Local federations annual campaign tallies take hit

Local Jewish community federations closed their annual campaigns last month, and all three report a marked shortfall in donations. However, each will strive to fund Jewish community agencies and institutions at as high a level as possible, officials said.

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation took in $23.6 million, down 12 percent from the previous year. The Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay reported a tally of $2.85 million, down 15 percent. And the Jewish Community Federation of Silicon Valley brought in just over $2 million, down 10 percent.

Terry Friedkin

“In the federation system in general, campaigns are really down,” said Roberta Catalinotto, chief development officer for the S.F.-based federation. “Many have kept their campaigns open through the summer, which we’re not doing. Campaigns [nationally] were down anywhere from 15 percent to the high 20s.”

East Bay federation President Terry Friedkin is glad the local numbers weren’t that bad.

“We estimated almost exactly that number,” Friedkin said, referring to the 15 percent drop. “We saw the situation, so we did a lot of our solicitations in the fall. Our donors were very good to us. I’ve never gotten so many thank-yous for making the calls.”

Jyl Jurman, CEO of the Silicon Valley federation, said that despite a 10 percent drop, allocations to the individuals and agencies served by her institution have not been cut. That was accomplished through a smaller administrative budget and some employee benefit cuts.

Jyl Jurman

At the S.F.-based federation, where internal staffing costs were trimmed by 6 percent, some allocations have actually increased. For example, $350,000 in emergency funds have been earmarked to help parents pay for Sunday school and midweek religious school classes at synagogues.

That money is part of the S.F.-based federation’s multi-million-dollar Catalyst Initiative, undertaken to combat the impact of the recession on local Jewish community needs.

Catalinotto said donors to the S.F.-based federation stepped up when the call went out for extra support. “There were many donors who, even though it was difficult, kept their gift at least at the same level — and some increased,” she said. “They said, ‘We know it’s a tough year but we want to support the community at this time.’ ”

At the East Bay federation, the campaign shortfall triggered cutbacks, including staff furloughs, a 33 percent trimming of internal operations, a 5 percent allocations cut for 2010 and a temporary reduction in 403(b) retirement benefits. But federation CEO James Brandt insisted those cuts will not stop the federation from carrying out its core mission.

Immediately after passing the 2010 budget last week, Brandt said, “The federation board of directors earmarked an initial $40,000 for financial relief to be distributed by East Bay congregational rabbis through rabbinic discretionary funds to individuals and families facing economic hardship.”

Though expenses and operational costs remain under a microscope, with a scalpel at the ready, Friedken said, “We made a decision in January that we would focus on institutions and agencies, and making sure their infrastructure was safe.”

Despite this year’s downturn, Friedkin remains optimistic about the 2009-10 campaign goal, so much so the target has been increased to approximately $3.1 million — which would be a significant increase over this year’s total.

That doesn’t mean the cost cutting won’t continue, and frugality remains the order of the day at the East Bay federation, Friedkin said. Take an upcoming women’s philanthropy event, for example.

“Rather than having it in a hotel or restaurant, we’re having it as a walk around Lake Merritt with a bag lunch,” she said. “And our full board retreat is at a private home with a potluck.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.