NEW YORK (May. 25)
For the Jewish community’s national agencies, many of which have been suffering from budget cutbacks these past few years, a moment of truth is at hand.
Two committees that may wield the power of life and death over them are rolling into action.
Jointly known as the National Funding Councils of the Council of Jewish Federations, the committees will allow some 40 participating federations to decide jointly on the money they give to perhaps as many as nine national agencies.
Because the participating federations include the nation’s largest, the groups would provide 90 percent of the dollars the national agencies receive from federations.
By centralizing the allocation process, the NFC will exert far more influence over the national agencies it funds than could any individual federation.
Those agencies not directly funded by the NFC are likely to see further reductions in federation support, as the federations concentrate their attentions and resources on agencies which they deem part of the CJF family.
Under the system the NFC replaces; 18 national agencies had their budgets examined by the federation system.
The NFC, which met for the first time in April, is composed of two parallel committees. They are the Joint Budgeting Council and the Combined Budgeting Council. Participating federations are grouped in the councils by size, with the larger federations in the JBC and the smaller federations in the CBC.
Each participating federation pays dues to the respective council, in proportion to the size of its campaign and Jewish community. The councils then vote on how to allocate the pool of money at its disposal to the national agencies that the NFC decides merit allocations.
Federations will have a vote on the committees weighted in accordance with the amount of money they put into the pool.
ALLOCATIONS DROPPING STEADILY
The separate CBC structure enables smaller federations to deliberate on allocations without their votes and their contributions being overwhelmed by those of the larger federations.
The JBC was actually created four years ago, as a pilot program involving 11 of the largest federations. Additional larger federations are joining it, among them that of New York City.
Until now, the JBC has allocated to four agencies. The NFC plans to add as many as five agencies to that number.
The NFC replaces a CJF committee known as the Large Cities Budgeting Conference. That committee had for over four decades examined the budgets of 18 national agencies, among them the Anti-Defamation League, the North American Jewish Students Appeal and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, to name a few.
The conference would then approve an appropriate amount for each agency to solicit from federations.
In recent years, the amounts actually allocated by the federations have fallen way below the amount authorized by the conference.
At a recent meeting of the CJF Board of Delegates, CJF Executive Vice President Martin Kraar warned, “In the end of the day, I’m not sure the agencies can survive at the rate at which the communities are reducing their allocations to them.”
Historically, national agencies received 2 percent of all the money raised by federations. But in recent years, that percentage has dropped to 1.5 percent.
Already with the JBC, “we have brought a lot of communities to a better level of giving to national agencies,” said Barbara Rosenthal, a vice chair of the NFC.
Communities participating in the JBC and CBC will pay a certain amount of money up front, based on factors such as the size of the community and its federation campaign. The JBC and CBC will then decide how to divide that pool of money among the participating agencies.
Because that money will be committed in advance, those agencies can be sure they will receive their allocation.
Those national agencies which are not admitted to the NFC will continue to have their budgets evaluated by a CJF committee. But they face the likelihood that when local federations decide to reduce allocations to national agencies, they will keep their payments to the NFC constant and disproportionately cut allocations to the other national agencies.
MORE INVOLVEMENT IN PLANNING
The criteria for agencies joining the NFC include receiving significant funding from federations, providing services to federations and a willingness to allow the NFC to participate in planning.
Those that have been beneficiaries of the JBC from its inception are the Jewish Education Service of North America, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.
The NFC hopes to vote on the new beneficiaries by the end of June.
Among those least likely to be included are such organizations as the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, which currently receive only a tenth of their budgets from federations.
“They would like to have a good relationship with the federations,” explained Jerry Rosen, director of national agency relations at CJF. “But if they’re involved in the JBC process, they lose some autonomy.”
The next stage of the process will be national planning.
“With shrinking resources, allocations have to become a little less routine and more thoughtful,” said NFC Vice Chair Rosenthal. “Jewish continuity is the No. 1 issue. That ought to mean dollars being shifted.”
The JBC has already begun discussing national planning issues beyond its direct province. One issue that has been discussed would be the establishment of a national system for funding schools of Jewish communal service, which currently serve the entire federation system but are largely funded by their local communities.
Another issue requiring national planning, which has been raised before the JBC by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, concerns preserving the books and documents in the collections of three archival organizations funded by the foundation. A JBC subcommittee has been set up to study the issue.