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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Amid bleak economic times, the largest Jewish federation in North America has taken a fundraising hit, reporting on Monday that its annual campaign was down 11.5 percent compared to last year.
UJA-Federation of New York said it had raised $136 million as part of its 2009 general campaign, compared to nearly $154m. raised last year. Federation officials sought to put a positive spin on the numbers, reporting that in total, the federation raised $215.3m., including $60.5m. in planned giving and endowments, a 1% increase.
"Down campaigns are never easy, but by most accounts, down 11.5% is still extraordinary in this changed economic world. Raising $136m. reflects the faith and recognition of the unique role of UJA-Federation," John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO, said in a statement.
"This year was exceedingly challenging for every nonprofit. Closing at $136m. is a huge accomplishment."
Overall, the economy has taken a toll on Jewish and non-Jewish causes alike. Charitable giving fell 2% in 2008, according to the Giving USA Foundation.
Last week, the United Jewish Communities/Jewish Federations of North America - the umbrella group representing 157 Jewish federations in the US and Canada - projected a 13% decrease in fundraising for this year. So far this year, federations have received $608m. in pledges, whereas last year at this time, federations had taken in $714m.
A spokesman for UJC said the numbers were no surprise and that some federations were extending their campaigns beyond the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
Among federations reporting decreases in fundraising, the inevitable result of fewer philanthropic dollars is cuts in funding for programs. The board of directors of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, where campaign fundraising totals were down 3% from 2008, recently approved $9.8m. in allocations for fiscal year 2009-2010, an 8% drop from last year. To date, the federation's Community Campaign is running $2.2m. behind last year.
"The declining economy made for one of the toughest years in our community's history," said Sanford Neuman, federation campaign vice president. "Campaign fundraising totals were down 3% from 2008. It was the first decline in six years. In addition, endowment funds declined 27% in 2008 because of the performance of the financial markets."
At least one campaign has been relatively successful, however. The Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore raised $30.8m., their target for the year. The successful campaign ensured the federation's local social service programs would remain intact.
"We have to be the mouthpiece for the people that can't speak for themselves," Marc Terrill, Associated's president, told The Baltimore Sun. "So we went in with an attitude, essentially, that failure is not an option."