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When I first started this blog, it was in response to the outrageous behavior of the Jewish Tuition Organization and the manner in which they allocated money.  The blog ebbed and flowed with the vicissitudes of the mismanagement of our Jewish leaders, reaching an apex with the poorly thought out and hastily announced merger of what was left of the Jess Schwartz Academy and Pardes Jewish Day School.  My attention then drifted to the behavior of the Jewish Federation and their relentless and pernicious mismanagement of the future of the Jewish Community, highlighting the interlocking directorate that existed between the JCC and the Jewish Federation.  Now that those two poorly governed entities have merged, it will be a bit easier to shine a very bright light on what continues to be a threat to the existence of Phoenix’s Jewish Community, or at least their financial assets.  My apology is for an over reliance on invective and sarcasm which diminished the impact of my message.  The blog could have been more effective, could have really helped bring about change, and I squandered an opportunity to highlight the malfeasance of what is now the JCA, and things have gotten worse.  I will not make the same error twice.

This blog had a great following once, with readership hovering around 10,000 visits per month, and I am committed to publishing the same critical analysis with less sarcasm, less invective and opening the blog for people to contribute their own articles, anonymously or with attribution.  So without further delay, here is my first story of the “new” and “improved” blog.

The Unfortunate Truth about the JCA’s 2013 Campaign and its 2014 Allocations

I have been trying to get a copy of the JCA’s IRS 990′s to really learn what has been happening there, and they are not available on either Guidestar or Charity Navigator, so I am relying on information on the allocations by the JCA that were recently published by the Jewish News article on March 26 entitled “ $1.3M Allocated to Local Programs.” and on a Commentary published in the Jewish News on April 16 entitled “Community should increase help for Jewish day schools” both of which included data on the JCA’s 2013 annual fundraising campaign and their 2014 allocations.


The JCA reported in the March 27, 2014 Jewish News that its 2013 campaign raised $3.2 million.  Of this amount, $338,208 was donor designated and thus not available for allocation by the JCA.  It should be noted that many of the donors who make designated gifts are “double dipping” by making a restricted gift to the JCA and getting donor credit for that contribution while at the same time channeling support to the Jewish causes of their choice.  Through this plan these donors are in essence getting credit or kavod from two organizations for the same gift.

It is my understanding  that approximately $500,000 of the JCA campaign total comes from  endowment funds created at the Jewish Community Foundation by donors interested in providing a perpetual income stream to the JCA.  While reported as a part of the total campaign, this amount is received by the JCA automatically each year from the Foundation resulting in no development efforts or expenses to be expended by the JCA.  This means that the actual money raised in the campaign through the current efforts of staff and volunteers is approximately $500,000 less than the amount reported.

The 2013 campaign of $3.2 million less the designated gifts resulted in $2,861,792 of allocable support over which the JCA has full grant-making discretion. From the allocable amount of $2,861,792 the JCA allocated $250,000 to Israel or 8.7% of the total allocable amount.

After the $250,000 allocated to Israel there was $2,611,792 available for the support of local causes in the Greater Phoenix Jewish Community.  This $2,611,792 was allocated as follows:

$99,000 3.80% Jewish Day School Education
$525,000 20.10% Valley of the Sun JCC
$78,000 2.90% Bureau of Jewish Education
$33,000 1.20% Council of Jewish with Special
$80,000 3% Hillel at ASU
$259,000 9.90% Jewish Family and Children’s
$81,000 3.10% East Valley Jewish Community
$3,000 0.10% Arizona Jewish Historical
$1,000 0.03% Chabad ASU
$6,500 0.20% Friendship Circle
$3,500 0.10% Jewish Student Union
$7,000 0.20% Phoenix Jewish Film Festival
$5,000 0.10% Jewish Arizonans on Campus
$15,000 0.50% Jewish Free Loan
$5,500 0.10% Jewish Genetic Diseases Center
$5,000 0.10% Kivel
$7,500 0.20% Smile on Seniors
$22,500 0.80% Valley Beit Midrash
$5,000 0.10% BBYO
$50,000 1.90% Israel Center
$9,000 0.30% Israeli Camp Counsellors

Of the total allocable dollars available for JCA grants, approx. 54.2% was allocated and approx. 45.8% was retained by the JCA for its own operating costs, overhead and undisclosed programs.


I could wax on forever about the wisdom of propping up the campus and the JCC, and whether it is prudent to be spending JCA dollars to do that, but here is what it boils down to.  Give a dollar to the JCA and about half winds up benefitting Jewish charitable causes.  Presuming that donors are OK with the agencies getting allocations and the way in which the pie is divided, the idea that your dollar is diminished by so much and has such minimal impact begs the question about whether the JCA is the most effective way of supporting the community.  Another way of saying this is that it costs more than $1,196,200.73 dollars for the JCA to operate or to raise $1.6 million dollars.  Generally speaking, Charity Navigator or Guidestar would rate this performance as failing.  General and administrative expenses greater than 10% would raise eyebrows, so general and administrative expenses of 45.8% for every dollar donated means that there is only a possibility of 54.2 percent of the money you donate ever getting to the organizations who need it.  If you donated the money directly to the organizations you wanted to support, your money would go twice as far.

Consider the donor who has a Donor Advised Fund  at the  Jewish Community Foundation.  Their dollar contributed to their fund actually grew by more than 19% last year through prudent investment management.  So they now have $1.20 to give and that $1.20 can be granted to  any charitable organization where the donor feels the need is greatest.

So it boils down to effectiveness, efficiency and impact and when you look at it that way, giving to the JCA is just not a smart business decision for donors who really want to make a difference.

PS – Special thanks to my research and accounting colleagues who did the heavy lifting here – MG