Priority-Setting for Federations: An Important Tool for Community Planning and Budgeting "
For 1986 88th Annual Meeting Conference of Jewish Communal Service Cleveland May 25-28, 1986
M A X L . KLEINMAN Assistant Executive Director, United Jexvish Federation of MetroWest, New Jersey
. . . outlined [in this article] is a process which will take into account a number of different variables, including needs identified through demographic surveys, judgements of leadership, agency assessment and input, program budgeting, evaluation and other notions. H E issue o f priority-setting is not o f recent vintage. T h e T a l m u d out lined the dilemma o f priority-setting w h e n it stated: "May I be a m o n g the collectors o f communal funds and not a m o n g the allocators." Jewish law has addressed the impor tant issue o f priority-setting within the Jewish community. T h e Code of Jewish Law, for example, states that the poor o f o n e city take precedence over the poor o f another, and the poor of Israel take priority over the poor of the Diaspora. Obligations to local residents precede those owed to the transient poor, and one's i m p o v e r i s h e d family m e m b e r s take priority over all other poor indi viduals. Finally, Pidyon Shivuim, the re d e e m i n g of captives, takes precedence over providing food and clothing for the p o o r . Priority-setting today has different dynamics because we are dealing with voluntary communities, not the kehillot and quasi-legal Jewish communities of the past, which, in many cases, had the power to tax and legislate. We also interact with well-established agencies which have their o w n entrenched power bases. T h e o n e c o m m o n thread, o f course, is the fact that there are never
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e n o u g h resources to m e e t the full and total needs o f the community. W e all e n g a g e in priority-setting, whether we like to admit it or not. Dur ing o u r annual allocation cycle, w e make decisions about w h o should g e t ad ditional dollars available, a n d w h o should not. Priority-setting d o e s not c h a n g e the dynamics of decision making. Instead, it provides for a planful way of confronting the problem of limited resources and unlimited need. Priority-setting requires a macro, rather than a micro view o f the needs o f the Jewish community, so that at least, we have a better overall perspective o f what our decisions will achieve and what they will ignore. Jewish communities, of course, are not the only entities attempting to set priorities systematically. T h e state and federal governments and the United Way have also confronted the problem of h o w to establish proper priorities. An example of priority-setting in the public sector is the program planning and budgeting system, popularly k n o w n as PPBS, which was introduced i n com prehensive fashion in the early 1960's. This approach was a reaction to t h e New Deal system o f budgeting and evalua tion, which assumed that services pro vided were proportionate to benefits r e c e i v e d , t h a t m o r e t e a c h e r s and classrooms would m e a n better educa tion, and m o r e doctors and hospitals would yield improved medical care. The equation of government performance
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Shabbat 118 b. Yorah De'ah, 51:3, Mishneh,
Shulhan Arulch, Sanhedrin 4:5.
PRIORITY SETTING IN FEDERATIONS
J O U R N A L O F J E W I S H C O M M U N A L SERVICE
with public benefits meant that it would suffice to m e a s u r e outputs without measuring the outcome or benefits o f programs. T h e program planning and budget ing system challenged this assumption by demanding that the outcomes them.selves be evaluated, and priorities be set based o n these evaluations. T h e PPBS system has five distinguishing features: Program accounting, multi-year costing, detailed description of activities, zerobased budgeting a n d quantitative evalu ation or cost benefit analysis. Program accounting is an attempt to classify expenditures in terms of specific programs. This is very similar to pro gram or functional budgeting. Multiyear costing is the expectation that de sired programs would be costed o u t for two to three years in the future. Detailed descriptions o f activities imply the set ting of detailed objectives. Zero-based budgeting is an attempt to review all programs from the ground u p and not merely in terms o f incremental changes proposed in the budget year. Finally, cost benefit analysis is an attempt to measure costs compared to the benefits derived from each specific program in an effort to determine whether the project is justified.
