Federation’s Fundraising Efforts Experienced a Big Bump in 2023

Gil Preuss, Photo Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Support for Israel and local Jewish communities after the Oct. 7 attacks helped lead to a significant increase in 2023 fundraising totals for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, which will provide a boon to the larger Jewish community as the donations are turned into grants to help fund a wide range of important initiatives. The Federation raised $52.2 million overall in 2023, according to a letter that the Federation shared with its supporters and staff, an 18% increase from 2022.

The fundraising total included $39.1 million in Annual Campaign commitments and $13.1 million being invested in the Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation. Included in the Annual Campaign commitments is $14.7 for its Israel Crisis Emergency Fund, which was raised in just three months. The funds came from 11,145 donors, a more than 23% increase in total donors from the prior calendar year.

“We committed that every dollar raised for Israel will be sent to address the needs in Israel. And that is exactly what’s happening. So, 5,500 donors gave us $14.7 million, and we have used it around short-term and long-term trauma facing the survivors of the attack, as well as others who have faced trauma as a result of Oct. 7, and more,” said Gil Preuss, the Federation’s CEO.

Much of the money also made its way back into the local community as well, with $20.6 million from the Annual Campaign commitments being labeled as unrestricted, which is money donated to support the entire community rather than a hyper-specific cause.
That money will go to JCCs, local Jewish day schools, Hillels and other similar organizations. Preuss said that the largest grants the Federation gives out comes from that unrestricted pool of donations.

“It [those unrestricted donations] plays an important part in our core ability to serve this community. And so, those unrestricted dollars, which did go up even in the midst of raising all these additional dollars for Israel, will be distributed out to the community,” Preuss said.
The Federation was also able to raise an additional $3.8 million for its strategic priorities and fields of interest.

Preuss said that those dollars will help fund things ranging from security initiatives for the community that are needed now more than ever, to people and organizations trying to strengthen an aspect of Jewish life for targeted groups, such as young Jews.

On top of those figures, the Federation had a small decrease in donations to its Jewish Community Foundation from 2022, raising $13.1 million, down from $18.6 million the year prior.

This figure often fluctuates and “shifts from year to year,” Zach Briton, the Federation’s chief development officer, said in a 2023 article in the Washington Jewish Week.

The Federation will now work to distribute the funds by providing a series of grants to organizations that are selected through the volunteer Federation Strategic Planning and Allocations Committee, according to Preuss.

“They review proposals from agencies, they look at priorities for the community and then they will make recommendations and grants – both the unrestricted grants going out to support agencies and core functions, as well as programmatic grants for specific areas of investment that we are focusing on, and so that will all come together,” Preuss said.

The recommendations and analysis from the committee will be presented to the Federation’s board in June, with money beginning to go out to organizations on July 1.

But the fundraising efforts don’t stop now, as Preuss said there is still plenty of need for this money across the local Jewish community and to help people in Israel while the war continues.

“We raised this large amount as part of a crisis, but the needs are not going to end in the next three, six, nine months. We’re also going to be looking to continue some of our support of Israel and Israelis through this more programmatic fundraising effort this coming year. So, there are a series of different areas. Some of them are the same and some of them evolve as the needs of the Jewish community evolve,” Preuss said.

Preuss said that the fundraising goals for 2024 will focus on the major needs of the Jewish community that we’ve seen arise over the past several months, most notably, security and protection against antisemitism for the local community and continued support for Israelis and the state of Israel.

He added that those objectives would receive increased funding through the Federation’s 2024 fundraising effort. These efforts can vary from year to year, with the Federation pledging to increase support for teen mental health last year.

“I believe that from a fundraising perspective, we hope to be able to continue bringing in significant incremental resources to make sure that the challenges that arose on Oct. 7, and continue now, that we’ll be able to support and address those needs. That’s the task for our fundraising in the 2024 campaign. But we believe that there’s strong support within the community for Federation to continue doing this work,” Preuss said.

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