[Editor’s note: The fine print on the $80 Million Fund to Provide Relief to Jewish Organizations During COVID-19 Pandemic.]
Overview of Loan and Grant Programs
The widespread closure of all “non-essential” enterprises across the United States has created enormous needs across all sectors of Jewish communal life. Thousands of Jewish not-for-profit organizations are facing severe financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated responses to it, including interrupted revenue from activities, uncertain fundraising prospects, and program cancellations and modifications.
The Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF) is a unique collaboration between Jewish foundations, the Federation system, and individual major donors to provide targeted assistance to select U.S.-based Jewish organizations experiencing financial distress as a result of the pandemic. JCRIF’s funders recognize that the unprecedented amount of need across key sectors of Jewish communal life requires new forms of philanthropic collaboration and an openness to supporting initiatives that each funder might not support individually or in their regular course of business.
At this moment of crisis, funders are facing unprecedented needs both in meeting the growing basic human needs in their communities and in saving from collapse the core infrastructure of Jewish life, including synagogues, schools, JCCs, camps and more. JCRIF will take on one element of this vast amount of need by focusing its resources on maintaining the infrastructure of Jewish life that advances Jewish education, engagement and leadership. The funders supporting JCRIF believe investing in these Jewish organizations and networks during this pivotal time will be vital to ensuring a strong future for American Jewry in the months and years to come.
There are two elements to JCRIF:
- An interest-free loan program that will help preserve critical communal sectors and organizations, providing immediate, short-term assistance to select affected organizations, buying them some breathing room in a volatile environment;
- An aligned grant program that will help sectors, networks and organizations evolve in response to the crisis, exploring strategic shifts to enable them to continue to serve their communities and audiences even in different forms.
As of April 17, JCRIF has aggregated more than $80 million in funding from seven founding funders: the Aviv Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, the Jim Joseph Foundation, Maimonides Fund, the Paul E. Singer Foundation, and the Wilf Family Foundation.
The need is enormous, and the fund welcomes participation from funders at all levels. Because of the streamlined nature of the staffing, the fund will not be actively fundraising, but we welcome the partnership of funders who wish to align their giving in any or all of the giving areas outlined above.
Many Jewish not-for-profit organizations do not have sufficient endowments, cash reserves, or other access to capital to make it through the next few months of uncertainty. There are hundreds of valuable Jewish not-for-profits that will suffer irreversible harm or be forced to shutter without a short-term infusion of working capital, much of which could be repaid within a relatively short period from future program revenue, philanthropic support, and/or government assistance. At the same time, many organizations, networks and sectors are now beginning to think creatively about system-wide approaches to the challenges in front of us in the current shutdown and in the months and years to come, and this new thinking could be advanced through a fast-tracked grant process.
The immediate needs are acute and widespread. Organizations that rely on revenue from ongoing programs (like JCCs), from tuition and registration fees (like camps, youth movements, trip programs, day schools) have now seen a complete cessation of earned income. The health crisis and concomitant shutdowns have created increased demand for services at the same time that there is a decreased supply of funding. Organizations with buildings or campuses that are now closed must still carry the costs of those closed buildings, including insurance, utilities, equipment leases, etc. And all organizations are concerned about the fundraising environment, whether their funding comes from individual donors who are now facing possible unemployment and a decline in the value of invested wealth, or from institutional funders whose endowments have undoubtedly lost considerable value in the financial market turmoil.
Every sector of Jewish communal life is facing its own set of financial and programmatic challenges. Some examples include:
- Jewish summer camps are facing the likely scenario of partial or full closure for Summer 2020. This will mean a total loss in program revenue and returning deposits for the summer may put some camps in the red, since they use deposits as operating capital in the off-season. Without program revenue from summer 2020, it is unclear how camps will be able to retain year-round staff or maintain their sites in advance of summer 2021 registrations.
