Why We Pay Attention to This Top Jewish Community Foundation—And Why You Should, Too



The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (JCFLA) is  a funder that we’ve been particularly interested in lately because it is breaking the mold of what tradition says a Jewish foundation has to be. For example, JCFLA launched a grantmaking program dedicated to new and untested ideas for the sake of innovation and social entrepreneurship. Cutting Edge grants have been going towards everything from assistance for seniors to human services for youth since 2006. We’ve also been keeping a close eye on JCFLA because every year seems to be a record-breaking year these days when it comes to local giving, and last year was no exception.

Related: Here’s an Opportunity for New, Untested Ideas in the Los Angeles Jewish Community

Although there are quite a few Jewish community foundations in cities across the U.S., the one in Los Angeles is a model one because it’s actually one of the city’s 10 largest charitable foundations overall. It also exemplifies a couple recent trends that we’ve been noticing nationwide among Jewish givers of all sizes.

1. Jewish Foundations Are Getting More Powerful

The year 2017 was yet another record-breaking year for JCFLA because it gave the highest dollar amount in grants in the funder’s history—$100 million. Back in 2016, the funder gave $81 million, so this was a 23 percent increase. In 2015, the foundation and its donors made $96 million in grants, a 35 percent increase over $71 million the year before.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Jewish giving is going strong and getting even stronger by the year. At the end of 2017, the foundation’s total charitable assets under management was $1.25 billion, which is a 14 percent increase from 2016. JCFLA opened 58 new donor advised funds just last year as well. Overall, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles manages assets for over 1,300 families.

Furthermore, of the $100 million commitment in 2017, nearly half of those funds were granted to Los Angeles programs and causes. Jewish donors who work through community foundations like this often have a very global perspective and give a lot of money to Israel and Jewish outreach areas in other parts of the world. So nearly half of all annual funds is significant for a community foundation like this.

Related: New Jewish Donors Are Raising the Bar for Los Angeles Philanthropy

2. Jewish Foundations Are More Open to Secular Groups

Another trend that we’ve been noticing lately among Jewish foundations is an increasing willingness to support non-Jewish groups. Last year, we highlighted the San Francisco-based Jim Joseph Foundation’s secular giving and why it was opening up a RFP opportunity to secular organizations as well as Jewish ones.

Related: Not Just for Jewish Groups: Why This Bay Area Foundation is Open to Secular Grantees

Well, a little further south in the state, JCFLA has been more open to the idea of supporting secular groups too. In fact, almost 40 percent of JCFLA’s $100 million last year went towards secular community initiatives. This is an important point to make because lots of secular nonprofits still make the mistake of writing off religious-based funders as unapproachable based on their affiliations and or the services they provide.

About half of JCFLA’s grants have been going towards basic human services and education lately, with a pretty even split between those two fields of interest. Other lesser areas of interest for the community foundation and its Los Angeles donors include civic life, religious life, health, arts/culture/humanities, environment and animal welfare, and international/foreign affairs.

Grantseekers should know that JCFLA’s general community grants are by invitation only and that the funder focuses on a different Los Angeles concern each year. However, Cutting Edge grants are open to unsolicited requests, and the funder typically holds grantseeker workshops before new deadlines.