PPBS was first used in 1963 by Secre tary o f D e f e n s e Robert McNamara. Given the data required, however, the paper work became so unwieldy that PPBS literally crumpled under its o w n weight. In the final analysis, PPBS failed because it was seen as a threatening pro cess without any d i v i d e n d s for the agency, a critical issue for any FederaAllen Schick, "A Death in the Bureaucracy: T h e D e m i s e o f Federal PPBs," Public Administra tion Review, Vol. X X X I I I (1973), p p . 1 4 6 - 5 6 . Leonard Merewitz a n d S t e p h e n H . Sosnick, The Budget's New Clothes, A Critique of PlanningProgramming—Budgeting and Benefit—Cost Analysis. Chicago: Markham Publishing C o m p a n y , 1 9 7 1 , pp. 2 - 5 .
tion network of agencies. T h e r e were also significant measurement problems in determining benefits. What, after all, is the value of a life saved versus the required costs! O n e c o m p o n e n t o f the PPBS system, zero-based budgeting, was popularized by Jimmy Carter w h e n he was Governor of Georgia. Subsequent studies were conducted o n states which ostensibly had accepted zero-based budgeting. In virtually every instance, however, zerobased budgeting had reverted to incre mental budgeting, in which the base is protected and key decisions were made regarding expenditures above the pre set base. Why did zero-based budgeting fail? T h e r e were too many political interests which would be let loose if a significant aspect o f the base were to be eliminated. T h e political cost o f breaking faith with citizens o n matters which were thought to have been resolved in the past was too high. As o n e agency budget officer c o m m e n t e d , "those people w h o d e p e n d o n what w e are d o i n g here get together with their representatives in a big hurry, if it looks like their budget is in trouble." O f course, internal pressures from bureaucrats within specific agencies, whose first responsibility is to protect their "turf," are also enormous and pro vide a significant hindrance to the im plementation of zero-based budgeting plans. As T h o m a s P. Lauth wrote in the
budgeting has had a difficult time pen etrating existing budgeting practices, precisely because those traditional prac tices have served the political interests of most of the participants in a budgetary process. Zero-based budgeting, there fore, has institutionalized a process by which incrementalism received greater
Ibid, p p . 2 7 3 - 2 7 9 . A a r o n Wildovsky, "A B u d get For All Seasons? W h y the Traditional B u d g e t Lasts," Public Administration Review, V o l u m e 3 8 , N o . 6, p p . 5 0 4 - 5 0 5 , 5 0 6 , 5 0 8 .
credibility under the mythology o f the zero-based b u d g e t i n g system." ZBB failed because it underestimated the political environment in which govern ment operates. I n the voluntary sector, the United Way has d o n e the most intensive work in the area o f priority-setting. Even as early as May, 1974, over twenty United Ways had priority system reports o n file with the national office o f United Way. United Way priority systems have run the gamut from the rank ordering o f program services, agencies' needs and problems, geographic areas a n d popu lation groups. Nevertheless, it is important to recog nize that United Ways have a different relationship to their system o f agencies than d o Federations. Their relationship is more formal, less "incestuous," and more subject to external pressures. For example, the United Ways have re ceived enormous pressure to include non-traditional agencies, particularly t h o s e initiated by minority g r o u p s , within their system. Accordingly, there have been instances where United Ways accorded h i g h priorities to services which would attract these agencies into their fold, thereby providing less dollars for the more traditional agencies, in cluding Jewish ones. Some priorities established within the United Way have had the effect o f deleting programs which had enjoyed funding for many years. In certain instances, there has not been an attempt to protect the base o f what the agencies considered essential services. Some United Ways have even ranked priorities of programs delivered by agencies which are not even included within the United Way system. Such a
situation, of course, could not be toler ated for long with most Jewish Federa tions. Yet, because o f the breadth and scope o f the United Way and the exter nal pressures alluded to above, it is more accepted. Today, United Way also has a ten d e n c y to e m p h a s i z e p r o g r a m s over agencies. Federation's perspective is the o p p o s i t e . N e v e r t h e l e s s , there is n o question that United Way has d o n e the most work in priority-setting in t h e vol untary sector, which has value for the Federation experience. As stated earlier, all Federations en gage in priority-setting. T h e challenge is whether this priority-setting takes into account the total needs o f the agencies and the community; whether t h e indi viduals w h o make these decisions have the ability to take the macro view of needs, and whether they would have original j u r i s d i c t i o n o v e r w h a t the priority thrust for funding should be. P l a n n e d priority-setting is certainly preferable to a system which responds primarily to crisis a n d overt political pressures even after recognizing that we all operate in a political environment. A sound priority system should in clude the following elements: 1. A n effort to define all the services within the Jewish community. This d e f i n i n g process should b e as comprehensive as possible a n d in clude all the different kinds of program categories provided by the Jewish community. They should also be mutually exclusive. For instance, o n c e a decision is made to include nutrition services