- While most Jewish day schools have been able to shift to online education, this is a profoundly challenging shift that is having uneven outcomes. All schools rely on parents who are willing and able to pay tuition, and widespread financial hardship will cause enrollment to decrease and need-based scholarship requests to increase. Remaining balances on tuition payment plans this year are at risk; parents may also ask for refunds on ancillary fees for programs that were not delivered (after-school, meals). Reduced fundraising revenue will hurt many schools, especially smaller ones.
- The closure of Jewish Community Centers means the loss of the primary source of ongoing revenue that sustains much of JCCs’ business model. They must continue to carry the costs of their buildings (e.g. insurance, utilities, equipment leases), consider whether to retain staff even as programs have largely been canceled, and anticipate reduced revenues in the future due to a likely sharp increase in need-based scholarship support. Most JCCs operate day or overnight camps, and if the 2020 season is canceled, the financial impact will increase exponentially.
- The ecosystem of Jewish educational and engagement programs serving teens, college students and young adults relies on a mixture of program registration fees and fundraising, both of which are imperiled in the current environment. The closure of campuses, prohibitions on in-person events, and the cancellation of summer programs, travel and conferences all create significant impediments to program delivery at the same time that there is more need than ever for programs that create community and provide emotional support to young people.
- The field of Jewish service and social action programs, which engages Jews in volunteering and support for their most vulnerable neighbors, both Jewish and of other backgrounds, is facing acute demand for its services at the same time that in-person service opportunities and philanthropic support are both severely constrained. While some organizations have pivoted to virtual volunteering, the ability of the Jewish community to engage volunteers, especially young people, in living out the values of tikkun olam and gemilut chasidim by assisting communities in need is in jeopardy.
- Synagogues and other forms of spiritual communities are responsible for the spiritual and emotional well-being of hundreds of thousands of American Jews of all ages. Most exist with little financial security and must continue to carry the costs of their buildings through closures. They are attempting to fundamentally alter a ritual system that depends on in-person, communal activity to online program delivery when possible, often without having heretofore developed any capacity in these areas. They also face an increase in need to minister to congregants through adversity, with an almost certain decrease in ability of members to afford dues and the ancillary costs of supplemental Jewish education, bar/bat mitzvah fees, etc. The synagogues are on the frontlines of most lifecycle events, and they will also have to deal with increased mental health needs for families that have been unable to perform the most basic ritual elements of Jewish life that require communal involvement, especially mourning rituals.
Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund
1. Interest–Free Loan Program
The interest–free loan program will give organizations some runway to continue to operate and employ staff while they: (i) assess contingency plans, including responsible expense reductions; (ii) access other loans or interim financing, either through the CARES Act or through private banking; (iii) undertake new or reoriented fundraising plans; or (iv) begin to conceptualize strategic transactions, including consolidations, mergers, or structured wind-downs.
The loan program will provide short-term unsecured loans to alleviate cash flow challenges and to enable organizations to maintain services and/or make payroll in the coming 3-6 months. The loan program will also provide bridging capital to support organizations as they seek access to SBA loans, or can be a source of capital to organizations that are not eligible for or are turned down for SBA loans. Decisions will be made quickly with funds distributed shortly thereafter.
The loan program will be based at the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), which will act as the loan fund administrator and lender of record. It will also partner with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), which will source and recommend loan applications and maintain borrower-facing communications.
Shira Hutt, JFNA Chief of Staff and an experienced nonprofit and philanthropic professional, is serving as JFNA’s liaison to the program.
The loan program will source applications by invitation only from U.S.-based Jewish not-for-profit organizations, both national umbrella organizations that can then syndicate out loans to the institutions in their networks and/or apply as borrowers in support of loans for their networks, and independent national Jewish not-for-profit organizations. Applicants can include:
- Organizations that are eligible for Small Business Administration loans, or that have another separate commitment of funds sufficient to pay down this short-term loan, or have a clear and likely plan for fundraising and/or revenue generation to pay down the loan, but need a bridge loan to get to the point that such funds can be of use;
- Organizations for whom a short-term loan between $500,000 and $3,000,000 would make an essential difference in their ability to continue operations for at least the next six months, or loans of at least $150,000 for organizations that are applying as part of an overall network.
