Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Charitible giving in Jewish communities down - no, really down.

Jerusalem Post Online
Jul 7, 2009 19:40 | Updated Jul 8, 2009 19:44
NY Federation sees 11.5% fundraising decline this year

Amid bleak economic times, the largest Jewish federation in North America has taken a fundraising hit, reporting on Monday that its annual campaign was down 11.5 percent compared to last year...

..."This year was exceedingly challenging for every nonprofit. Closing at $136m. is a huge accomplishment."

Overall, the economy has taken a toll on Jewish and non-Jewish causes alike. Charitable giving fell 2% in 2008, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

Last week, the United Jewish Communities/Jewish Federations of North America - the umbrella group representing 157 Jewish federations in the US and Canada - projected a 13% decrease in fundraising for this year. So far this year, federations have received $608m. in pledges, whereas last year at this time, federations had taken in $714m...

Among federations reporting decreases in fundraising, the inevitable result of fewer philanthropic dollars is cuts in funding for programs...

This is hardly a big surprise to me. Investments have tanked, the money market account is earning next to nothing, and the operating cash won't last to the end of the year when many big donors finally get around to giving. This is the typical situation at most Federations at the moment (or soon will be), I would guess.

But more and more UO or Chereidi plan to rely on the Federations and related Charities for significant portions of their livelihood. Many won't work for ideological reasons, and those have become a burden on the system meant to be a safety net primarily for those whose hours have been cut or who are out of work involuntarily and actively looking for jobs. That's not the situation in my community (B"H), since there is no UO or Chereidi shul in our metro area, but it is a widespread drain on Federation resources throughout the US. And even communities such as mine without a large UO or Chereidi presence are, in truth, in deep trouble with the budget - though few know how badly.

Something's going to have to change, class.

Our local federation is planning a $1000 per person soiree in August, no doubt hoping to fluff up the ailing bank account until the holiday season regulars get out their pens to write checks - but I have doubts that it will raise the several months worth of operating costs now lacking. Another such event or two may be planned. Other Federations are no doubt planning similar events or appeals.

But in truth, it will probably not be enough to stop deep cuts in programs and in wages for the regular office workers, including reductions in benefits - some of whom already had 30-40-50% cuts in the 4th quarter of last year. Worse, next year is likely to be even worse than this year, and nobody is being realistic about it.

The "we've always done it this way" crowd that serves on most Federation boards, largely older women (almost all retirees?), should know better having experienced the rationing and cutbacks of the WWII era. Some few may even remember the tail end of the Great Depression, or heard about it in excruciating detail from parents or grandparents. And yet they simply refuse to adjust their expectations to meet reality.

It just amazes me. There's no rational way to explain it. More than 8 million people in this country have lost their jobs in the last six months alone and yet they expect to receive the same amount of contributions as if the economic crisis had never happened.

And the people who have been enjoying the benefits of the programs and the Family Services expect to keep on receiving what they have received before. And the people who are newly cut back in hours and newly jobless expect to receive benefits similar to those who received before them.

All three are going to be disappointed, class. Very disappointed.

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