April 11, 2013

The Budget Department as the Heart of Federation

Filed under: found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 5:45 pm

Spending many months processing the files of FJP’s Budget Department has given us a good understanding of the breadth of knowledge among the Budget Department staff members, as well as a sense of their extraordinary productivity.

Most budgetary documents intended for the use of Board of Trustees members, members of the Distribution Committee and its numerous subcommittees, agency leadership and FJP Executive staff, were distributed under the signature of the Budget Director.  Of course he was supported by a large staff of people who worked in the Budget Department for decades.  Interoffice memoranda often indicated who within the Budget Department was doing what work, but their work was probably invisible to the members of the Board of Trustees.  No matter who did the work however, some of the reports are remarkable for their clarity in explaining the intricacies of complex budgetary issues to lay leadership (as well as the non-financially-knowledgeable researcher or archivist).  It is remarkable also because it is obvious from the reports how much information the Budget Director had to be aware of in any given budget year.  Each member of the Budget Department staff, no doubt, had their areas of expertise, but in presenting a budget to the Distribution Committee the Budget Director clearly had to keep track of the programmatic and budgetary details for over 100 separate agencies.

A Brief Analysis

A Brief Analysis

For example, in the draft version above of, “A Brief Analysis of the Elements of the 1974-75 Reserve for Additional Needs”, Budget Director Jack Applebaum explains what the “Reserve for Additional Needs” is, how much of this reserve is assigned to which areas and how the total figure is determined.

Applebaum of course received the figures from staff members, but  he nonetheless had to be conversant with the rationale for each of the contingency situations listed as a “reserve”.  In a total reserve budget of $1,333,299 (the following year the total reserve was an even $1,500,000), over 90% was set aside as relatively unrestricted funding.  The remaining 9% was broken down into very specific programs or operational costs.  As Applebaum explains on page 4 of the report,

"Hidden" reserves for an identified contingency

“Hidden” reserves for an identified contingency

“These may best be described as “hidden” reserves and are generally established to provide for an identified contingency, often because it is not possible at the time the grants are formulated to predict an agency’s experience with a specific new program, a new area of operation, or the impact of a declining area of service.  In general, such reserves are released only when the operational picture becomes clearer.”

You can note near the bottom of the page that very small reserves are allotted for operating costs for a pool opened just a year earlier at Bronx House ($5000); and for general operating costs at the Central Queens Y ($15,000).

On p.5, under Miscellaneous, $7,500 is allotted to the “Community Center’s Functional Committee’s Committee on Group work Scholarships” (yes, that’s the name), with the following explanation: “This is a cooperative program for tuition scholarships to group work students attending Schools of Social Work.  The stipend carries a commitment of employment for at least two years in a Federation Center after graduation.  Funding is shared by Federation Centers, Jewish Welfare Board and Muehlstein Foundation.”

Because of the level of detail in this report, as in so many Budget Department files, a researcher looking for more information on Social Work education, the Jewish Welfare Board or the Muehlstein Foundation, could start with this simple funding document and find additional information elsewhere in the Budget Department series, elsewhere in the FJP materials, or elsewhere in the AJHS collections.

The level of detail was required because the FJP Budget Directors felt it necessary to document their budgets so that the leadership could make well-informed decisions.  And in the process they left us a rich legacy of historical documentation in the UJA-Federation of New York collection.



  1. I am currently working on a research project about Jewish social work, and I’m so pleased to read this blog post and find that there is information for me in the FJP Budget Department files! I love the blog–thank you for giving us a peek into the processing of these papers.


    Comment by Avigail — April 28, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    • Thanks for your comment Avigail. Good to hear you are enjoying the blog. Let us know if you have specific questions we might be able to help you with while we continue the processing.


      Comment by susanwoodland — April 29, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

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