ment. Alexandria: United W a y o f A m e r i c a , pp. 1 - 2 6 . For an e x a m p l e , o f t h e external pressures o n U n i t e d Way, s e e the Newark Star Ledger, Friday October 5, 1 9 8 4 , p p . 1 a n d 9. This n e w s story o u t l i n e s U n i t e d Way's p o t e n t i a l l o s s o f its m o n o p o l y a m o n g state e m p l o y e e s because o f pres sures exerted by minority charities. T h e r e is the c o n s e q u e n t pressure o n U n i t e d Way t o provide s o m e sort o f f u n d i n g to those c o m p e t i n g charities.
T h o m a s Lauth, "Zero Based B u d g e t i n g in Georgia State G o v e r n m e n t : Myth a n d Reality," Public Administration Review, V o l u m e 3 8 , 1978, p p . 420-428, 426. The Painful Necessity of Choice: An Analysis of Priorities, Plans and Policies in the United Way Move7
PRIORITY SETTING IN FEDERATIONS
J O U R N A L O F J E W I S H C O M M U N A L SERVICE
under a meals program, it should not be reincluded under the cate gory of services to the elderly. As much demographic and budget data as possible should be pro v i d e d o n e a c h o f t h e service categories. For example, on nutri tion for the elderly, how much is being spent currently and as a per centage o f all local services? How many older adults are unserved? This should be incorporated as support information to comple ment service definitions. A role for local agencies in this process is critical. T h e s e agencies are the instruments of the Jewish community to meet service needs. T h e y have the most direct expe rience with clients a n d should understand h u m a n needs better than a Federation committee or task force. T h e y are also a part o f the Jewish decision-making infra structure, whether formal or in formal. It is therefore essential that agency input be incorporated in any priority-setting process. As many different sectors of the Jewish community as are possible should be included in the prioritysetting process. If the opinions of synagogue leaders are important, then the opinions of those individ uals who are involved in Federa tion, who are also synagogue lead ers, should be incorporated in the priority-setting process. Informal rather than formal representation should prevail with the major lit m u s test b e i n g an individual's concern for Federation and its agencies. Priority-setting must be linked to the allocation process, so that key decisions have significant impact on allocations for succeeding years. Otherwise, it becomes just an academic exercise and will have
the effect o f alienating leadership involved in this process. Let me note that in most cases assigned priorities have an impact o n pro grams requested above the agency's "protected" base for budgeting. O n e of the most established prioritysetting processes is Cleveland's. In Cleveland, the process includes three components: community value rating for services, the agency's own priority, and the rating and planning commit tee's j u d g m e n t o n the quality of the program. T h e community value rating for a particular service is the result o f the subjective opinion of leadership about the value of a specific service in the community. T h e assigned committee first reviews a comprehensive listing of service definitions provided by agencies. T h e UWASIS service classification de veloped by the United Way may be helpful in developing this taxonomy. Leaders then rank the importance of programs based u p o n a review o f the service definitions for all a g e n c i e s . Cleveland uses a modified Delphi tech nique, in which there is anonymity, but also controlled feedback in a sequence of rounds to justify positions taken, all in an effort to achieve a sound consen sus. Panel members review in their own minds the extent to which the service contributes towards achieving the goals o f the Jewish community, the degree to which delivery of these services is the responsibility of the Federation and its agencies, and the need for the service within the community. T h e community value rating accounts for 25 percent of the total score of 100 points. T h e second c o m p o n e n t o f Cleveland's priority-setting system is the agency's o w n priority for each supplemental program package which is presented above the approved base. This receives 25 points of the final score.
