The Federation of The Future

Alarmingly, Federation donations, in terms of the number of donors, has been in a serious decline for decades. In Nashville, the annual campaign figures have neither significantly increased over the past decade, nor has the level or the amount of giving kept up with the rate of inflation. 

Furthermore, the complicated relationship between American Jews and the State of Israel has made some Jews question the funding equation regarding domestic versus overseas allocations. Currently, our Federation gives Israel 34% of the dollars raised. The increasing number of interfaith households may question the level of giving to uniquely Jewish philanthropies. 

Many feel the single most responsible thing we can do to perpetuate Jewish survival, is to redirect the percentage of funds raised to increased support for local Jewish agencies, organizations and religious institutions.  

Israel no longer needs the funds as much as local agencies do. Many Israelis feel that the most important thing American Jews can do to support Israel is to protect and promote Jewish life here at home. 

With that in mind, I respectfully offer a few thoughts and suggestions for the future:  

  1. Federations needs to return to a singular focus on raising dollars to support local Jewish causes.  

  1. In so doing, Federations will disengage from providing direct services and programs. This is the work of the various agencies and institutions it supports. 

  1. These changes may lead to a significant reduction in staffing levels and related expenses. Lower personnel costs would allow for hundreds of thousands of freed up dollars to go  directly to both existing and emerging institutions in our community. 

  1. The Federations should evolve to accept and encourage more donor-directed giving, with a significant percentage of individual gifts designated towards specific, targeted choices for those contributions. 

  1. Federations should continue to recognize the vital role that synagogues play in sustaining vibrant Jewish communal life, and increase the regular, sustained funding for them. The current local figure of five thousand dollars per year is woefully insufficient and will need to grow. 

  1. Security needs should become a dominant area for funding, in response to increased anti-semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric and threats of violence. 

  1. The Community Relations Committee needs to be reconfigured, to better respond to the realities of an ever more diversifying Jewish community. It will need to reflect a more balanced approach and perspective, including the valid opinions and concerns of the wider Jewish community. 

  1. The local Federation, whether through its Community Relations Committee, or perhaps directly through its elected and professional leadership, needs to respond rapidly, decisively, and publicly, to acts of anti-Semitism and to other forms of hatred, bigotry and threats of violence. 

  1. The local Federation will be called upon to present a courageous, vigorous vision for the future of the community, one that proposes calculated risks and rewards in shaping a bold new direction that will attract new donors. 


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