Danielle Minson — How You Help
Honoring our Commitment: 2019’s Planning and Allocations Highlights
“Since the community raises the dollars, it makes sense that the community allocates them as well,” said Sherri Symson, Vice President of Planning and Allocations (P&A) for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
Yet Cincinnati is one of the few Federations that allocates the Annual Campaign in such a fully participatory way this way. More than 60 volunteers spend 650 hours over six months to review funding requests and budgets and assess community organizations, ensuring donations are given to local programs that most effectively address the most critical needs in the community and nurture Jewish life locally, nationally, globally, and in Israel.
“We are lucky that we had a visionary, former Vice President of Planning and Allocations, Suzette Fisher, who changed the way the Annual Campaign is allocated in Cincinnati 10 years ago,” Symson said.
“It’s a much more robust process for everybody, and far more democratic,” said Elida Kamine, cochair of the Connecting Council, a part of P&A. “It brings a range of community perspectives and viewpoints ensuring we are making wise decisions about the use of campaign dollars. Because we are a small community, we are personally invested in the work we’re doing.”
A New Reality
The P&A Committee went into the year with a new reality. The needs within the community are increasing, while funding from our Annual Campaign has remained relatively stable. Symson said the council members began by asking: given this reality, “how do we best serve the community?”
“We knew that we would not be able to offer any significant increases to organizations this year,” she continued, “so instead of making the allocations process perfunctory, we engaged organizations in strategic discussions about what we want our community to look like in 2030.”
“We had on the top of our minds the upcoming community study and the goals of Cincinnati 2020,” said Barb Miller, the Federation’s Director of Community Building. “So we asked the professional and volunteer leaders of each agency and the professionals of each funded program what matters to them most, what they hope to have answered through the community study, and what could enhance their program or the populations they serve.”
“We sent our veteran volunteers back to places they had visited before, not just to learn top-level details about specific programs, but to deepen their knowledge of that organization,” Symson said.
“The conversations were focused less on metrics, which was refreshing,” Kamine said. “We had strategic conversations with agencies about their needs for the future. And we ended up having really thoughtful and comprehensive conversations within our P&A councils about our community and its agencies. We focused a lot this year on the ‘planning’ part of P&A.”
Federation President Gary Greenberg said he appreciates the effort the committee puts into the process. “I’m grateful for the volunteers, who not only devoted many hours, but who took intentional steps to broaden the conversation about the future of our community.”
‘Honoring Our Commitment’
This year the P&A Committee significantly increased funding to one important new program—the Jewish Family Service Russian Jewish Cultural Center.
“We were we able to provide additional support for this program through our Annual Campaign,” said Danielle V. Minson, Chief Development Officer and Managing Director for the Federation, “but we also found support thanks to generous donors in our community who, through project giving, made sure the most vulnerable in our community are being helped.”
“Our community came together to bring Jews from the former Soviet Union to Cincinnati more than 25 years ago, and it was important to all of us in this process that we made sure we honored our commitment to this part of the
community,” Kamine said.
In addition to the Russian Jewish Cultural Center, the committee allocated funds with an eye towards increasing inclusion.
“Cincinnati is a great community, but we can always do more to be inclusive,” Symson said. “That includes children and adults with disabilities, older adults, and the LGBTQ community. It also includes inclusivity of and sensitivity to the needs of people within the different strains of Judaism. We have the ability to improve and become a leader in these areas. We want to attract people to Cincinnati who want to see this in our community.”
Why We Give
Through participating in the allocations process, Symson said, it only feels natural to also give back as a family.
“I see the need, and I know that the community cannot continue to be strong unless people like us—younger people—step up. Adam [Symson’s husband] and I believe that this is our responsibility. It’s a sign of our gratitude. I see where the dollars go. I see the need. And I see the good our community organizations are doing.”
For Kamine, she and her husband Max Yamson give back because they want to invest in the future.
“So much of what the Federation does is strategic planning and visioning—determining what our gaps are and filling those needs while also imagining how we can do even better. It gives me great comfort to support the organization that has the 10,000-foot view of everything that is happening and inclusively engages with a broad cross-section of our community. Giving to the Federation is an investment in the future of the Jewish community, in part, because of the work of the many volunteers serving on the P&A councils.”
Allocating Annual Campaign funds is a fair, democratic, and participatory process. Three councils are subsidiaries of the P&A Committee. They were cochaired in 2018 by Ari Handle & Josh Rothstein (Caring), Elida Kamine Yamson & Lauren Guttman (Connecting), and Robyn Lamont & Mickey Fishman (Discovering), and led by VP of Planning and Allocations Sherri Symson, Director of Community Building Barb Miller, and Community Building Associate Alana Goldstein. The councils are comprised of more than 60 volunteers who spend 650 hours over six months to make sure your gift goes to the local programs that most effectively help the most vulnerable, nurture connections with Israel, and protect and energize Jewish life. They make sure your gift will be used wisely and with the greatest impact. For more information about allocations, visit jewishcincinnati.org/allocations.