By: Rick Hellman, Editor
Can you really do more with less? Perhaps not, but you can do more with more.
That's the story of the Jewish Federation's latest budgeting cycle in a nutshell. Its new fiscal year began Oct. 1. And even during difficult economic times, as the Federation's annual giving campaign shrinks for the second year in a row, the total pool of financial resources developed by the Federation is greater now than it was two years ago.
That's because, layered on top of the annual campaign have been two other special categories of giving - the two-year-long national Israel Emergency Campaign, in which Kansas City is taking part, and a series of special gifts made by individuals and foundations to support certain projects with which they have an affinity.
This year, the Federation expects to raise just over $1 million in special gifts, plus $629,000 for the IEC.
The special gifts go to support a variety of projects, both locally and overseas. Two examples of local beneficiaries of special gifts are the Learning for Life program of informal education, a project of the Central Agency for Jewish Education, and the Helzberg Leadership Fellows program of the Federation. Some examples of overseas beneficiaries are the Pinat Shorashim education center at Israel's Kibbutz Gezer and relief projects in Romania and Bulgaria. The Federation has established special partnerships with all three overseas communities.
The IEC monies go to fund security guards, summer camps, after-school programs and other activities designed to protect Israelis from the type of terrorist attack that has occurred with disturbing frequency during the past three years.
With the two special categories of giving having restricted purposes, that leaves the Federation's annual giving campaign to fund the ongoing operations of the Federation itself, and to help support Federated agencies like the Hebrew Academy and Jewish Community Center.
This year the Federation board of governors voted to tap $23,750 from their reserve fund in order to help close budget gaps and maintain most agencies' allocations at the same amount as the previous year.
"We are using reserves built through prudent financial management to fill in the gap in the campaign," said Federation Executive Director Todd Stettner. "While we would not want to have to do this on a regular basis, the amount to be used is small enough that the Federation board felt comfortable in using these dollars, which are available under urgent or emergency circumstances, at this time."
The Federation first takes the largest slice of the pie - 36 percent, according to a decade-old formula agreed to by the local and national federation groups - and sends it to the U.S. federations' umbrella group, the United Jewish Communities. UJC, in turn, keeps a part and distributes most of the money to its Israeli and overseas partner agencies, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. JDC undertakes relief efforts in Europe and elsewhere outside the U.S. and Israel. The Jewish Agency for Israel is a quasi-governmental agency that helps with immigrant absorption, among other things.
The next largest slice of the campaign dollar goes to the Federation itself - about $1.2 million. Of that total, $432,000 will be spent on financial resource development, $309,000 will cover management and financial services, $287,000 pays for identity, education and community services and $176,000 pays for governance and the planning/allocations process.
The education/community service category includes such things as the Federation's young leadership development program and its women's leadership/education program called Yad b'Yad.
Stettner points out that the Federation's slice of the pie may look large in comparison to the others, but that is, in part, because the annual campaign is the Federation's only source of funds. Affiliated agencies like JCC and JF&CS have outside funding sources in addition to their Federation subsidies, including United Way grants, fund-raising dinners, fees for service and other revenues.
And, unlike many other charitable groups, in addition to raising and distributing this community chest money, Federation performs a number of educational and leadership-development functions.
Also, Stettner points out, the Federation's costs involved with soliciting more than $1 million annually in special gifts and campaigns the last two years have come out of annual campaign revenue. In that way, 100 percent of the special gifts go directly to their intended beneficiaries.
The rule of flat Federation allocations to various Jewish agencies held true, with a couple of exceptions.
CAJE saw its allocation drop from $273,000 to $247,5000 by cutting an amount designated to fund the New Americans Program, staffed by Svetlana Sorkin, in half - from $50,000 last year to $25,000 this year. Also dropped was $10,000 to fund an "Israel Experience Center."
Stettner said those cuts reflected a decrease in Soviet Jewish immigration to the area, compared to some years ago, and a drop in local youth trips to Israel caused by ongoing violence in the region.
The Hebrew Academy's allocation increased by nearly $20,000 year over year ($470,000 to $489,000). Aid to scholarships stayed flat. But the Federation's occupancy subsidy got a "cost-of-living" increase under a formula agreed to in the late 1980s when HBHA sold its previous school building, donated the proceeds to the Jewish Community Campus and moved there.
Stettner said he was proud of increasing the total financial resources devoted to communal projects, even during a difficult economic period. But he admitted that keeping some programs on track and without gaps in their now multi-faceted income streams has become tougher than simply making an annual allocation from a general fund. He noted the Federation is part of a Jewish Funders Council and coordinates its activities with the other council members - the Jewish Community Foundation and Jewish Heritage Foundation.
"That's our job," Stettner said, "to put these collaborations together. When we talk about being the common ground to strengthen the community, that's our role - to get these programs together for the good of the community."