Fundraising During Pandemic Remains Strong

Fundraising During Pandemic Remains Strong

Jewish Atlanta organizations cite financial results required to support growing needs.

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta expects to distribute over $21 million for programs in the next year.
Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta expects to distribute over $21 million for programs in the next year.

Recently released financial statistics show strong support during the past year for key nonprofit organizations in the Atlanta Jewish community.

According to the latest figures from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, released Aug. 2, its Atlanta Jewish Foundation allocated more than $39.2 million, nearly 80 percent of which went to Jewish organizations.

The Federation estimated that the combined community impact with its Foundation for the 2020-21 fiscal year was more than $53 million. Slightly more than half of donors this past year were new or gave increased gifts.

Eric Robbins is CEO and president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

In announcing the results, Federation president and CEO Eric Robbins said, “We were humbled by the community’s generosity this past year in the face of such trying times.”

During the coming year the Federation has earmarked over $21 million to fund their own programs and those of 70 partners.

Robbins told the AJT that the financial results during the pandemic were an indication of the important role the organization plays in the community.

“I believe the reason we did as well as we did was because people realized that they care about this community and they care about these organizations and they didn’t want to see them suffer in a year when maybe their revenue would be down for other reasons.”

At Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta, a social service beneficiary of financial support from the Federation, donations were also strong.

Terri Bonoff is CEO of Jewish Family & Career Services.

CEO Terri Bonoff indicated she is proud of the record they’ve set during their own fundraising year, which ended June 30.

“People really stepped up. We ended up the year with our largest campaign ever in Atlanta. In our annual campaign, our annual donors continued their giving from the previous year and many increased their donations.”

Both the Federation and JF&CS also received a $5.6 million gift in February from the Frances Bunzl Family Trust, believed the largest such contribution in the history of the organizations.

But along with the record-breaking contributions has come a rapid expansion of services during the last 1½ years. According to Bonoff, the demand for help has sometimes seemed staggering.

“We’ve ramped up our emergency financial assistance to be able to provide for those who needed help with rent, mortgage, utilities, food. We have given out over $1 million in hard cash financial assistance since the pandemic began. We’ve given out from our food bank approximately 250,000 pounds of food. To address the mental health demand, our community-funded clinicians are actually doing about 275 weekly sessions. We have a list of 20 people waiting to be seen who we haven’t even gotten to yet.”

At the Atlanta office of the American Jewish Committee, where the fiscal year is the same as the calendar year, fundraising has also been strong in 2021. According to Jennifer Pardee, the organization’s regional development director, the momentum that’s been generated during the pandemic has continued.

The Frances Bunzl Family Trust gave $5.6 million to the Federation and JF&CS.

“People are recognizing the value of the work we do, particularly with so much anxiety in the Jewish community about what’s going on around the world, anti-Semitism and with Israel. Last year we raised more money than ever before.”

Despite the encouraging results, there is still considerable nervousness over the future. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported last month that only half the donors they surveyed nationally plan to give as much in 2021 as they did last year.

According to Penelope Burk, a fundraising consultant who prepares her Burk Donor Survey each year, the sudden pandemic has been a key factor. “COVID-19 gave donors a focused, narrow urgent case to support,” she stated in the financial publication.

She went on to state that to avoid a drop in giving in coming years, fundraisers need to inspire donors with a new compelling reason to give.

“Donors can’t sustain an emergency mentality for too long,” she concluded.

The slowing of the vaccination rollout and new contagious virus variants also contribute to the uncertainty.

Despite the recent fundraising tallies, Robbins remains wary.

“I am hoping we can start getting together more. We got by for about 1½ years without what I call connectivity, which is, getting together in real time. As far as fundraising is concerned, I don’t know that we can do it for much longer.”

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