New Projects and New Insights

It has now been more than three years since I left the Jewish Federations of North America after many years as Associate Vice President for Planned Giving and Endowments, and a year since I completed an assignment at CJA Montreal as Senior Advisor to its very successful Centennial Campaign.  Since then, I have been acting as consultant to the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest and the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies in Buffalo. 

All of these assignments have been challenging, rewarding, and educational.  They’ve given me the opportunity to work with old friends and new, and watch highly disciplined and remarkably focused thinking and achievement at work. 

I’ve reinforced some long-held beliefs and learned some new things, particularly as they relate to endowment and foundation growth in our Federation and JCF systems.  My learning reinforces the ideas we encouraged as best practices in so many seminars and training sessions sponsored by JFNA’s Financial Resource Development department.

Here are some of the insights I’ve acquired:

  • Integrated resource development of all revenue streams is not only a good idea that will only grow the    bottom line, it’s one that has been adopted successfully by sophisticated and advanced charities.  This        approach encourages enhanced collaboration between annual, special and capital campaigns with      endowment or foundation activity, to the benefit of all.
  • Changes in tax policy are not likely to constrain the growth of endowment programs and community foundations over the next 10 years.  “It’s like the sun and the stars.” Supporting evidence can be found in any number of places, including Giving USA’s annual survey, which can be purchased online. 
  • Donors will readily accept the idea that Jewish Federations have more than one trick up their sleeves. Their association with other institutions—colleges, universities, hospitals, museums, etc.—have prepared them to see Federations in an evolved new light.  Very few will be surprised when senior staff or key leadership ask them to take part in unique campaigns that stretch the institution beyond the annual campaign.
  • My informal analysis of the Centennial campaigns of at least half a dozen federated communities in the U.S. and Canada—including the remarkable Chicago project—supports the above conclusions.  Centennial campaigns enable Federations to talk to donors in a wholly different way about the community’s needs. These communities also found that overall giving increased during the Centennial campaign period. And guess what? You don’t need to be celebrating a centennial to apply these strategies to your financial resource development.
  • In 35 communities in which a Federation and a Jewish Community Foundation coexist in support of each other, excellent collaboration around not only grant distribution, but fund development occurs as we speak.  Their relationship benefits the community.

In a 50-year period, the Federation system has accumulated over $21 billion in current or future commitments.  One of the questions that I—and others as well—have been pondering is this:  Where will the next $10 billion of assets in the Federation system come from, and how long will it take to raise it? 

The collaboration of JFNA and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation around legacy development continues to be at least part of the answer, but none of us can ignore the implications of the new tax act and investment policy on the growth of the entire endowment and foundation asset base.  

I’d be happy to talk with you about how I can help your community understand and benefit from these insights. Along with my own expertise, I have organized a unique advisory committee composed of highly experienced professionals who can assist you on a wide variety of endowment legal, development, governance and financial topics.

On a personal note, I am considering expanding my practice to include executive searches for endowment personnel.  Our field is unique, technical in nature, and requires specialized skills.  If I can be of help to your community or organization in this regard, please write or call. 

Joseph C. Imberman LLC, “The Endowment and Foundation Consulting Group”