Thursday, December 25, 2008


On September 10 I posted The Law of Unintended Consequences where I reflected on the damage that Federation Peer Yardstick could have given its growing use by UJC to comparatively measure federations' overseas allocations without any off-setting positive advocacy by UJC for the desperate needs facing our People in Israel and Overseas. I expressed my concern that FPY (not to be confused with FLI or Shoo Fly Pie) would be used to reduce federations to the lowest common denominator among them. There was no sense reflected on UJC's part of aspirational leadership or goal-setting for and with its federation owners. I feared that the good of peer yardstick would ultimately be outweighed by the negative.

Then, on December 22, like an unwelcome Chanukah present from UJC, a Leadership Briefing -- UJC To Release Findings From Two Significant Surveys. Two summaries wereattached which led the voluble CEO Rieger (does he appear in person at UJC or only on the written page) to bloviate: "The analysis we gain from this research will help grow and sustain our system into the future." I really wonder if Rieger reads this stuff before it goes out because both "Surveys" are, in fact, insignificant and one threatens our system to its foundation. The fact that these would be sent out as if they added systemic value at this time boggles the mind.

One of the Surveys FPY Agency Leadership Stakeholder Survey Preview -- December 2008, endangers even more than UJC's silence the allocations to domestic and overseas agencies based on, get this, discussions and interviews with six pilot communities. Those discussions led to a survey completed by "462 agency leaders from 27 communities..." a "robust" response rate. And here are the incredible conclusions as presented:

1. "FPY Agency Early Insight (what the heck is that? Will there be a "late insight" to follow?) #1: Agencies are Most Influenced by How Cooperatively They Perceive That Federation Raises and Distributes Funds."

2. "FPY Agency Leadership Early Insight #2: Donors Give More When They Feel that Agencies are Doing a Better Job."

3. "FPY Agency Leadership Early Insight #3: "Agencies Value Federation's Help in Times of Trouble."

All one can say is: duh!!What revelations!! What insights!! Is there a federation CEO or Chair who needed this research to support these conclusions? Who needed this stuff particularly at this time? What was the point in sending it out at all, let alone now?

One of my friends, a Federation Chair, wrote to me after reading this Survey: "...peer yardstick -- mediocrity is the king." UJC's epitaph as well. Can't we get some new, invigorated! (The Detroit Lions are, by the way, now 0-15.)


But, FPY isn't all. On Tuesday, there it was, another UJC's Economic Crisis E-Newsletter. The subject this time promised much -- UJC RESPONDS TO FRAUD LOSSES HITTING THE COMMUNITY -- and delivers...nothing. There is a quote from New York UJA's Chair. Jerry Levin about the impacts and, then, UJC speaks...."No one knows yet how serious the system-wide damage will be. Right now, UJC is surveying federation endowment professionals and others to get an accurate read on the system's financial exposure and to determine how to respond." Uh-huh -- let's see if I read this correctly: "UJC RESPONDS..." by " determine how to respond." (Is there an organization in Jewish history that is so obsessed with surveying the obvious? Federation to UJC: "Do Jewish children love their mothers?" UJC: "We'll survey that and get back to you in a few months.")

Then, if you're with me, "...some of the programs" for the UJC 2009 Investment Institute (no doubt, the "II," not to be confused with the "FLI" or the "FPY" or Shoo Fly Pie) have been "refocused" so the matters can be discussed in February 2009. In comparison -- direct comparison -- take a look at what the Jewish Funders Network has done since the Madoff scandal broke. Per the JTA, JFN convened a meeting Tuesday in New York of "35 of the country's largest foundations," it "is developing a comprehensive plan to help non-profits hit hard..." by Madoff "that includes bridge funding." UJC "surveys" and, yesterday, Rieger sends out a Memo of its plans, as our national institution to do, essentially, that which it has been doing -- nothing. I don't know, my friends, but UJC has moved from irrelevance to farce and irrelevance at a time of our greatest need for a strong central institution of and for the federations. It's pitiful.

We can do better. The federations conceived of UJC as something so much better. We must insist it be that which we had conceived it to be.


1 comment:

Leslie said...

Once again, you're right on all fronts. Mr. Wexler, your regular critique is spot on. The question I have for you is - so what?

Not "so what" as in what you're doing is not useful. But "so what" as in, now what?

UJC is clueless. That UJC has been absent from any meaningful discussion of the economic situation is obvious. That UJC is being treated by the Jewish press as irrelevant in the Madoff saga (note: UJC is acting as it if it knows it's irrelevant) says all that needs to be said.

OK. So now what?

What do we want to accomplish as a national community/system? What changes would we need to make in our organizational structure? In the governance structure? In how local federations engage with the national system?

Let's start that conversation.