Case Study of Capacity Building Strategy to Green Non-Profit Agencies
Jewish Greening Fellowship (JGF) of the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center
Funded by UJA Federation of New York
By Mirele B. Goldsmith, Green Strides Consulting
UJA Federation of New York is the central umbrella public charity of the Jewisht community of New York. The mission of UJA Federation, which raises funds from over 65,000 donors, is to care for those in need, strengthen the Jewish people, and inspire a passion for Jewish life and learning. It achieves this mission in large part through a network of 100 beneficiary agencies, which are provided with core operating support as well as training and advocacy. UJA Federaion prides itself on taking a strategic approach, responding quickly and effectively to unforeseen crises and emerging opportunities with innovation.
In 2008 UJA Federation was just beginning to think about sustainability.
Green changes were under consideration as the organization remodeled its headquarters. Adam Berman, Director of Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, was invited to speak about climate change to the Federation and Agency Executives Committee. In 2009 UJA launched its Network Greening Initiative to help its headquarters and more than 100 beneficiary agencies “save money – and the environment”. A UJA Federation executive described the effort as “taking responsibility for the earth – recognizing that we have no ownership, only a lease, and with it a duty to future generations.”
In order for UJA Federation to implement a “meaningful, Jewish response to global climate change” it was essential to involve its beneficiary agencies. After Adam Berman spoke, the agency executives agreed that it was time to respond to climate change. Deborah Joselow, managing director of UJA Federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal, sketched the outlines of a program on a napkin and handed it to Adam Berman. She asked him to “make it happen”. He turned to Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield, then on the staff of the Riverdale YM-YWHA and a green champion. They filled in the details to design what became the Jewish Greening Fellowship.
UJA Federation made a grant to Isabella Freedman Retreat Center to fund the program in 2008, just before the recession began. If the proposal had been considered just a few months later, it might not have been approved. And then, just as the JGF began to recruit agencies to participate, most were facing reduced budgets and staff layoffs. It seemed to be the worst possible time to ask the agencies to take on new responsibilities. What would motivate executive directors to take on this new agenda? How would executive directors be persuaded to devote staff time to greening? Where would agencies find the expertise needed to upgrade their facilities and develop new educational programs?
The decision was made to start by engaging community centers and summer camps as they would be able to model best practices in their own facilities as well as to educate their constituents both informally and through direct educational programming. The program was structured as a fellowship to insure that each agency would have to appoint a staff member to take responsibility for the effort. The fellow would function as a green champion and in-house expert. The term of the fellowship was set for 18 months - enough time for the fellow to get up to speed, engage other critical staff, identify opportunities for greening appropriate to their agency, and begin to implement changes in operations and programs. By participating in a cohort, fellows would benefit from peer support and collaboration.
The JGF was designed and implemented by Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield, Director, with the assistance of Mirele Goldsmith, Sustainability Consultant, and an Advisory Group. A key decision was to provide funding directly to each agency to defray the expense of the staff time devoted to the fellowship. By supporting the salary of the fellow, the fellowship was able to insist that every fellow spend 4-6 hours per week on greening activities. Agencies in the fellowship could also apply for additional matching funds to help them meet the requirements of the fellowship. All together each agency received $15-20,000.
Each agency was expected to set goals to be accomplished during the period of the JGF. Although there was plenty of room for the agencies to tailor the goals to their own situation, expectations were high. Every agency was required to complete an energy audit. Each agency also set goals in 7 required categories: Implement energy efficiency upgrades of facility; improve sustainable operations; create educational programming; inspire cultural\behavioral change; facilitate youth involvement; heighten community engagement; and build community partnerships.
24 agencies applied to participate in the first cohort of the JGF. 20 agencies were accepted and the fellowship was launched in March 2009 with a retreat for the fellows. Fellows participated in 14 days of training, which were carefully planned to build their skills as leaders and to give them the knowledge they needed to serve as in-house experts on sustainability. Topics included climate change and energy use, purchasing and disposal of materials, food and transportation, faith-based programming, and communication. One highlight was an environmental justice and innovation tour in the Bronx and East Harlem. The fellows were introduced to many local resources with the potential to benefit their agencies.
The JGF director stayed in close touch with the agency executive directors, including making site visits, to insure that each agency was making adequate progress and to trouble-shoot. The biggest issue to emerge was turnover in staff which resulted in some fellows leaving the fellowship. A solution was found for all but one agency so that they were able to complete the program.
The fellows and their agencies achieved results beyond the expectations of UJA Federation and the agency executive directors. Individual agencies implemented significant projects including:
Surprise Lake Camp installed a 20 kW solar array on the roof of the gymnasium, along with an educational kiosk.
Ramapo for Children installed an interpretive nature trail and launched a new environmental educational program for school groups.
YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood eliminated disposables from the daily lunch program for 200 seniors.
Central Queens Y forged new community partnerships that brought 500 people to enter Earth Day fair.
Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center of Staten Island worked with local legislators to obtain $98,808 for a solar thermal hot water system from New York State and $200,000 for a solar energy generating system from the US Congress.
Collectively, the 19 agencies that completed the Jewish Greening Fellowship achieved the following results:
Energy Efficiency and Facility Operations
15 agencies completed energy audits (4 had recently completed or did not need to complete audits at this time)
1,750 energy efficient light bulbs installed
6 agencies completed or are in the process of installing solar energy generating systems
17 agencies launched or upgraded recycling and composting programs
13 agencies switched to green cleaning regimens
Education and Awareness
All of the agencies established ongoing green teams
98 new environmental education programs for children, families and communities
The agencies raised a total of $850,300 in new funding as a result of the Jewish Greening Fellowship from New York State, federal government, community boards, NY City Council and private donors. This amount exceeded the total cost of the program, fully funded by UJA Federation with a two year grant totaling $630,000.
Energy efficiency improvements already implemented will reduce the agencies’ energy costs by at least $50,000 annually.
Across the agencies, executive directors reported that the JGF developed the Fellows’ leadership skills, inspired and engaged employees, built new partnerships with other organizations, enabled the agencies to connect with new constituencies, and attracted new volunteer leadership. As one executive director said, “The fellows have total buy-in from the staff. I’m somewhat surprised because everyone is busy and when someone asks for something new you expect resistance. This has been an interesting learning experience about how to change the culture of the agency about anything.” The members of UJA Federation's Commission on Jewish Renewal, which made the grant to fund the Jewish Greening Fellowship, were very pleased with the results. As Deborah Joselow said, “although we cared about environmental stewardship, at the end of the day that is not really our mission. We thought perhaps greening could catalyze caring, connection and inspiration. And we were right!”
UJA Federation has allocated funds for a second cohort. Applications will be accepted from a wider variety of organizations, including community centers, summer camps, synagogues and day schools. A network will be created to support the agencies in the first cohort as they continue their greening efforts.
For Further Information
Director, Jewish Greening Fellowship
Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield
Sustainability Consultant, Green Strides Consulting
Mirele B. Goldsmith