New grant model allows Federation to fund wide variety of programs

by Marla Cohen 

pie chart 1Holocaust survivor and education services, Israel education, youth leadership development, Jewish unity and senior programming are just a handful of needs that will be funded this coming year through a new grant program of the Jewish Federation of Rockland County based on “compelling needs.”

The board of directors voted in late May to approve the recommendation of the allocations committee, divvying up $54,230 among 12 different programs. The grants went to the Federation’s five beneficiary agencies and to Nanuet Hebrew Center, the only synagogue that applied for funds through the new program.

“I was very satisfied with the process,” said Nat Wasserstein, who assumes the presidency on July 1 and steered the grant program. “It will need tweaking for the future, but it went well. We wanted a process that was logical and reasonable and fair and I think we got just that.”

The board voted to grant $16,470 to Rockland Jewish Family Service for a program that helps support Holocaust survivors, for “Traditions” a Jewish holiday celebration program for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and for “Total Teen” a program that offers a range of services for teens with social deficits on the autism spectrum. JCC Rockland received $14,900 for a Jewish holiday program aimed at young families, Israel education and connection through its shaliach program, and for adult senior programming.

The Holocaust Museum and Study Center received $8,600 for an interactive audiovisual program, “Survivor Station,” and for a Tisha b’Av program that seeks to reach all segments of the Jewish community, including modern Orthodox, haredi and Hasidic, as well as Reform and Conservative Jews, on the traditional day of Jewish mourning.

The Center for Jewish Campus Life/Hillel at SUNY Rockland received funding for a Jewish student leadership institute that would offer highly specific Jewish programming to 15 selected students per semester. As well, Hillel received funds for a program designed to foster unity among Jews of varied backgrounds. Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School received $4,500 for a leadership training program aimed at eighth graders.

Nanuet Hebrew Center received $4,860 for a mitzvah fair. The program is intended to be community-wide and aimed at presenting information regarding mitzvah projects to students about to embark on their studies for their bar or bat mitzvah. As well it would create a project for United Synagogue Youth, the Conservative movement’s youth program, to construct sukkot for those who are physically or financially unable to construct their own.

That the Nanuet Hebrew Center was the only synagogue that applied for grants came as a disappointment to members of the allocations committee. “We felt we could provide some financial support for programs in the community and invited them to be a part of this process,” said Wasserstein. “We know the synagogues need things, they have compelling needs, and we were surprised they did not respond to this. Maybe the message wasn’t strong enough that it was really happening.”

Earlier this year the Federation board decided that instead of only giving unrestricted funds to its agencies it would decrease what it allocates from the $800,000 it raises annually to those organizations over the next three years. The money reserved from those decreases would instead go toward a “compelling needs” grant program, to which those agencies, as well as other community organizations can apply for funding.

This year agencies will receive 80 percent of their 2010-2011 funding in the upcoming allocations cycle, which begins with the new fiscal year on July 1. The following year they will receive 50 percent of the 2010-2011 allocation, and in the third year, they will receive 20 percent of that funding.

Overall, members of the allocations committee were pleased with the process and the results. In the meeting, they created a mechanism where each person had a dollar that came to the total number of people voting, which was 14. They could vote their “funds” in any amount from zero to 14. From the totals for each grant, they created a percentage. Grants were then funded at the percentage of what the agency requested for the program. For example an agency requesting $3,000 for a program that received votes totaling 53 percent of the votes cast received a grant of $1,600.

“I think we were fair in the allocations for the compelling needs,” said Steve Gold, who chaired the compelling needs committee and served on allocations as well. “I thought the organizations that submitted did an excellent and thorough job.”

The Holocaust Museum did well out of the process and will receive $5,620 more in both grants and unrestricted funding than it did last year from just unrestricted funds. The total funding will come to $22,500. Hillel and Gittelman received more modest funding bumps of $360 and $500 respectively.

JFS held nearly steady, receiving $83,670, or $330 less than it did last year in funds. And JCC Rockland’s funding went from $117,000 to $108,645, a loss of $8,355. However, in addition to that funding, the JCC will receive $25,000 from the Federation toward hosting the JCC Maccabi Games, which will be held in August 2012.Those funds are an additional amount of unrestricted funding awarded to the JCC this year, which is separate from the new grant and regular allocation process, said Wasserstein.

Wasserstein said that he did not present the funding figures from the previous year to the allocations committee during the three-hour meeting. He wanted them to focus on the task at hand and not what had happened in the past.

“We were not looking whether we were going to put any organization up or down in funding, but really just looking at the merits of each grant,” he said.

Members of the allocations committee say the process will be improved and streamlined for next year, but overall think this is a good model for the future.

“I think with more money to work with next year, you will see a lot happier agencies,” said Paulette Viana, a member of the committee. “This is the way we have to go and I think donors will be very happy to see where the money is going and being in touch with where it’s going.”

July/August 2011

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