Linda A. Hurwitz enjoys telling people at Jewish federations across the country that she hails from Baltimore. Hurwitz, who travels to Jewish communities in her capacity as national campaign chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, explained last week that Baltimore has a “reputation” in the federation world.
“We are rare,” she said during a meeting at the downtown offices of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, which recently released annual fundraising numbers, notable both in terms of their size and the fact that, the sluggish economic recovery notwithstanding, they did not decrease. “People know that our community and The Associated are exceptionally strong.”
At the same meeting, Michael Hoffman, chief planning and strategy officer for The Associated, called the $30 million raised through the federation’s unrestricted annual campaign “strong.”
“We’ve raised additional funds through other sources, including endowments and funds and foundations,” added Hoffman. “That brings our total amount of allocable dollars to $47.2 million.”
That is good news for the 14 agencies and programs that rely on funding from The Associated. According to Hoffman, all of them will receive at least 100 percent of the funding they received from the federation last year.
“In this age of restrained resources, we have raised the necessary dollars to keep our community whole while making sure that each dollar raised has the highest impact in meeting our mission, vision and values,” said Hurwitz, who, in addition to her role on the national stage, is outgoing chair of community planning and allocations and incoming chair-elect for The Associated.
Hurwitz pointed out that so many of The Associated’s donors make gifts that are unrestricted. Of the $17.2 million raised from sources other than the annual campaign, only $5 million was restricted by use.
“There is a trust factor when someone gives an unrestricted gift,” said Hurwitz. “They are saying, ‘I trust you to use my dollars to do what’s needed most.’”
Hurwitz credited internal auditing of Associated-funded programs with securing the trust of donors, as well as the federation’s goal of seeking feedback and recommendations from a broad swath of the Baltimore community through its commissions and committees.
Hoffman said that The Associated views its agencies as full partners.
“We meet with each agency two or sometimes three times a year and ask them what they need,” he explained. “There’s a level of transparency and a partnership that we’re proud of.”
Hurwitz noted that at one time, agency executives had the impression that they had to give The Associated a “dog-and-pony show” in order to obtain the funding they needed. Nowadays, she said, this is not the case.
“We don’t micro-manage the agencies,” said Hurwitz.
While The Associated will be funding most agencies and programs at the same level as last year — three specific programs, including the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, are even seeing increases in funding — that doesn’t mean that they don’t have areas of special concentration.
“Even in 2008, when people were telling us to give all of their contributions to social service agencies, we knew we had to spend money on the next generations,” Hurwitz said. “We are making a concerted effort to appeal to younger people.”
One example, said Hurwitz, is the launching of The Associated’s new Center for Jewish Camping. Another example is by involving young adults in leadership programs through the Center for Community Engagement & Leadership and IMPACT. As a result, Hoffman said The Associated has enjoyed a 26 to 30 percent increase among younger donors to the annual campaign.
In addition to the JCC, which will receive extra funds to help its campers obtain financial aid, other agencies that will see their disbursements increase are Jewish Community Services and the Pearlstone Center.
In another nod to the importance of engaging younger Jews, the PJ Library will be expanded to serve families with older children, said Hurwitz.
“These are families that might not otherwise connect to the Jewish community,” she explained. “We’re going a step further by offering PJ Library on the Town and PJ Library theater programs.”
The Associated has also expanded PJ Library offerings by partnering with local synagogues and secular institutions such as the Maryland Zoo and the National Aquarium, where they can provide onsite Jewish learning opportunities.
“We meet them where they are,” said Hurwitz. “We’ve learned that young families don’t only live in the 21208, 21209 and 21215 ZIP codes. We’ve started offering downtown JCC programs. We engage wherever we can. You give us a pinky and we’ll take the whole arm and bring you in.”