SDC Report Offers Options for Moving JCL Forward

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

The Jewish Community of Louisville was formed to ensure the vitality and fiscal soundness of the Jewish community for the future – keeping the best of the two predecessor organizations – the Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Community Center – and implementing new programs and changes where appropriate.

The Program Review Committee, chaired by Karen Abrams, Sheila Berman and Jeff Tuvlin, got things started. Nearly 50 people on four subcommittees identified what the Jewish community wants and needs, and what is already available. The committee’s final report, published in Community in December, contained many recommendations, including some that could be implemented quickly and others that need further study in the context of the community’s facilities and financial challenges.

Already, the JCL has revitalized and revamped its committee structure, introduced some additional programming, like PJ Plus for children who are too old for The PJ Library, hired Middle School Director David Siskin and more.

To address the broad picture of the Program Review Committee’s findings and the overall direction of the JCL, the Strategic Directions Committee (SDC), chaired by Kate Latts, was formed. Latts recently spoke with Community and provided an update on her committee’s efforts and conclusions.

Q: What is the charge of the SDC?

A: The SDC is responsible for developing key portions of the 2010 JCL Strategic Plan, which will guide the organization for the next 3-5 years. Our work focuses on looking at the existing facilities in conjunction with programming needs and financial resources and presenting alternative scenarios (e.g. maintain, renovate, rebuild, move, etc.) to provide direction for our community.

To that end, the SDC engaged in thoughtful discussions of the current state of the JCL, its facilities and the community, where it should go and how it should get there. The Committee considered the JCL’s Mission, strategic directions and working principles established by the Board and studied program/service priorities, facilities needs and fiscal stability. The SDC was particularly cognizant of our community’s and the JCL’s financial realities.

Q: Who is on the SDC?

A: We have a broad-based committee with representation from across the community, including each of the synagogues, donors and current JCC users. Our committee includes Greg Davidoff, Debbie Friedman, Harry Geller, Edwin Goldberg, Ayala Golding, Peter Resnik, Alex Rosenberg, Linda Schuster, Jeffrey Tuvlin, Edward Weinberg and Ronald Weisberg. The JCL staff who worked with us were Alan Engel, Jamie Pillsbury, Robin Stratton and Sara Wagner. We also worked with Ted Farber and Dana Schoenfeld of TBF Consulting, who facilitated the process.

Q: What was the timeframe of the SDC’s work?

A: Our committee worked quickly to move our community forward. At our first meeting on February 25, we appointed three subcommittee chairs and charged them with leading the detailed work the committee as a whole would need to complete its report. We reconvened only two more times as a full committee and completed our work by June. Through the subcommittee research and analysis, we developed several possible scenarios, which are detailed in our final report, which will be presented to the JCL Board in October. The Board deferred our presentation until after the new Board is elected, which will happen at the JCL Annual Meeting on Sunday, September 19.

Q: What were the SDC subcommittees, who chaired them and what issues did they address?

A: Jeff Tuvlin chaired the Programs Subcommittee, which, basing its work on the recently completed Program Review Committee Report, took the programs identified as wishes and prioritized them for the community, looking at staffing options, costs and the facilities that they would need.
This subcommittee worked with Robin Stratton and Sara Wagner.

Peter Resnik chaired the Finance Subcommittee, which worked with JCL CFO Jamie Pillsbury to review revenue and cost data. They considered various facility, program and service models and how membership and revenue would be affected by each.

Alex Rosenberg chaired the Facilities Subcommittee, which looked at the options the JCL has for housing its programs and services. They looked at many different scenarios including maintaining and upgrading the current facility, building a new facility on the current site, building on a different site, running a virtual operation and others. This subcommittee worked with Alan Engel and Robin Stratton.

Q: What resources did the SDC draw on?

A: The SDC worked closely with appropriate JCL committees, JCL staff resources and TBF Consulting to meet its charge. We looked at existing community research, including the 2006 Federation Demographic Study and the 2009 Horizon Research study. We reviewed program usage data and we evaluated JCC usage based on those who scanned into the facility by age and where they live. We relied on the Program Review Committee report, Program Committee feedback, the Melton staff and our donor base as well.

We looked at our Annual Campaign trends, and demographics about our donors including congregational affiliation, age, and percent of Jewish households that contribute to the Campaign; we looked at the endowment history and projections for the next few years; and we did an analysis of our current financial situation.

The committee also looked at like-community case studies (Cincinnati, OH; Toledo, OH; Birmingham, AL; and Omaha, NE) and Jewish community trend data from JCCA (the Jewish Community Centers Association) and JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America).

Q: What did your analysis tell you?

A: From our analysis, we were able to compare our situation in Louisville to what is happening in other Jewish communities. For example, from JCCA, we learned that successful JCCs nationwide offer preschool, camp and health and fitness programs, and all three are considered vital to success.

We were also able to see which programs we currently offer draw the greatest participation and which, the least; and identify who our heaviest users were. It gave us a good understanding of the JCL’s current impact on our community and what we need to be looking at for the future.

Q: What financial issues did you consider?

A: We looked at our current liabilities including the mortgage on the JCC and looked at current revenue from all sources including Campaign, endowment, memberships, program fees and more.

As we assimilated all of the raw data, we developed a series of scenarios to provide details about options our community must now consider, ranging from updating and renovating our current building to building a new building on the same site or to becoming a virtual JCC.
In developing these scenarios, we kept in mind our community’s financial challenges and the prioritization of current and proposed JCL services and programs. Different levels of programming were considered in light of staffing and facility needs and revenue impacts. Some partnerships possibilities were explored preliminarily.

Our deliberations took into account the JCL’s stakeholders, the economy, the condition of the current facility, financial resource commitments to others, endowment commitments, and increasing competition in the sports and fitness area.

Q: What pros and cons did you find?

A: We found that most of the alternatives require significant capital investments, some much more than others. Before the community decides which course to follow, the capacity of our community to raise the needed funds must be tested.

Some of the options can be accomplished more quickly than others, and some may require smaller steps in phases or a longer-term horizon.
Before we determine which way to proceed, we also must further vet each option by the important criteria of how it will improve net Jewish engagement and quality of life in Louisville.

The full report will be presented to the JCL Executive Committee and the Board in October, and the Board must then weigh what to focus on and how to proceed. They may chose among the proposed scenarios, merge some of the models, develop offshoots or proceed in phases, but the ultimate choice is theirs.

This report is the first step for our community as we build Jewish life for tomorrow, and as we move forward, we will keep the community informed through future articles in Community.

Leave a Reply