T h e third c o m p o n e n t is the rating committee and planning committee's j u d g m e n t o f the quality of the program, based u p o n consideration of three criteria: T h e program's impact on the client; the impact o n the community; and the impact o n the agency. T h e rating and planning committee's j u d g m e n t receives 5 0 points o f the final score. Scores of the rankings for these pro grams are then submitted to the budget committee for its review. In the Cleve land case, the j u d g m e n t of the c o m m u nity planning committee has generally been adopted by the budget committee. T h e Los Angeles Jewish community has recently adopted its own community priority system. U s i n g d e m o g r a p h i c data from its 1979 Jewish Population Study, and information from key in formants to ascertain the scope of need w i t h i n the J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y , Los Angeles has developed a data bank of need. L.A. believes that "an informed priority-setting process is predicated o n the availability of a valid and current data base, and used by the groups des ignated to d o these service rankings." I n a d d i t i o n to t h e s e assessments, demograhic, programmatic, fiscal and service delivery information is also pro vided about each of the 28 services to be ranked. Like Cleveland, the Jewish Fed eration Council of Los Angeles classified each of its programs into broad service classifications.
was constituted to d o the final rankings. This body consisted o f the following groups: T h e Federation Planning and B u d g e t Committee, Executive Com mittee, and five agency Presidents. Four criteria were given equal value in the ranking process: A. Does the service address the vital needs? B. Does the service have an impact on the problem that it is designed to address? C. Does the service strengthen the Jewish community? D. Does the service represent a fis cally sound and appropriate in vestment of funds? Each of these criteria receives corre sponding values of o n e to four. Services receiving high scores receive preferen tial support. T h o s e o f an intermediate level would receive ongoing support and those of lowest levels would receive reduced or n o support at all. These rankings are then applied to programs included in agency budgets above the pre-determined allocations b a s e . T h e Los Angeles system, therefore, incorporates many of the elements of the Cleveland system, provides for a more institutionalized flow of data, but does not give separate numerical weights in its priority-setting system for the opinions of agency leadership regarding the priority o f one program versus another, although the votes of agency presidents are incorporated in the process. T h e r e are a number of collateral is sues to priority-setting. First, it is im portant to differentiate between pro grams and administrative services, such as professional resource development, fund-raising, work with boards o f di rectors, and administration. These categories apply to both Federation and
Since Los Angeles is divided into five regions, it also distributed a regional needs survey to elicit program needs facing Jews in that specific region. After regional rankings were completed, the central Jewish Federation ranking team
C o r r e s p o n d e n c e from Stephen H o f f m a n , now e x e c u t i v e Director o f the Jewish C o m m u n i t y Fed eration o f Cleveland, to author o n July 8, 1980. Report of the Jewish Federation Council Community Priorities Committee. Jewish Federation Council o f Los A n g e l e s , February, 1 9 8 4 , p. 6.
"Ibid., p p . 1 4 - 2 2 .
