Federation shifts focus to fund agency programs

Federation shifts focus to fund agency programs

‘Hybrid’ allocations meant to show donors how dollars are used

The Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County has instituted a new allocation process as a means, leaders said, to better align resources with real community needs.

Rather than a single allocation to an agency, the federation will begin designating money for specific programs within the agencies. In the first year of the new process — for the fiscal year that started July 1 — 25 percent of allocated funding must be applied to specific programs; in the second year, 50 percent; and in its final year, all funding is expected to be programmatic.

The new process is in place this year, beginning July 1, for the federation’s eight constituent agencies (see box).

Despite a reduced campaign, the federation took conservative measures to ensure that these agencies receive 99 percent of the funding totals from last year.

“A lot of work and feedback went into the creation of this model,” said federation planning and allocations director Laura Safran. “We understand from marketing research and talking to people that they want to know that their dollars are being used effectively, and our committee felt the best way to do this is through programmatic allocations.”

The new model is being phased in over three years to gradually acclimate the federation’s eight core beneficiary agencies.

The new model will also allow federation to build and strengthen partnerships with agencies beyond these historical partners that can offer programming with a “measurable” impact on the Jewish community, said Safran.

Allocations committee chair Jeffrey Schwartz said the plan was several years in the making.

“This is going to leverage donor dollars better to meet more needs with fewer resources and is part of the positive evolution of federation toward giving in the community,” said Schwartz, of Monmouth Junction.

Safran said federation is using a “hybrid” allocation process as it phases in the model, combining core and programmatic funding, with regular assessments to measure progress.

“We are not stuck on the three-year timeline,” explained Safran. “We incorporated flexibility into this model to ensure that we are meeting our objectives over time.

“We made communication a top priority,” said Safran. “We went to every agency and told them what we were doing. We will work together with service providers to promote and implement programs that meet emerging needs.

“Federation wants to demonstrate to our donors the impact of their philanthropic commitment. We want to tell them how many clients were served and how their lives have been improved.”

This new model, which is focused on the federation’s local partners, said Safran, “reflects a national trend among all but the largest federations to move toward more programmatic funding.”

Some of the agencies that are not used to program-based allocations may find the new process difficult at first, said JFVS executive director Sara Levine, but for her agency, the new funding model will be fine. In fact, much of her agency’s funding is already provided in this way, she said, adding, “We’re very accustomed to this process.”

The new approach also dovetails with the federation’s new mission statement highlighting the federation’s goals of caring for the most vulnerable, attracting people to a more vibrant community through outreach and engagement, and inspiring the next generation to embrace Jewish life.

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