Sunday, February 28, 2016


Recently, The New York Jewish Week published its "Jewish GDP (Gross Domestic Product) study" and announced "Some Federations Rebounding From the Great Recession."

This is an important study and it does offer hope (after weeks over which the stock market plunged) that "happy days" are either here again...or approaching after "non-profits still seen struggling long after recession" as The Jewish Week noted one year ago. Curiously, however, the author chose to focus on the "success," the rebound, of the Jewish Federation of Greater Boston -- The Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the CJP as its known. Curiously, because the CJP is not the paradigm I would have chosen...far from it. As we pursue this analysis, please bear in mind that the Jewish population of Greater Boston is about the same as that of Metropolitan Chicago and, then, let's compare:

First, the raw data on the CJP success:  " increased total revenues over 1.5 times (161%) since 2007..." Our friend, Jeffrey Solomon, now Senior Advisor to Chasbro Investments, opined:
"Boston's federation made the strategic choice to partner with Jewish families in their pursuit of doing good, most especially when these projects aligned with the federation's priorities. That abandoned the historical concept of the primacy of the annual campaign. As a result, they have been outpacing all other large communities, including in the growth of their annual campaign."
Hmmm, if Jeff was quoted accurately, there is direct correlation between abandoning "the primacy of the annual campaign" and Boston CJP's "incredible success." Under this construct, Cleveland, Chicago, Miami and Baltimore...everywhere in fact where the annual campaign retains its primacy with annual success and amazing vitality, should abandon that primacy right now. Further, because of the unavailability of comparative data, it can only be noted that CJPs growth has been almost totally in the realm of "designated" giving while its unrestricted annual campaign continues to wither. (A comparison of Boston's campaign data submitted to JFNA for Dues computations which deducts designated gifts from the gross annual campaign numbers helps to tell the tale.) But there is no reason really that either the author of the Jewish Week article or Jeffrey Solomon would know that.

There is probably no federation more dedicated to families -- with a particular focus on young families -- than is the Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago through its "JUF Young Families" Initiatives. The success of that community's annual campaign isn't "article worthy" because it happens year-after-year-after-year -- how boring that is, apparently. The same would be true of Miami and Cleveland and Baltimore, among others. For Chicago, 2015 was a record year:
"The Annual Campaign is the largest element of an overall fundraising operation that last year mobilized $203,718,220 to help more than 70 vital social service agencies and programs feed, clothe, house and otherwise care for 300,000 Chicagoans of all faiths, and provide humanitarian assistance to 2 million Jews in Israel and around the world."
The last available JFNA data that allow a comparison between annual campaigns of the CJP and Chicago are the of the 2013 Campaigns -- Chicago's at $81,541,439; Boston's at $44,402,700. Remember, these communities have almost identical Jewish populations. Then there's overseas allocations including supplemental giving -- Chicago's $30,797,378; CJP's $5,481,256. (That's Chicago's 37.8% of campaign; Boston's at 12.3%)

Now all of this is not meant to deprecate Boston's great revenue growth; merely to put it into a fair and appropriate context. After all if you start from $0 and raise $10 the percentage growth is phenomenal. But...really.



Anonymous said...

oh the intrigue of the press!! How things can be spun. Boston counts everything in their totals. In particular, the achievement of other organizations. How well are they doing for their local "beneficiary agencies"? Ask a few. I think they count everything in the city including revenue from increased ticket revenue from the Patriots! What a joke. Jewish publications are a laugh.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about Boston and how they report their fundraising results.
I'm sure that the Federations know exactly how their fundraising efforts compare to the other federations in their city-size groups because JFNA's Philanthropic Resources department must compile those statistics annually so that apples can be compared to apples, etc., and Best Practices can be shared.
I guarantee that Jerry Silverman can shed some light on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Silverman can shed light on this issue? I'm assuming Anon@7:54 is being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I've been off-line for a few days (everyone should try it once in a while).
Yes, I was being sarcastic......