholarships.
Meanwhile, Federation has cut out funding for LimmudPhilly, the volunteer-based organization that runs an annual weekend event featuring a range of Jewish topics. It is not clear at this point how the funding loss will affect the future of the 5-year-old organization.
Ross Berkowitz, the director of Tribe 12, which runs LimmudPhilly, acknowledged that attendance at the program was down significantly this year. He said they were looking to reassess the program’s future.
For its part, the Center for Israel and Overseas was awarded $3,475,848 in unrestricted dollars and received $1,683,983 in restricted gifts. The center continued its trend of the past several years of awarding a big chunk of its unrestricted dollars to programs that connect Philadelphia Jews to Israel: $1.7 million is going to programs that foster Jewish identity through Israel programming, including $200,000 for Birthright Israel trips.
At the same time, nearly half of its funding is going to help needy Israelis and Siberian Jews in the former Soviet Union. Nearly $1.8 million is being set aside for programs that help disadvantaged youth and provide a food safety net for programs run by the JDC, JAFI and smaller Israeli nonprofits.
“Our priority areas haven’t changed from last year,” said Jeri Zimmerman, who directs the Center for Israel and Overseas.
New Identity-Building Programs
Among the new identity-building programs in this area are:
• Israel 360: Young Couples, is a program that’s getting $60,000 for a young couples missions. (An additional $80,000 is coming from a separate Federation fund, the Jewish Heritage Fund.) Israel 360, which in the past focused exclusively on singles, is experimenting with a different cohort next year in response to the increased demand.
• The Chevra, a group that focuses on young professionals, is getting $40,000 for its Israel Road Trip, a 12-day experience that combines touring with seminars and visits to Israeli agencies funded by Federation; The Chevra’s Philly-Israel Fellowship is also getting $20,000 from the Center for Jewish Life and Learning; and
• A mission to Israel for interfaith couples and families that’s being run by InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia. The grant is for $40,000.
“Israel 360 is a program that we are very proud of,” Zimmerman said, adding that the InterfaithFamily trip “is a really nice outreach feature.”
By the Numbers
$62 million: Total amount of revenue generated by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in 2012
$35 million: Portion of that revenue that went into Federation’s endowment funds
$8.3 million for Federation’s FY 2014 operating budget, down from $8.7 million last year
$25 million: Combined restricted and unrestricted dollars to be disbursed to local, national and international projects
$10.8 million: Unrestricted dollars that went through professional and volunteer-driven allocations process
150: Number of grant proposals received by the boards of the Center for Jewish Life and Learning, the Center for Social Responsibility and the Center for Israel and Overseas
67: Number of programs funded through unrestricted dollars
$5.5 million: Unrestricted dollars earmarked for programs focusing on Jewish identity, including some programs funded by the Center for Israel and Overseas
$2.7 million: Amount of unrestricted dollars allocated to food insecurity and basic needs in Philadelphia, Israel and the former Soviet Union