Have you ever wondered how the Federation decides where to invest the money you donate? We’ve made some changes recently to streamline the process and better ensure impact, all with an eye towards enhanced transparency and better communication with the community. So, here’s how it works:
Each year we assemble a Grants Committee comprised of a representative cross-sample of our Nashville Jewish community, with geographic, demographic, and Jewish religious diversity, ensuring that many (and new) voices are heard. The Committee meets regularly over the course of the grant cycle to learn about the organizations which have submitted funding requests, and to evaluate those submissions.
The amount of money available to grant each year is based largely on the results of the Federation’s annual campaign. Last year we distributed just over $2 million in grants. Many of those allocations are now distributed via “block grants” to long-term partners, with additional funds set aside for emerging community needs. This is a new approach for us and allows us to be much more flexible and nimbler with the way we respond to unanticipated community needs that inevitably come up during the year.
The organizations and projects which are granted communal dollars are accountable for using them responsibly, effectively, and impactfully. Under our new grants model, our Federation staff team partners with grant recipients to develop a program evaluation plan to ensure that our funds are having the desired impacts, both for our partners and for us.
In recent years, our Federation has allocated roughly 65% of our grant dollars to meeting our community’s needs here at home in Nashville, and roughly 35% of our grant dollars to supporting Jews around the world via our Israel and Overseas grants.
The Federation Board has reviewed our communal needs and the impact of retaining a larger percentage of funds in the local community. We are facing significant increases in security needs, fighting antisemitism, larger numbers of elderly community members needing assistance, and dramatically increased mental health challenges in the community. Based on this review, the Board has directed this year’s Grants Committee to allocate 80% of the dollars granted to local Nashville organizations, and 20% to Israel and Oversees. In addition to better meeting our local needs, this 80/20 split puts us very much in line with other Federations our size. Going forward, the split will be reevaluated by the Board of Directors annually.
The Grants Committee began meeting in September and will continue to meet through November. The committee will then make their recommendations to the Federation Board, which will approve and/or modify those recommendations at their November board meeting. Block Grant awards will be announced in December, with the dollars distributed throughout 2024.
Emerging Needs small grants are evaluated on an ongoing basis, available throughout the year so that we can respond quickly and effectively as needs arise. Based on our community needs assessment, our Emerging Needs priorities for 2024 are Mental Health, Promoting a Civil and Just Society, Young Families, and Single Adults. Any community group can apply for an Emerging Needs grant; contact Michal Becker (email@example.com) for more information.
This is a time of renewal and growth for our Nashville Jewish community, with new leadership, energy, and excitement. Both through our own direct work and through our network of beneficiary agencies and partners, we can fulfill our mission of promoting the welfare, viability and cohesiveness of the Jewish community while working to ensure its continuity. As we move forward together into 2024 and beyond, we're both humbled by and extremely proud of the essential and important work being done with your support.
*This is the first in what will be a series of articles aimed at transparently explaining where the Federation spends money, and how we make those decisions. For more information on our allocations, please see our annual report: https://issuu.com/jfednashvill...
By Leslie Kirby, President Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville
David Bockian, Chairman Grants Committee
Michal Becker, Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville Director of Impact & Planning
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