UJA-Fed NY Authorizes $129.2m in Grants

UJA-Federation of New York, the world’s largest local philanthropy, has approved appropriations for its next fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2010. This from John Ruskay, the Federation’s executive vice president and CEO:

On Wednesday, UJA-Federation’s Board of Directors unanimously approved appropriations for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. For those unfamiliar with the term, “appropriations” are the outcome of an intensive process by which our leadership grapples with how to most effectively use available resources to actualize our mission It’s never easy; even in good years, needs always surpass resources, and this year we again faced increased needs and decreased philanthropic capacity. But the news is surprisingly positive.

At Wednesday’s meeting, our board allocated $129.2 million for grants for program services. Two years into what is often described as the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the strength of this year’s annual campaign and the approved appropriations tells a powerful story.

These are some of the highlights:

First, while we have reduced total grants by approximately eight percent over the past two years, the strength of our annual campaign combined with additional spending from our endowment has enabled us to maintain unrestricted support for most domestic agencies at 99 percent of the amount they received prior to the economic crisis – a figure almost unheard of for other foundations, federations, and government funding sources.

Second, UJA-Federation will provide second year funding of $4 million for Connect to Care. Since being established last spring, Connect to Care has brought together the resources of our network agencies and synagogues to provide vocational and family counseling, pro bono legal support, emergency loans, and the embrace of our community for more than 22,000 men and women who have experienced losses.

Third, UJA-Federation will continue to invest in the Jewish future, and in strengthening Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world. Some have asked: when there is acute unemployment and human need, why continue to invest in Birthright and Jewish identity programs? Our three-pronged mission to care for those in need, strengthen the Jewish people, and inspire a passion for Jewish life rejects such a dichotomy. We believe that while we must respond to acute needs in our community – and we believe we are! – we must also continue to invest in strengthening the identity of our young. In laying the groundwork for the next generation, we are ensuring that there is a vibrant Jewish community committed to feeding the hungry, strengthening Jewish life, and securing the state of Israel far into the future.

Our 2011 appropriations also reaffirm our deeply held view that federations are quintessentially about global Jewish responsibility. Rejecting those voices that call for reducing expenditures overseas, we believe federations must remain the prime vehicle for fulfilling our mission abroad. While our unrestricted support for the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has been reduced modestly, they remain our largest grantees.

Fourth, in the depth of the economic crisis last year, we reduced UJA-Federation’s administrative budget and other non-grant expenditures by 12.5 percent, requiring the elimination of 85 positions, including 53 layoffs. This year, these expenditures will be reduced by another 2.1 percent, primarily by eliminating vacant positions and reducing non-personnel costs. As we continue to resize UJA-Federation for the new philanthropic environment in which we find ourselves, UJA-Federation’s budgeted headcount will have been reduced by almost 20 percent – from 512 in the fiscal year 2009 budget to 417 for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Despite these significant reductions, I believe that we continue to have the most talented professional team in the American Jewish community, a staff well positioned and fully committed to respond to the challenges and opportunities that face us.

As we head into the last seven weeks of the campaign, we need to remember that it is our fundraising efforts that make everything we do possible. Although it will take some time for us to return to the pre-crisis campaign levels of 2007-8, we have confidence that our 2010 Annual Campaign will achieve or even exceed our $134 million goal. This will require the “full court press” that is underway. We hope each of you will do your part.

Yes, these are – and are likely to continue to be – challenging times. But it remains a privilege to be in a position to provide care in our city and throughout the world, to invest in the next generation, and to mobilize our community to stand with the people of Israel . We hope you share that sense of both accomplishment and privilege. For each of you – every member of our staff, every donor, and every volunteer and professional associated with our unparalleled network of agencies – is an essential partner in making all that we do possible. You join us as co-authors of the Jewish future.

Shabbat shalom,

John Ruskay