Jewish Federation to Allocate Nearly $11 Million in Grants

The 2016-2017 year will mark the first of three years these programs receive grants, a new funding model for the Jewish Federation.

After announcing $21.6 million raised in unrestricted gifts, restricted funds, endowments and other sources during 2015, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will allocate $10.7 million for grants to different programs in the region — both existing programs that previously received grants, as well as new ones.
The 2016-2017 year will mark the first of three years these programs receive grants, a new funding model for the Jewish Federation.
The plan was to put the new cycle in place so agencies could have sustained funding and endorsement from the Jewish Federation, and the “latitude to have dollars and be able to plan, adapt and change as they need to and not come back every year as if it was a one-off program,” explained Rena Kopelman, chair of the Policy, Strategy and Funding Committee of the Jewish Federation.
“It helps them adapt and change, and it helps us measure impact in a different way,” she said. “So, we hope this is beneficial both to the recipients, as well as the Jewish Federation itself, and can allow for better long-term community planning.”
The grants will take effect on Sept. 1 and run through Aug. 31, 2017, a fiscal year allotment though the funds were raised during the 2015 calendar year.
“It sounds a little bit complicated,” she acknowledged, “and yet it’s the most responsible way that we have of making sure that we’re only allocating the dollars we actually raised.”
The grants will be renewed for the second and third years based on program performances and available resources in the community, Kopelman said.
“We only allocate based on dollars actually raised, so we can’t say for certain what we will have to allocate in a year that hasn’t been completed yet,” she added. “If dollars go up, we’ll have the opportunity to fund more.”
In the meantime, the three-year grant process will give the Jewish Federation time to think about the next triennial cycle.
The hard part is deciding which programs receive the funding.
“We received 148 letters of intent from 120 agencies for new programs — things we haven’t funded before — requesting $8.4 million in funding [in new dollars],” Kopelman said. “We requested proposals from new and existing grantees and ended up with 112 proposals from 63 agencies requesting $15 million in funding.”
After 16 deliberation meetings, they narrowed down the $15 million to the final $10.7 million in grants.
Programs include, as Kopelman broke it down:
• “More than $600,000 to fund an array of services to fight food insecurity and meaningful dollars to allow over 600 older adults living in their own homes travel to medical appointments, grocery stores and socialization events.”
• “Four new programs to address the needs of at-risk youth, education and economic empowerment.
• “In the area of Jewish continuity, 33 grants will create educational and identity-building opportunities — including providing $1.3 million in scholarship dollars for day schools, synagogue schools, day camps and overnight camps.
• “Eight new programs will provide teen engagement, adult education, young adult programming and inclusion opportunities.
• “With regard to Israel and overseas, 15 grants will connect our local community to Israel — include providing over 1,600 Philadelphia Jews with meaningful travel to Israel and $1.5 million to support the global work of JDC and JAFI.”
The staff, lay leaders and board members pored over the requests to narrow down the programs that would make the most impact through the grants, which wasn’t always an easy task.
“These requests have been culled and culled again, and reviewed and reviewed again to make sure that they are meaningful and impactful to the community,” Kopelman emphasized.
Funding these programs — both ones they have funded before, as well as new ones — demonsrates the Jewish Federation’s goal to “maintain a social safety net for the most vulnerable and to ensure Jewish continuity both of which in Philadelphia as well as in Israel and overseas.”
“We have been taking a really serious look at how we make grants and the types of programs that we fund to make sure that we are being responsible stewards of community dollars and also so that we can have the most impact possible in the community,” Kopelman said. “Unfortunately, there’s never enough money to fund all of the great programs and all of the things going on in the community, and there really are amazing things going on.”
The total of $21.6 million that the Jewish Federation raised was about $400,000 higher than the previous year, and providing these grants is a way for the community to have a stake in where the dollars are going and how it affects the community, she explained.
The team began receiving letters of intent from agencies in the fall, and the process of reviewing has been a long one, but Kopelman said the work is worth it.
“By looking specifically at programs through the lens of how they can let us have that impact, and also by giving ourselves the time to make sure that we are tackling important issues facing the Jewish community, we’re really able, through our funding process to” make a difference, she said. “It’s a really exciting time at Jewish Federation, and I think that’s been a really robust and thoughtful deliberation process involving over 60 community members and dozens of hours of meetings.
“I think the thoughtfulness of the process is something that I feel good about and I hope the community can feel good about, in terms of where their dollars are going.”
Jewish Federation leaders were pleased with the funding results and the work they will be able to do in the community.
“I am very happy with our new process this year,” said Bud Newman, president of the Jewish Federation. “Our team, led by Rena Kopelman, worked tirelessly to identify programs the Jewish Federation could have a dramatic impact on and, while the allocation discussions are never easy, we have a great group of partners and are able to impact thousands of people in Philadelphia, Israel and across the globe. Furthermore, the move to a three-year funding cycle enables agencies to plan and budget much further in advance and allows the Jewish Federation to concentrate on new ways we can have a meaningful impact in the communities we serve.”
After having a wrap-up meeting with the other leaders, Kopelman reflected on the work ahead.
“There are so very many people involved in this process, and it’s fascinating because we each come to the table with our own interests and wealth of information, and yet everyone comes together,” she said. “It feels good to be able to do this work on behalf of the community and with so many members of the community.”
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