Despite an economic downturn and the attacks on the World Trade Center that virtually halted fund raising by UJA-Federation for nearly three months, the organization announced it raised a record $252 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
"These are extraordinary results," said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation’s executive vice president. "A year ago the economy was weak and many of our senior volunteer leaders were predicting a huge decrease in giving. Some feared [the annual campaign] would be down as much as 15 to 20 percent."
As it turned out, the annual campaign, plus about $40 million raised for four special campaigns, amassed $167 million. Last year the annual campaign, which included money raised for a special poverty initiative, raised $135.6 million.
Paul Kane, UJA-Federation’s senior vice president, said this year’s annual campaign, exclusive of the special campaigns, was off by 4.5 percent compared to last year.
There was a surge of giving between April and June when UJA-Federation conducted a mass mailing focusing on the emergency fund-raising campaign for Israel.
"We sent out a letter with a pen and asked people to use it as an instrument of action," he said. "We asked them to write to friends in Israel, to public officials and to write a check."
Campaign officials pointed out that some donors divided their annual contributions between the Israel Emergency Fund and the general campaign, whereas others directed all of their money to the special campaigns. Thus the annual campaign slipped slightly.
Officials were pleased with those results, pointing out that the annual campaign is the backbone of UJA-Federation, funding as it does programs at home and overseas in such countries as Argentina and the former Soviet Union.
Kane said the total campaign raised nearly $251.8 million, including $37.4 million from planned giving, about $10 million less than last year; $40.8 million in capital development giving, about $5 million more than last year; and $6.6 million in other revenue.
He noted that the money was raised despite the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, which forced the campaign to come to a virtual standstill for two to three months.
"New York was in shock and our campaign was down $9.5 million," he said. "Some honorees [of fund-raising dinners] backed out, saying it was the firemen and policemen who were the heroes, not them. Some large fund-raising events in the fall were canceled. And then overseas we went from one crisis to the next.
"It’s been a very difficult and challenging year; one of the most complicated campaigns I’ve ever run," Kane said. "But the bottom line is that the New York Jewish community came through. It saw the need and it gave us more money than ever."
He added that many donors to the special campaigns pledged the same amount over three years that they give to the annual campaign.
The number of donors also increased last year, from 84,554 to 88,318. More than a decade ago, the figure was above 100,000.
Kane observed that the special campaigns helped attract many of the new donors. He said the size of the average gift has yet to be calculated, along with a full analysis of the campaign.
To date, about 95 percent of all pledges are paid, Kane noted. But he said it is unclear whether that will continue in a faltering economy.
Of the four special campaigns run last fiscal year, Kane said the Israel Emergency Campaign would continue and be merged with the Terrorism Response Fund to help Israeli victims of Palestinian violence. The Terrorism Response Fund for New Yorkers affected by the Sept. 11 attack has ended, as has the drive to raise funds for Argentine Jewry.
Ruskay paid tribute to the efforts of the campaign’s co-chairs, Susan Stern and Peter May, "our other volunteer leadership, our extraordinary staff and the donors who made this possible."