Federation campaign perfomance essentially flat

According to figures given by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, unrestricted giving has remained flat in the last few years.
According to figures given by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, unrestricted giving has remained flat in the last few years.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington in 2015 registered a gain of $100,000 over the previous year in commitments to its annual unrestricted campaign. But with the total campaign, which includes donor-directed funds, decreasing from $25.1 to $23.7 million, the wider fundraising picture shows that money raised by the Jewish community’s central planning and allocations agency has been largely flat for several years.

In a Jan. 15 email to its board of directors and others, the Federation reported $47.5 million committed to the agency through Dec. 31. That figure includes $23.8 given to the Federation’s United Jewish Endowment Fund (UJEF).

Federation CEO Steven Rakitt said the agency’s board will decide how to allocate the funds from the unrestricted campaign in April.

He pointed to several highlights of 2015: A number of Federation-run trips to Israel led to “more people volunteering with Federation … and more understanding of community needs.”


He called 2015 “an extraordinary year for the endowment,” and said the number of donors to the campaign of more than $10,000 had increased. In addition, every board member of 20 local agencies that receive Federation funds made donations to the annual campaign.

The Federation is operating in a changed fundraising environment, as much of the American Jewish community is still recovering from the recession that began in 2008.

A 2014 study found that Jewish nonprofits lost $1 billion in the recession between 2007 and 2013. “The wallop … was worse than the one absorbed by American nonprofits overall during the Great Recession and its aftermath,” wrote the New York Jewish Week, which commissioned a study on “Jewish GDP.” (The New York Jewish Week has no institutional ties with WJW.)

This month, study co-author Mark Pearlman wrote in the New York Jewish Week that by 2014, the most recent year for which the information was available, that “federations’ total revenues significantly increased” from a year earlier, “but that some federations are doing far better than others.”

Only one-third of federations had returned to their revenue levels of 2007, he wrote.

The $19.4 million raised in the Washington Federation’s 2015 unrestricted annual campaign is 0.5 percent more than the $19.3 million raised in 2014. Directed gifts, however, decreased from $5.7 million in 2014 to $4.3 in 2015.

Part of that decrease can be attributed to the lack of an emergency Israel campaign as in 2014, when the Jewish state battled Hamas forces in Gaza, which collected $900,000.

In 2009, the Federation allocated $23.5 million in unrestricted funds, but the following year, collected $19.4 million. Five years later, the performance of the campaign has essentially remained unchanged.

In contrast, in the smaller community of southwestern Pennsylvania served by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, fundraising for its annual campaign has proceeded on a steady clip since 2010.

According to available figures, its campaign that year brought in $12.8 million, followed by fundraising totals of $13 million, $13.35 million, $13.5 million and $13.63 million in each of the successive years.

Northeast of Washington, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore raised $30.5 million in its 2014-15 campaign, a growth of $500,000 from its 2013-14 campaign.

Asked if the Federation had returned to its pre-recession levels, Rakitt demurred, saying only that his agency was “on the path for continued growth.”

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