Teaming up to help agencies in need

The Technical Assistance Collaborative project offers "very useful tools at a very critical time"

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When the pandemic hit, one local agency's head described the situation as "standing in the middle of a hurricane without an umbrella." Unprepared and stressed, Shana Erenberg, Executive Director of Libenu, began looking for resources to help her agency keep its kosher residential facilities for adults with disabilities afloat.

She - and the leaders of 97 other local Jewish agencies and synagogues - turned to the Technical Assistance Collaborative, a new project designed to support these organizations through unprecedented tough times. The program, created by JUF in partnership with local foundations, is the only one of its kind in the country.

"This collaborative gave us the opportunity to do more than just put band-aids on large scale problems-it is empowering organizations to work with professionals to help them make the most well-informed, thoughtful decisions for their organizations," said Jordan Goodman, Chair of CFP's Jewish Giving Committee. "We are excited to continue to support this program so it can grow and support even more organizations."

As a jumping off point, the program sent out a series of surveys. The survey responses revealed that in addition to financial support, organizations like Libenu were looking for resources like scenario planning, executive coaching, technological integration, and more. Through a partnership with Boardified, an organization designed to empower Jewish nonprofits, the Technical Assistance Collaborative provides a variety of no-cost services to meet a wide range of needs.

The services - which include personalized support for individual organizations as well as cohort programs - help to "improve the long-term performance of the agencies while meeting the short-term needs" during the pandemic, said JUF Board Chairman Andy Hochberg. "New challenges required new answers, and the program provided a new and effective way to help the agencies cope with the crisis."

A series of webinars have helped wide ranging organizations-97 to date-whose facilities remained open during the quarantine, to pivot their programs; keep their clients healthy; obtain necessary supplies like food, toilet paper, and PPE; and help their staffs navigate complex issues and extensive changes.

By describing the "step-by-step process of reacting and moving into more of a mitigating role and recovery," Erenberg said, the webinars offered practical steps to keep organizations moving even at a time when panic ran rampant. And beyond spring, the Technical Assistance Collaborative has helped organizations find ways to move forward in both the short- and long-term.

Many organizations have sought help with scenario planning to figure out how to pivot their usual activities during the pandemic and save money to reopen afterwards. Nineteen organizations, including summer camps dealing with cancellations, have each received up to 10 hours of financial modeling. Meanwhile, cohort sessions have dealt with issues like employment law for workforce reductions and wellness screenings; navigating the Federal CARES Act; and tracking the disaster cycle through the Chicago Jewish community with advice at every step.

"The work that the Collaborative is doing in Chicago to address fundamental capacity needs of Jewish organizations is as important, if not at times more important, than access to additional financial resources," said Boardified's founder, Alicia Oberman. "The close collaboration, trust, and partnership between local funders and JUF is essential to recognizing needs and providing access to meaningful interventions as soon as possible."

The program continues to offer "very useful tools at a very critical time," Erenberg said. Sessions in late summer and early fall include a series on leadership communication and fundraising from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management; virtual education planning for local youth movements from M², The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education; advice for dealing with prospective Israel travelers from crisis communication consultants; and health and safety information relating to reopening synagogues.


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