P R I O R I T Y S E T T I N G IN F E D E R A T I O N S
its a g e n c i e s a n d a r e i n s u p p o r t o f p r o grammatic functions. T h e s e should not b e r a n k e d in t e r m s o f priority-setting, b u t s h o u l d b e s e e n as p a r t o f t h e o n g o ing budgetary review o f the agency. A very i m p o r t a n t principle in F e d e r a t i o n w o r k is t h a t w e n o t o n l y s u p p o r t p r o g r a m s , but also attempt to s t r e n g t h e n a g e n c i e s t h e m s e l v e s as i m p o r t a n t c o m munity organization instruments. Second, much of the work in priority-setting deals with decision m a k i n g as it i m p a c t s o n t h e increment above the base budget. W h a t can or s h o u l d w e d o a b o u t t h e b a s e b u d g e t it self? S h o u l d w e h a v e a n o n g o i n g e v a l u ation process o f the base budget? As stated above, zero based b u d g e t i n g pro c e s s is t o o p o l i t i c i z e d a n d t i m e c o n s u m i n g to have any major impact o n priority-setting. H o w e v e r , a p r o g r a m b u d g e t i n g sys t e m f o r all a g e n c y p r o g r a m s m a y b e h e l p f u l at l e a s t t o i d e n t i f y c o s t c e n t e r s f o r s p e c i f i c p r o g r a m s . It w o u l d a l s o b e b e n e f i c i a l if t i m e l y a n d uniform c o s t fac tors c o u l d be d e v e l o p e d for p r o g r a m s by national agencies which w o u l d enable Federations to c o m p a r e unit costs o f the s a m e p r o g r a m as d e l i v e r e d w i t h i n o n e community versus another. This would probably b e the only s o u n d way to c o m p a r e costs for similar p r o g r a m s . U n fortunately, m a n y of these service statistics a r e n o t a v a i l a b l e . A m o r e f u n d a m e n t a l d i f f i c u l t y is t h e fact t h a t a u n i form format for distributing overhead a m o n g different p r o g r a m s has not b e e n developed. Third, an annual evaluation of n e w l y - f u n d e d p r o g r a m s s h o u l d b e initi a t e d . T h i s is p r o b a b l y t h e o n l y k e y o p
p o r t u n i t y f o r e v a l u a t i o n at a g e n c i e s other than for p r o g r a m s which have clearly outlived their usefulness or are c o n s p i c u o u s p r o b l e m areas. Evaluations s h o u l d b e as s i m p l e as p o s s i b l e , p e r h a p s c o m p a r i n g the objectives which w e r e laid o u t initially b y t h e a g e n c y t o t h o s e objectives which w e r e actually achieved. Lastly, it is e s s e n t i a l t o r e - e v a l u a t e p r i o r i t i e s o n a n o n g o i n g basis. P e r h a p s a cycle o f review every two or three years s h o u l d be instituted to e n s u r e that the p r i o r i t y - s e t t i n g p r o c e s s is f r e s h a n d up-to-date. W h a t this article h a s n o w o u t l i n e d is a p r o c e s s w h i c h will t a k e i n t o a c c o u n t a n u m b e r o f different variables, including needs identified through demographic surveys, judgments of leadership, agency assessment and input, program budgeting, evaluation and other no t i o n s . T h i s is n o t a n e a s y p r o c e s s , b u t I b e l i e v e it is c l e a r l y p r e f e r a b l e t o t h e a d h o c process which takes place t o o m u c h in our o w n communities. I n a d d i t i o n , if t h e p r i o r i t i e s as o u t lined by the c o m m u n i t y are valid, a n d r e p r e s e n t a p r o p e r c o n s e n s u s , t h e n it also represents a blueprint for services in the future. T o the d e g r e e that a n a g e n c y c a n tailor its p r o g r a m s t o m e e t t h o s e n e e d s , c o n s i s t e n t w i t h its m i s s i o n , t h e a g e n c y will b e b e t t e r f o r it, a n d s o will t h e c o m m u n i t y . While not a panacea for the everpresent p r o b l e m o f b u d g e t i n g scarce re sources for u n l i m i t e d n e e d s , prioritys e t t i n g is, at least, a n a t t e m p t t o m a k e s o m e inroads into f u n d i n g t h o s e ser vices w h i c h best m e e t the n e e d s o f a c o m m u n i t y at a p a r t i c u l a r t i m e . A s s u c h , p r i o r i t y - s e t t i n g is a v e r y v a l u a b l e t o o l .
