Jewish Journal


April 30, 2010

JDC mulls fund-raising changes


An internal policy committee at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is offering the organization’s board 13 formal recommendations for revamping how it raises money—many of which could have a major impact on the North American network of local Jewish charitable federations.

The JDC, a $300 million a year charity that receives its core funding from the federation system, convened what it calls the Policy Group on Future Funding, made up of 28 lay and professional leaders from the organization, many of whom are also key board members at federations.

The JDC and the federation system’s other overseas partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel, have both seen a significant drop in the unrestricted money that they receive each year from Jewish federations. In the case of JDC, the organization has seen its federation support for core funding drop from $45.1 million in 2001 to $32.9 million in 2009.

Compounding tensions has been a mounting disagreement over how the federation money should be divided between the two organizations. Under a longtime formula, the Jewish Agency receives 75 percent of the $100 million to $150 million per year that the federations annually provide the two organizations for core budget needs. But in talks with Jewish Agency the JDC has pressed for something closer to a 60-40 split.

Against that backdrop, the JDC committee met over a period of six months, studied the organization’s finances and came up with 13 recommendations for increasing funding in general, but specifically core budget support. The committee released its recommendations to the board Thursday after giving it to 12 federations 10 days ago; in addition, according to a JDC source, the federations’ umbrella organization, the Jewish Federations of North America, also received a copy.

According to the memo containing the recommendations, which was first published on JTA’s philanthropy blog, Fundermentalist.com, JDC says it is happy with the way some federations support for core budget needs. But, the memo added, “in communities where Federation funding for JDC is far below capacity, JDC should be prepared to adopt different approaches to fund raising.”

Over the past couple of days, rumors have swirled that JDC could be mulling leaving the federation system because it feels it needs more money and could do a better job of fund raising on its own.

Those stem from the paper’s first two recommendations: “Recommendation 1: In the absence of a new and acceptable national agreement on overseas funding, JDC relationships with Federations should fully transition to bilateral understandings that allow for different funding strategies for each Federation,” and “Recommendation 2: JDC will set criteria to assess if Federation funding of JDC meets its potential in each community. JDC will tailor its community-by-community approach in light of actual levels of Federation giving.”

But a JDC insider denies that the organization is looking to abandon the system. Instead, the source said, JDC believes in the system, and simply wants local federations to demonstrate that they feel likewise—in the form of maintaining their current level of support for the JDC ‘s core funding over the next three years. Federations not wiling to make such a pledge face the possibility of JDC starting to fund raise in their backyards, the source said.

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