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Where All those Donations Go

August 3, 2011 By:
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Children enjoyed arts and crafts, storytelling and treats at a joint Kehillah program for Passover.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's board of trustees has approved the distribution of some $20 million to fund a wide array of local and international programs and institutions.

At its July 28 board meeting, Federation officials reported having $15.5 million available in unrestricted funds, some $806,000 fewer dollars than last year.

At the same time, the amount of restricted gifts -- designated by donors for specific programs -- rose by nearly $1 million, to just over $4.5 million. Combining the restricted and unrestricted monies, Federation officials said that they are disbursing $200,000 more dollars to local and international programs.

The allocations were based on last year's fundraising campaign, which closed at nearly $23.5 million.

Total revenue to the Federation was calculated at $38 million, which includes endowments and federal funding.

With a 5 percent drop in unrestricted funds available, the federation board approved cuts for the majority of the roughly 70 programs that are funded through its annual allocations process.

The highest percentage of funding from the unrestricted pool -- nearly $3.9 million or 31 percent -- went to Jewish identity-building programs, including Jewish education and engagement initiatives.

Federation leaders say that the allocations process worked well this year, and tough decisions were made.

"There will never be enough money no matter how much is raised to meet all the needs locally and even internationally," said Ira M. Schwartz, Federation CEO. "But the money that was allocated largely went to our most critical and essential needs."

The figures illustrate a philanthropic trend that has become common in the nonprofit world: Donors are increasingly earmarking their gifts for specific areas or projects, otherwise known as restricted or designated giving.

Schwartz said designated giving is "a growing trend," with donors wanting to give to issues that they're interested in.

"It's not a bad trend, and Federations need to adapt to the new reality."

During his speech to the board, outgoing Federation President Leonard Barrack outlined a plan to expend additional staffing resources to fundraising.

"If we can't raise money, we can't provide services," he told the board.

This year's funding process differed from previous years, when the boards of Federation's three funding centers -- the Center for Jewish Life and Learning, the Center for Social Responsibility, and the Center for Israel and Overseas -- had put out specific requests for proposals for programming grants.

This year, Federation decided to extend the contracts of existing programs and adjust their grants, rather than embark on a process of funding new programs, according to the report presented to the board by the Policy, Strategy and Funding Committee, which overseas the allocations process.

Each agency or program was asked to come with a plan that would cut 10 percent from their previous year's budgets.

This "contract extension" cycle was done for several reasons, according to officials. The center boards are trying to ensure that the funding decisions reflect the three priority areas outlined by Federation in a November report: Jewish continuity (through Jewish identity), engagement with and advocacy for Israel and maintenance of a safety net for the most vulnerable populations.

Federation is also seeking to transition from an annual allocations process to a multiyear funding cycle and is examining how that would work, according to the policy committee report.

Speaking to the board of trustees last week, Sara Minkoff, a member of the Policy, Strategy and Funding Committee, acknowledged the difficulty in making these funding decisions.

"The needs are so great and what we have available to us never meets those needs," she said. "They are hard decisions."

In addition to funding local and international programs, the $15.5 unrestricted figure includes about $1.7 million that goes toward the centers' budgets and the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Also included in this sum is a newly created, $200,000 emergency fund that Federation has set aside for unforeseen circumstances, similar to the $1 million fund established two years ago, and a $100,000 fund created last year.

The policy committee, in its report, explained that although the unrestricted pool declined by 5 percent, the committee ultimately recommended 9 percent less in funding through the three centers because of several factors, including the emergency fund, increased funding for Israel advocacy efforts and an increase in dues to the national federation system.

In keeping with Federation priorities, the Center for Jewish Life and Learning again was awarded the largest slice of the pie, with $4.4 million or 31 percent of the $13.8 million of the remaining unrestricted funds allocated by the centers.

Last year, the center got $4.7 million, or 29 percent of the total. This year, the center was also the recipient of $2.3 million in restricted gifts, designated for nine projects, including a program that provides scholarships for day school students, another one that enables scholarships for Jewish overnight camp and a teen leadership program.

