UJA-Fed. Campaign Holds Its Ground


John M. Shapiro, the organization’s outgoing president, said the 2010 annual campaign actually exceeded projections by $2 million, thereby enabling UJA-Federation to provide “the dollars needed to help throughout the New York community.”

The organization said this was all made possible only because of the “Herculean and collaborative efforts of tens of thousands of donors, professional staff, lay leaders and volunteers.”

John Ruskay, the organization’s executive vice president and CEO, pointed out the continuing economic crisis that began in 2008 has been marked by a major loss of jobs and savings. In response, he said UJA-Federation in April 2009 created Connect to Care with $6.7 million drawn from the group’s $730 million in reserves. That project, which July 1 was renewed with $4 million in funds, has brought together families for counseling, provided vocational networking, pro bono legal support and emergency loans.

“We have been there to serve over 24,000 members of the New York Jewish community, some of whom have been our former honorees who have lost jobs,” Ruskay said. “Add to that the response of UJA and other [Jewish] federations to the wars in the north of Israel, what we are doing in the former Soviet Union to provide welfare support to over 100,000 Jews, as well as making it possible for thousands to attend Jewish summer camps, Birthright and Masa [a program for young American Jews to spend a semester or more in Israel] to connect with our people in Israel.”

Ruskay attributed the low number of contributors to the annual campaign — 59,000 — to the fact that the organization cut back on direct mail and telephone marketing in order to save money. Such solicitation generally brings in a minimal amount of money and the decision was made to spend the group’s limited resources instead on Connect to Care, he said.

In another cost saving move, UJA-Federation laid off 58 people in the last two years, reducing its staff to 403, the lowest in recent years. The action was part of an overall effort that reduced the administrative budget by $8.3 million.

Those cuts helped to ensure that “most of our domestic agencies will receive 99 percent of the unrestricted support they received prior to the economic crisis,” Ruskay said.

Raising such money amid an economic downturn has been both “wrenching and inspiring,” he observed.

“It has been wrenching in that I meet with many donors I have known for years — longtime supporters — who now cannot make gifts because they do not have jobs, they have been financially wiped out or they are over leveraged,” Ruskay said. “It has also been inspiring because some of those who can have stepped up and said we need to make certain UJA-Federation can make our agencies strong. They want to invest in the Jewish future with Jewish education and Birthright and global responsibility in Israel and the former Soviet Union, as well as to respond to the acute job loss in New York. Our campaign leaders and others have stepped forward — some doubling their gifts.”

Although New York has an aging Jewish population, Ruskay pointed out that the number of younger Jewish millionaires has increased in recent years. For instance, when the group held its major gift’s dinner 10 years ago, nine or 10 of the guests donated more than $1 million.

“They were mostly in their 50s and 60s and above,” Ruskay said. “Now, we have 17 who donated more than $1 million and many are in their 40s and 50s. We are pleased that our highest level donors are more diverse chronologically.”

That fundraiser, known as the (Ace) Greenberg event, in honor of the former Bear Stearns CEO who hosts it, matched its previous year’s record of $43 million.

Jerry Levin, UJA-Federation’s previous board chairman and incoming president, said the outpouring of support for the organization “truly showed me what generosity is about.”