JCL Update: February 24. 2012

Tu B’Shevat marks one of our most important annual milestones in Judaism. We celebrate nature’s renewal, fresh with possibility and splendor as spring approaches. The yearly cycle is well underway as we work to earn Hashem’s blessing us in the Book of Life.

Your JCL also has an annual cycle: setting budgets, planning allocations, funding community organizations that do mitzvot every day (a.k.a. fulfilling their mission) and managing and enhancing our proud and strong JCC experience. To finish each year properly, the JCL commissions an audit review of our books by its independent auditors – Welenken CPAs.

It is truly a pleasure to report to all in the Jewish community that as the JCL approaches the end of the third year as a unified entity, we have fresh new possibilities ahead of us. Your community’s books were given a “Clean/Unqualified Audit” (representing fiscal year ending June 30, 2011) – the gold standard in grading efficient, accurate, compliant organizations. (Available online here) We all owe a hearty “Todah!” to our dedicated staffers, led by our CEO, Stu Silberman, and CFO Jamie Pillsbury for this outstanding achievement!

The staff of the organization is responsible for the integrity of the financial system and the information that is provided to the various committees of the Board. Your Board has created sustainable processes to ‘check and balance’ this responsibility; one of those newly created items is an Audit Committee that reviews the systems of control and financial reporting with the independent auditors. This committee reports directly to the Board Chair, eliminating ‘red tape’ and ensuring absolute independence.

Businesses and families in Louisville had to adjust in so many ways to balance their budgets these past few years. So too has the staff of this organization. Doing more with less is a reality we all face in our work and homes. Eliminating extra expenses where possible has occurred and measured approaches have led to measured reductions in several areas of spending.

In the JCL’s first combined year, the organization struggled to address a host of pressing issues as lay leaders and staff worked hard to transform two distinct entities with different systems and practices into a unified agency. They sought to maintain the Annual Campaign, keep active volunteers, engage people more from across the community, keep the doors of the JCC open and serve the community in the many ways the JCL’s predecessors had. That first year, the JCL lost nearly $1 million.

With a strong commitment to fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities and set the agency on a sound financial footing, your staff less than one year later reduced this loss by more than $600,000 to just under $366,000. After in-depth discussions, the Board chose to tap into its retained earnings from prior years and its unrestricted endowment reserves to get the community through this crisis. Board policy restricts the amount that can be withdrawn from endowment reserves to sustainable levels. For the current fiscal year, the JCL budget projects a reduction in the agency’s losses of another $200,000.

With the vision of your executives and the passionate work of your staff, the JCL’s financials have improved performance more than 80 percent in the 2011-12 financial period from two years ago. There is much work left to do to continue this amazing progress toward a balanced budget, and your Board looks forward to growing the JCL into an entity whose operations can begin to contribute back to the endowment. What a splendid renewal that would be!

Your staff labors together tirelessly through difficult changes, and with your CEO realigning the organization into a single company, a new structure for work now exists. A chief operating officer, Sara Wagner, is in place to bring all the teams of hard-working staffers closer together. The agility created by our CEO’s vision for this new structure lays the foundation for even greater efficiency and communication. Our COO’s years of Louisville programming experience brings promise to energize Jewish experiences like an early May shower energizes our beautiful city before Derby!

As we move forward, our annual Federation Campaign is also well underway. We would like to reassure all our wonderful supporters that your Board truly understands and respects the fiduciary responsibilities you have entrusted to us. Your JCL is focused on rebuilding the Jewish Foundation while we grow the programming and operations that support meaningful Jewish experiences. This focus, combined with a fourth consecutive year of  JCL earning a top rating of 4 stars from Charity Navigator (an independent agency that rates non-profits on efficiency, transparency and accountability), makes your donation a wise investment in guaranteeing the ongoing viability of our Louisville Jewish community, and its ability to fund support for our partner organizations.

We have established a culture committed to strong values – doing things the right way, with integrity. Our goal is to pursue excellence and provide an exceptional Jewish experience for our community. Nothing less will do. The checks and balances are in place, including the Board and committees with representation from all parts of the community.

We need your help, too, if we are to continue to make progress. We must all do our parts, and we are counting on each of you. If you have questions or concerns, we are here. Please contact either of us, and we will be happy to discuss the positive impact your investment in your JCL will have.

Thank you for your trust and confidence as we continue to dedicate our energies to continue the tradition of providing for the next generation, as our Jewish ancestors in Louisville have done for decades.

David Klein
Board Chair

Laurence Nibur
Board Treasurer

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