Depending upon which agency you talk to, the end of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s 2012 Community Campaign is either the best of times or the worst of times. The campaign is expected to close at $4.9 million — on par with last year’s campaign but lower than the 2011 Fiscal Year — but the way the Federation allocates its money has changed significantly between this year and last.
Given the past years’ economic conditions, “I think staying even in the campaign is a success,” said Richard Fruchter, the Federation’s president and CEO.
Fruchter said the implementation of its new fundraising and allocations model likely affected the campaigns growth this year, but donor education should help to increase the campaign in the future.
The new model is two-fold: Donors can choose between either giving to specific areas such as early childhood, building Jewish identity, and helping older adults, or to a general unrestricted fund, as they had done in the past; then committees from each area assess grant proposals that resulted in 48 agencies — 20 of which had never received Federation campaign funding in the past — receiving grants for specific projects or programs. Allocations in the past went toward organizations’ bottom lines with no requirements about how the money should be used.
“The Federation’s mandate is looking at the community as a whole,” said Jack Almo, chair of the Federation’s Planning and Allocations committee. “We really opened up the process this year to be able to fund initiatives that we believe are important, such as camping, and supplementary and synagogue school funding, and organizations that we haven’t historically had a relationship with, but are actually doing good work in the community.”
Besides requiring requests that focused on specific projects, the Planning and Allocations committee gave enthusiastic consideration to collaborative programs. What was labeled the “joint-camp proposal,” for example, gives $58,370 to help bring first-timers to one of five summer camps.
In all, the Federation gave a $156,000 increase to local agencies over 2012 as well as $40,000 to contingency and emergency funds that had gone unfunded for several years.
Though the Federation had raised money for need-based camp scholarships in the past, “this is an identity builder that’s really important for the community, and we ought to be funding it through the community campaign,” Fruchter said.
In its first time opening the process to synagogues, a $7,000 grant to Congregation Beth Hatikvah in Bremerton will allow the Reform congregation to expand its small education program beyond the 7th grade as well as create a curriculum for its membership of mostly military families that often come to the area with little or no Jewish background.
Rabbi Sarah Newmark said the grant plants the seeds for a program that will enable them to hire an education director and integrate Jewish learning more fully into the synagogue.
For older adult services, Jeff Cohen, CEO of the Caroline Kline Galland and Affiliates nursing and assisted living centers, said his organization’s $45,000 grant will help the agency launch a service that takes healthcare outside of the confines of its facilities.
“It’s allowing us to apply for seed money for a new home-health agency that will allow Kline Galland to send in licensed nurses and therapists into people’s homes,” Cohen said.
The home-based program can eventually be funded by Medicare, but qualifying agencies must be up and running before they can be certified.
“This [grant] will help to defray some of those startup costs,” Cohen said. “In future years we’re planning that the program will fund itself.”
The Kline Galland received $11,997 last year in unrestricted funds, just over a quarter of the grant it received this year. While Cohen expressed enthusiasm about his agency’s grant, Jewish Family Service, historically the Federation’s single largest beneficiary, expressed disappointment.
“We received a 28 percent cut from last year’s allocation to this year’s allocation. That is a very significant cut,” said Ken Weinberg, JFS’s CEO. That equals a reduction of $121,860.
“You do not cut the social service agency that deals with the most vulnerable people in our society during the worst economic crisis since the 1930s,” he said. “And they did.”
Though JFS did raise $1 million at its annual luncheon last month, that money, plus another $200,000 it needs to raise before June 30, is slated for the current fiscal year.
Almo said the Federation’s mandate is to look at the community as a whole, which meant spreading the available funds beyond the same organizations that had been funded for decades.
“With looking at helping our community in need, they did receive the lion’s share of the funding,” Almo said. “They’re our primary agency in that area.”
He noted as well that the Federation also uses its resources to advocate for agencies, including JFS, in Olympia.
JFS will be a partner in a new Jewish supplementary high school program called Livnot, administered by congregations Beth Shalom and Herzl–Ner Tamid. It launches next school year with the help of a $35,000 grant.
“While this is a project that has been piloted by two congregations, our vision of it was not one that belonged to congregations, but is open to all teens in the city,” said Rabbi Jill Borodin of Congregation Beth Shalom.
The synagogues are joining with JFS and the social-action organization Repair the World to create leadership courses for the teens within various social service agencies around the region.
“They’re creating change and being empowered for the work they’re doing through Jewish learning,” Borodin said. “That’s going to carry them forward into [becoming] leaders on campus [and] into their lives.”
Hillel at the University of Washington saw a total reduction of $22,676 in the three grants it received. But that money still will need to be made up in its budget.
“Like everyone else in this economy these days, it means economizing, downsizing and sort of being thrifty about the way we do business,” said Rabbi Oren Hayon, Hillel’s executive director.
He said he found it curious that Hillel had received $92, 425 for its Jconnect young adults program but only $10,000 for undergraduate services, its bread and butter.
“If we’re not delivering Jewish content for college students, we don’t need to be here,” Hayon said. But “if it means that we’re not throwing the kinds of events or feeding them the kinds of food or offering the same kinds of decorations as before, I’m confident that they’ll walk away from Hillel knowing it’s an organization that cares about them.”
Two other Hillels, incidentally, at Washington State University and Western Washington University, as well as the Seattle Jewish Chorale, received campaign dollars from a new fund the Federation established, called the Small Agency Sustainability Grant, for $2,000, $3,600 and $5,000, respectively.
“Even if they don’t come up with a brilliant, innovative program, there’s nowhere else for those organizations to turn to,” Fruchter said. “So we’ve created a separate process for small organizations to get funds from us at $5,000 or less.”
Judy Neuman, CEO of the Stroum Jewish Community Center, called her organization’s allocation of a combined $224,605, plus a portion of the joint-camp proposal, bittersweet.
“All of our grant awards were for existing programs, which help us sustain our commitment to inspire connections, build community and ensure Jewish continuity, and for that we are very grateful. We are also pleased to see new organizations and programs being funded,” Neuman told JTNews via email.
The SJCC’s grants are 30 percent less than the allocation of $320,131 in 2012, which Neuman said will affect some adult and family programs.
“The magnitude of this cut will be very difficult to manage without impacting programs,” she said.
After one year of the new grant-based model, views differ on whether it’s effective. From the donor side, the majority of donations still went into the same unrestricted pot as in previous years, but Federation officials noted that new donors and event attendees were more willing to focus on the individual areas.
Planning and Allocations chair Almo said the process in reaching its decisions was the strongest it had ever undertaken.
“We spent an incredible amount of time, from forming our workgroups, which consisted of about 40 people, all the way through the planning and allocations process,” he said. “The result was a really robust dialogue about where we wanted to take the community.”
The nearly $4 million gap in the amount the Federation funded and the requests considered made for some hard decisions, he added.
Hillel UW’s Hayon said that while he was disappointed with the reduction his organization will receive, he believes the new model could bode well for the future.
“Our business model is based on innovation. I totally get that they felt the need to be innovative,” he said. “We’re willing to ride the waves along with them.”
Apart from the funding, which Beth Hatikvah’s Rabbi Newmark said will have a transformative impact on her outlying congregation, the help she received in improving her grant request was equally helpful.
The Kline Galland’s Cohen agreed that the process worked beyond the financial considerations. His agency collaborated with the Federation on a campaign to generate letters of support for the home-health program, which was a “wonderful partnership from beginning to end.”
“I think this is a blueprint of what the community can do when agencies join together and partner with each other,” Cohen said. “Let the agencies be the laboratory for the new programs and let the Federation help facilitate it.”