UJF chair says campaign could meet goal despite tough economy
Despite cuts to its budget and the elimination of one full-time position, Daniel Shapira says the United Jewish Federation Annual Community Campaign commitments are up 1.3 percent this year and the fund drive could still meet its goal.
“Nationwide, [almost] every campaign is running negative, and here we are in Pittsburgh running up,” Shapira said. “I’m very optimistic we’ll meet our goal.”
“The needs for services in our community have never been as high as they are now,” he added, pointing to the rise of usage at the Career Development Center of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service and the demands for groceries at the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry as examples.
The UJF has raised $11.4 million so far in the 2009 Community Campaign. Its goal is $12.85 million.
Shapira, who is completing his second and final year as UJF chair, sat down for a Chronicle interview this week in which he went over the challenges the organization is facing as well as successes during his term.
UJF President Jeffrey Finkelstein, who is also “optimistic” about meeting the goal, added, “I don’t think it’s easy.”
“People who are on fixed incomes are saying they have less assets because the market has dropped,” Finkelstein said. Even so, he noted that many of those same donors are trying to maintain their giving levels instead of reducing them.
It’s hard to say how Pittsburgh’s campaign is doing compared to others.
“Every federation runs on a different calendar,” he said, “so the Florida federations are in the middle of their campaigns while we’re at the end. Chicago runs an 18-month campaign, so theirs doesn’t end until December.”
However, “most are going to be down, and down a lot,” he added. “And they’ve made drastic cuts to their own internal budgets as a result of that as well as to allocations.”
In Pittsburgh, the UJF also is scaling back.
It has frozen salaries for the coming fiscal year; it has cut spending by 4 percent, scheduled quarterly reviews that could lead to more revisions and reduced personnel spending by $25,000.
“The point is that money gets freed up to go to the community,” Finkelstein said. “There are also some reduced expenses we have this year that will free up some other dollars.”
All these details have been shared with the beneficiary agencies, he said to serve as a budget model they can replicate. “In all my years of experience, it’s the first time we’ve shared all this information with our agencies for guidance.”
But as he completes his term, Shapira also noted several achievements.
Over the past two years, the Holocaust Center raised $223,000 through its membership campaign — up significantly from previous marks. Shapira credited outreach to the non-Jewish community, which makes extensive use of the Holocaust Center.
It has raised $2 million for the community’s day schools and $860,000 for its pre-school programs. As a result, Shapira said, the schools are able to meet the vast majority of the scholarship demands it faces.
The UJF has reviewed its funding allocation process to make it more
Shapira also pointed to ongoing partnership talks with The Chronicle as one of his most significant achievements.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)