For the most part, funding continued for existing programs, with cuts around 9 percent for most programs.

Among the largest allocations in this area were:

· Nearly $1.5 million for six Jewish day schools in the 5-county region, down from $1.6 million last year;

· $400,500 to area Hillels;

· $378,000 for the Jewish Community High School of Gratz College;

· Nearly $900,000 to the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education/Jewish Outreach Partnership to administer Kehillot programs and grants.

The aim of the Kehillot community program is to "reach out and engage Jewish families, particularly those with young children, by focusing on Jewish learning and Jewish experiences, and to strengthen the Jewish institutions in our community to better enable them" to meet the needs of those families, said Rabbi Phil Warmflash, the group's executive director.

His organization also received a $180,000 grant to run "Engaging Families: PJ Library and Beyond," which builds upon the program that distributes Jewish books to preschoolers.

One program received funding for the first time. Moishe House, where a group of young Jewish adults lives together in a downtown apartment and organizes programs for their peers, got $10,000. Part of a national organization, the local Moishe House has more than 600 people on its email list and sponsors about 14 events a month, according to resident Rebecca Karp.

Moishe House doesn't count as a newly funded program since the board had initially approved dollars for the organization last year, but later cut back on its recommendations due to a shortfall, according to Rena Kopelman, co-chair of the Center for Jewish Life and Learning's board.

This year, the board felt that it would be a shame not to fund a group that makes $10,000 go a long way, Kopelman said.

"They are doing huge things," she continued. "From our point of view, these guys, on their own time, are doing exactly what the priority report is trying to target, making young adults feel connected to the Jewish community in Philadelphia."

Additionally, there was some reshuffling of funds for Hillel of Greater Philadelphia. Funding was eliminated for Tzedek Philly: The Service Learning Initiative of Greater Philadelphia, which aimed to create a culture of public service on campus. Last year, the program received $25,000. Kopelman said there was a mutual recognition that the program wasn't working as it was intended.

But some dollars were shifted to other Hillel programs. The Jewish Graduate Student Network received a $20,000 boost, for a total of $45,000 this funding cycle.

The Center for Social Responsibility received the second-highest share of the unrestricted funds, with nearly $3.9 million, or 28 percent of the pie. It also got $1.5 million in restricted dollars.

The center funds areas such as senior services, safety-net programs and social action initiatives.

Brian Gralnick, who directs the center, said that while "the process was very efficient," he hopes that "the community fund will have more money next year and make our jobs easier."

Grants in this area included:

· $2 million for senior services, down from $2.3 million last year;

· $1 million for safety-net programs, down some $125,000 from last year, including grants to Jewish Family and Children's Service and to the hunger-relief programs, the Jewish Relief Agency and Mitzvah Food Project.

The Center for Israel and Overseas received the smallest slice of the pie, with $3.4 million or 25 percent. It also received $751,000 in restricted dollars.

More than half of those dollars went toward the funding area known as Israel-Diaspora and the unity of the Jewish people. Under this rubric, core funding for the Jewish Agency for Israel was reduced from $750,000 to $700,000.

Other grants in this area included:

· $480,000 for the Partnership 2000 program, which supports a host of projects in Sedot Negev and Netivot, Philadelphia's partner cities;

· $430,000 to Ashalim, a program for at-risk youth in Israel that is administered by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee;

· $200,000 to Taglit-Birthright Israel, which brings young adults to Israel on free trips.

An area that generated some debate was the decline in funding for security and emergency services in Israel. Funding fell to $50,000, down from $100,000 the previous year and $671,000 two years ago. For Netivot and the Sedot Negev Regional Council, both close to Gaza, that meant a reduction for security services from $50,000 to $25,000.

Bernard Dishler, a member of the Israel center board, opposed the cuts and communicated that at the board meeting last week. "I am concerned about security," he said. "I am also concerned about our ongoing relationship."

However, a document related to the allocations that the center board submitted to the board of trustees stated: "It is very clear to us, based on the experience of the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, that the municipality is ultimately responsible for the security of its citizens."

It also said: "Necessary arrangements have been made for preparedness and protection." 

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