- Organizations that have a reasonable likelihood of repayment of the loan from earned revenue, long-term loans, fundraising income, or otherwise within a maximum period of 48 months.
- Organizations that are deemed to be of importance in advancing the American Jewish community and/or promoting positive engagement with Israel.
2. Aligned Grant Program
JCRIF has developed two core interventions to help address a portion of the colossal need now facing Jewish communities across the U.S. Both programs will be open from April 20 through December 31, 2020.
Crises create and reveal opportunities for organizational and sector-wide evolution – strategic shifts that can enable organizations, networks, sectors and communities to emerge in different and ideally stronger forms as the crisis abates and new realities take hold. The aligned grant program brings together a unique consortium of Jewish foundations and philanthropists to achieve greater impact than each funder could achieve on their own. The grant program will also create a more rational philanthropic capital market, in which funders have broader visibility into both the needs of organizations and sectors and the allocations process of other philanthropic entities, thereby increasing the likelihood of more effective distribution of philanthropic assets across communal systems. The program will also provide an efficient, simplified and accelerated application and reporting system for applicants and grant recipients.
Applications to the grant program could include: conceptualizing and enabling sector-wide change; providing sector- or network-wide support for immediate, emerging needs that result from the crisis; doubling down on promising investments to accelerate communal evolution; preserving and/or revitalizing core programs and assets that are essential to thriving Jewish communities; and advancing strategic transactions, including consolidations, mergers, or structured wind-downs. This program will not replace but rather supplement each foundation’s current grantmaking to Jewish organizations.
The grant program will be directed by Felicia Herman, an experienced philanthropic leader, who will be seconded from her role as Executive Director of Natan for 3-6 months.
In an effort to create an efficient process that respects the time of applicants and ensures quick turnaround time and deployment of resources, the grant program will proactively source grant opportunities to distribute collectively to the funders, each of whom will make their own allocations decisions as expeditiously as possible. The program will work collaboratively with applicants on their proposals, and will utilize streamlined review and reporting processes.
Umbrella organizations and networks that can syndicate out grants to the institutions that they support;Independent, national Jewish not-for-profit organizations; andGroups of organizations in emerging strategic partnerships.
Eligible organizations include Jewish organizations or networks that advance Jewish education, engagement and/or leadership, including:
- Umbrella organizations and networks that can syndicate out grants to the institutions that they support;
- Independent, national Jewish not-for-profit organizations; and
- Groups of organizations in emerging strategic partnerships.
Grants will generally fall into the following three categories:
1. Emergency Funds for Immediate Needs
- Providing emergency funding to meet immediate, increased needs.
- Preventing the collapse of key institutions/networks that might be overlooked by existing funding programs and that, with some infusion of very strategic capital, could be saved/fixed.
- Preventing the loss of communal assets (ie camps, buildings) whose purpose could be reimagined in the future.
2. Steps toward Systemic Change
- Transform a sector in crisis – create system-wide change to business models, network/constituent relationships, etc.
- Foster the creation of a new systemic approach to a heretofore neglected/unidentified but critical sector of Jewish communal life (e.g. Jewish media, service, philanthropy, culture/humanities).
- Create new strategic, cross-sector collaborations and alliances that can result in new program models that directly address the crisis and its aftermath (e.g. repurposing talent toward areas of increased need).
- Enable groups of organizations to take the first steps to explore consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions.
3. Opportunity Investments
- Accelerate promising initiatives that are experiencing high demand due to current circumstances, where strategic, collective investment can upgrade an organization or a system to enable it to take advantage of the current moment.
- Invest in creative adaptations to programs and program delivery mechanisms that emerged out of current constraints, but hold promise for longer-term integration into communal systems.