Jewish Federation Revamps Grant Programs

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The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia changed its Jewish Community Fund grant requirements to support organizations impacted by COVID-19.

“The Jewish Federation takes care of the community, and we see this as the best way we can do that right now,” Executive Vice President Melissa Greenberg said.

The funds, which were program grants designed to support specific initiatives at Jewish organizations, are now general support grants, which can be used for expenses nonprofit leaders deem necessary to help organizations weather the crisis.

“Because of these unprecedented times, and to be true partners to these agencies who we’ve worked with for many years, they’ll have the flexibility to use the funds where they have the greatest need,” said Rena Kopelman,  Jewish Federation’s vice chair of planning and resourcing.

Jewish Community Fund grants were issued on a three-year cycle beginning in 2017, and were extended for a fourth and fifth year to allow Jewish Federation to use the findings of “Community Portrait: A 2019 Jewish Population Study,” to help determine community needs.

Rena Kopelman
Rena Kopelman (Courtesy of Rena Kopelman)

This program is separate from the COVID-19 Emergency Fund that provides support for organizations impacted by the pandemic.

Kopelman said Jewish Federation recognized that grants once allocated to support in-person classes at KleinLife, lectures at Gratz College or campus events at Hillel can no longer be used in the same way due to social distancing.

“While we certainly value the programs we’ve been funding for the past four years, we recognize they may not be the most critical, they may not be viable right now or they may not be able to run as initially intended,” she said.

In addition to providing organizations with greater financial flexibility, the changes reduce the amount of paperwork normally required regarding the use of funds. Since these changes apply to organizations already enrolled in the Jewish Community Fund Grants program, there is no separate application.

“We realize that needs have changed drastically, and we don’t want to create an undue burden,” Kopelman said.

Jewish Federation will use different metrics than in the past to measure the impact of the grants.

“For this year, they will not be held accountable in the same way to meeting certain outcomes and metrics. We will ask them to share what they’ve done, but it won’t be as formal a commitment to say, for example, we serve 50 people a month,” said Director of Program Operations Abbey Frank.

Grant consultation meetings will still take place, but will not rely as heavily on metrics to measure the strength of various programs, Frank said.

“We’re saying to our community partners, ‘We know these are challenging times, we know you may not be able to hold your programs in the same way you have. We want to give you the flexibility to use these funds the way you need,’” she said.

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