Designing Community Population Studies that are Used: A Model for Decision-Making
B R U C E A. PHILLIPS
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Western Campus, Los Angeles . . . the population study is . . . widely recognized as the single information about social change in the Jewish community. most important source of
Probably the greatest obstacle to a community's undertaking a population s t u d y is t h e f e a r t h a t it will n o t b e u s e d . T o b i n and Boguslaw, for e x a m p l e , have r e c e n t l y n o t e d i n this Journal t h a t "all t o o o f t e n w e h e a r t h e c o m p l a i n t that a report, particularly a Jewish d e m o g r a p h i c s t u d y , 'sat o n t h e s h e l f a f t e r its completion." T h e r e are two obstacles to the utilization o f a d e m o g r a p h i c study f o r d e c i s i o n - m a k i n g . T h e first o b s t a c l e is t h a t t h e d e m o g r a p h i c s t u d y i t s e l f marks a transition to a n e w level o f planning, thereby complicating the utilization o f study findings. S e c o n d t h e d e m o g r a p h i c study itself disrupts t h e r h y t h m o f F e d e r a t i o n life a n d t h e f l o w of ongoing planning.
" c o m m u n i t y priorities." N o t o n l y must the study findings be integrated into a p l a n n i n g process, that very p l a n n i n g p r o c e s s h a s b e e n c h a n g e d by v i r t u e o f the study. Procedures and planning s t r u c t u r e s a r e t h u s n e e d e d for t h e i n t e gration of d e m o g r a p h i c data into decision-making, and strategies must n o w b e d e v e l o p e d for t h e coordination o f l o n g range p l a n n i n g with the annual allocations process. A d d r e s s i n g t h e s e p r o b l e m s i n a n or g a n i z e d a n d c o h e r e n t m a n n e r is f u r t h e r c o m p l i c a t e d by the disruption w h i c h the s t u d y itself i m p o s e s o n t h e r h y t h m o f F e d e r a t i o n life a n d the flow of o n g o i n g p l a n n i n g . E v e n b e f o r e t h e s t u d y has b e g u n it h a s d i s r u p t e d t h e o n - g o i n g work o f the p l a n n i n g staff w h o have a d d e d t h e r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f w o r k i n g with a d e m o g r a p h i c study c o m m i t t e e . O n c e t h e s t u d y is f u n d e d , t h e p l a n n i n g staff must coordinate between the study committee and the outside consultant w h o will c o n d u c t t h e r e s e a r c h T h e d e m o g r a p h i c s t u d y c o m m i t t e e f u r t h e r dis rupts the work of o n g o i n g planning c o m m i t t e e s , f o r as s o o n as t h e s t u d y be g i n s , t h e s e c o m m i t t e e s m u s t c h o o s e be tween postponing important decisions
Because Federations d o not routinely c o n d u c t large scale research projects, there are n o established procedures for the integration of data into the de cision-making process. T h u s , the decision to conduct a study implies the incorporation o f a new or e x p a n d e d model for planning. T h e n o r m a l allocations process w h i c h plans o n l y f o r t h e y e a r a h e a d will n o w b e a u g m e n t e d by m o r e " l o n g r a n g e " thinking and the establishment of
Gary T o b i n and Nancy Boguslaw, "Develop ing a Data Utilization System for Jewish D e m o
Steven H u b e r m a n , "Using Jewish Population Study Data for Decision Making: Theoretical Con siderations and Practical Experience," in Steven M. C o h e n , J o n a t h a n S. W o o c h e r , and B r u c e A.
graphic Studies, fournal of fewish Communal Ser vice, Vol. 6 0 , (Winter, 1983) N o . 2, p . 104. 288
Phillips, (eds.), Perspectives in Jewish Population Re search, p . 4 8 . 289