Decline in unrestricted donations hurts Philly federation

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia only saw a 2 percent decline in overall giving last year, but it has had to make significant cuts to a number of its long-standing affiliates because the unrestricted money from donors has shrunk significantly, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent reports.

The federation raised $27.8 million during its fiscal year 2009 – and actually saw a $1 million increase in total revenue due to increases from its endowment, the government and other charities such as the United Way. But it had to make significant cuts because the money that comes from unrestricted donations from the local Jewish community dropped by 14 percent, or $1.8 million.

The $16.2 million it brought in through unrestricted funds will be divided among 70 organizations, with several seeing cuts and others getting completely left out in the cold. Social service programs, social responsibility programs and overseas programs took the biggest hit. 

According to the Exponent:

A little more than $400,000 was set aside for Hillel programming on various college campuses in the area, which is about $70,000 less than last year.

The area of social services also took a hit. Those involved with the allocations process said that with fewer dollars, there was a clear need to support basic services for the elderly and disadvantaged.

In the previous 12-month period, Federation’s Center for Social Responsibility was awarded 29 percent of the pie, the biggest slice; this time, it received 26 percent and the second largest total. Overall center funding dropped from $5.8 million last year to nearly $4.2 million. More than half, or $2.3 million, went to senior services.

Murray Spain, chair of the center, acknowledged that he’s concerned that the reductions will have an impact on the delivery of social services. Still, he said that emergency funds are available.

"We are not going to leave our community in the lurch or in need," he said.

Taking into account restricted and pass-through dollars, programs for seniors and the poor actually got a total of $9.2 million, including a $3 million donation toward construction of new, low-income, senior housing in Elkins Park.

The largest chunk of the unrestricted funds went was awarded to the Klein and Stiffel JCC in Philadelphia. It’s Gateways to Aging Well, an initiative that provides more than 2,100 seniors with a wide array of support services, received $990,000.

Organizations serving needy families also saw a decline in allocated funds, from $1.4 million last cycle to $1.2 this time around. The Jewish Relief Agency, which provides 2,750 households with a food aid package each month, saw a 43 percent reduction to its food-distribution program, from $300,000 to $175,000.

Funding for programs in Israel and overseas continued to decline, as it has in recent years as Philadelphia — and many communities — focus more on local needs. The Center for Israel and Overseas, which funds programs related to Israel and the former Soviet Union, was awarded 23 percent, or $3.7, of the unrestricted dollars, compared with 24 percent in the previous funding cycle.

Adding in restricted dollars, it received $4.9 million.

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