TORONTO — UJA Federation of Greater Toronto has been spending much time on its budgeting process in the wake of the recession that began four years ago. The organization is now balancing greater need in the community with fewer dollars to spend each year.
The CJN met recently with senior federation staff members to discuss the amount raised in the annual campaign, and how budget and local allocations are affected.
In its 2012 campaign, which ended this summer, UJA raised $60.5 million. Of that, $3.3 million was earmarked by donors for specific causes. The rest constituted unrestricted gifts that are allocated according to needs determined by the federation and community volunteers.
The larger, unrestricted segment, makes the most difference to the community, explained Steven Shulman, campaign director and counsel.
Beginning in 2008, the entire philanthropic world was hit by the recession, Shulman said. “We’ve had challenges, but have been coming through better than the vast majority of organizations, because people recognize the primacy of UJA.”
Federation has been tightening its belt to address what Shulman called a “diminution” of dollars. The 2011 campaign raised $63 million, $2.5 million more than this past year.
“We have a very lean staff, and almost 700 volunteer canvassers,” said Shulman. As well, he added, there have been $2.2 million in “internal cuts” over the last four years, including eliminating the federation’s legal department, to minimize costs.
As well, staff for the Joshua Institute of Jewish Communal Leadership and Top Bunk – a Jewish camp incentive program – were let go, although the programs are still running.
Most notably – and controversially – in 2009, the federation’s Centre for Jewish Education (CJE) was downsized dramatically, and its annual budget was cut by more than $1 million.
Ted Sokolsky, the federation’s president and CEO, said that the previous entity was “great for a different era. Schools are much stronger now, and have the resources to develop curriculum.”
As well, Shulman added, costs have been cut by bringing in someone who works on contract instead of having a full-time staff member to organize events such as professional development days.
“None of this is at the expense of day schools,” Shulman said, addressing concerns that have been raised.
Adam Minsky, senior vice-president of community capacity building, said the CJE has four priorities: affordability of Jewish education, developing a strategy for special education, school accreditation and supplementary education for kids who aren’t in the day school system. Three of them relate to day schools, he pointed out, adding that the federation has increased the amount of money it allocates to day schools in recent years.
Despite overall cuts including $42,000 for seniors and $16,000 to the Committee for Yiddish, there were also allocation increases this past year. An extra $176,000 went toward providing financial assistance to vulnerable members of the community this year, and an additional $100,000 was allocated to women’s abuse programs, Jeff Springer, senior vice-president of corporate affairs, said.
Jewish Family and Child’s financial assistance program is “practically the only one of its kind in North America,” Sokolsky said. Shulman added that more families have needed assistance this year, because severance packages are running out for middle-aged parents who lost their jobs in the recession and haven’t found employment since.
Some of the federation’s most ambitious projects, such as the new Schwartz-Reisman Centre at the 50-acre Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus, and the Prosserman JCC, which is expected to open in late 2014, are not funded through the annual UJA campaign.
With other pressing issues in the community – day school tuition, for example – where does the high cost of the new Jewish campuses fit in?
Sokolsky said the capital campaign for the new buildings and campuses have enhanced the UJA campaign by getting mega-donors to “reconnect with the Jewish community in a way they haven’t before.
“When you have a big idea, you attract big money… This site [Lebovic] is finally going to anchor the northern Jewish community. It’s an investment.”
“People do give money for capital projects. It’s part of their philanthropy, their strategy,” he explained. “The same people who have their names on these buildings are mega-givers to the annual campaign.
“In terms of a lifetime of giving, it’s much higher than what their capital gifts are. If I knew that every year, I could get $110 million from the same donors, I would say, ‘Sure, lets have free [day school] tuition for all.’”
He offers this analogy: “Tuition for 11,000 students is $120 million. That’s the cost of [the Schwartz/Reisman Centre]. [If it were allocated to tuition,] it would be gone in one year.
“You need buildings,” he said. “We have to stack up against the general community and give people a sense of pride in the community.”
Springer said the buildings are designed for revenue generation, and Sokolsky said they will “carry themselves” financially.
Shulman noted that it’s the annual campaign that funds programs in the new buildings.
Springer said doing the budget is a three-month process.
“It’s about active, divergent communities with a lot of needs and looking at our budget line by line by line.”
For more detailed information about the federation’s budget, visit www.jewishtoronto.com/budgetreport.