Tuesday, April 26, 2011


When I commented negatively on the Los Angeles federation's "brilliant" idea of doling out a $100,000 prize to THE BEST NEW JEWISH IDEA, I also noted that the Portland Jewish Federation was offering a $300,000 grant for innovative programming. From the LA CEO, whose innovation and persona I admire, I received an intemperate response telling me to "be ashamed" and offering, in aggressive language a statistical defense that I offered to print if that CEO would provide some back-up (to which I received an even nastier response -- but no back-up). I also received an e-mail from Marc Blattner, the Portland CEO, which I wanted to share with you:

"Let me provide you with some background information:

  • The purpose of our Community Impact Grants is to change the thinking of our partner agencies and our Jewish community as a whole. The past history has been institutions not working collaboratively (these grants are forcing collaboration) and new ideas were not coming to the table. Federation can no longer be the 'budget deficit filler.' We must find ways to create new and exciting programs to meet tomorrow's needs and not solely on yesterday's budget woes.

  • We are excited that we have received dozens of phone calls from organizations around the world interested in trying new initiatives in Portland...I truly believe our community can be the 'test market' for Jewish America, so why not start new ideas here. Any 501c3 is eligible as long as they partner with a Jewish organization on the ground in Portland. This has opened the doors to new people and new organizations bringing ideas to the table. I am confident we will get incredible proposals with many ideas not thought about in Portland before.

  • In regard to your comment about funding, and where will that $300,000 come out of. Well, our intent is to not have it come out of anywhere. We have raised an additional $132,000 in special gifts to help go toward the $300,000 (...over and above annual campaign contributions) -- with more 'asks' outstanding, and our campaign is currently up this year. Donors are excited about the potential for these new initiatives. In the end, we may see a small decrease in our typical agency allocations (not expected to impact overseas allocations at all), yet more dollars will be going into the community (local and overseas) in the end. We have explained, and our agency partners agree, that this may be a 'small short term loss for a larger long-term communal gain.' In addition, many of our partners may, in fact, receive even more money than they would have through a regular allocation cycle due to the extra funding for new (collaborative) projects.

  • Portland is still a community that provides 'block grants' to its agencies and does not allocate based on specific programs. We believe this helps to maintain the system as a whole.

  • It is important to note that unlike larger Jewish communities, Portland does not have scores of major donors, nor does it have hundreds of millions in endowments and donor-advised funds. We do have a passionate donor base that is seeking to maintain our quality services while also realizing the Jewish world continues to evolve and we must change with it."

LA CA and Portland OR. Contrast and compare. Remember the era of "best practices" -- when JFNA actually knew what was going on in the field?



Anonymous said...

I admire Portland for what they are trying to accomplish. Collaborations neede to be created and the "same old" will not move our communities into the future.

I understand they received 66 proposals with requests totaling over $3.5 million for their Community Impact Grants. These proposals were from Israel, around the United States and in Portland. Obviously organizations see Portland as a place to try new things.

paul jeser said...

Nachas to the max....

Marc Blattner was one of the 'kids' and very involved in our community when I was the Fed exec in Orlando! We knew he was going to be a great leader way back then....

His folks owned the Jewish Deli where most of us (especially from the north-east) 'lived.' :-)

Anonymous said...

In the past week Richard you have referenced three communities where retooling is in the works. I am sure there are others. Where is the serious JFNA study to compare and contrast. I am not talking about a mindless cataloguing of community efforts but a serious assessment of what works, under what conditions they can work and what might be the challenges that define success or failure. Or in the 21st century is serious analysis out and twittering in?

RWEX said...


I would assume that JFNA, so busy with itself, has had no clue that these programs -- the excellent or preposterous, it makes no difference -- even exist. And, worse, JFNA doesn't care. More's the pity. Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Don't Portland and Seattle offer parents who seek to provide their children with a Jewish education a $5000 limit on tuition costs?