Late on 5 February all sorts of Federation professionals (and the rest of us through a Briefing) received a Status Report on Development at UJC. It was accompanied by a link to Development's "Plan." (You would have had to look pretty hard to find it.) I read it and, in a conversation with Eric Levine, UJC's Sr. Vice-President. Development and the Center for Jewish Philanthropy, on an entirely different matter, he invited my comments -- probably to his regret. Here are a synopsis of my Comments on UJC's most critical area of focus:
~ Should have been called what it clearly is -- a Draft. I sensed that Eric intended the Plan as an internal UJC document but that his superiors demanded it go out in advance of the FLI so that federations would be impressed by, if nothing more, the volume of paper being thrown at them. I wrote Eric that knowing him he would have preferred a better-edited work product and one that he had shared in advance with the Campaign Executive Committee.
~ I congratulated Levine on his statistical presentation and analysis -- both excellent and daunting. Should be read by everyone -- especially the UJC Treasurer and Chair,
~ The Plan focuses on 3 "objectives" but with a subset of "objectives" for each one that destroys focus.
~ Every pious pronouncement from UJC leaders states one basic objective for UJC -- new donors. Repeated over and over again. Never followed by actions. The Plan does not mention this goal. You would think, in the tradition of UJC's leaders, the Plan would at least pay lip service to build the donor base..
~ Then there are the areas where UJC has already failed: with the NextGen -- when real leaders of the NextGen have emerged and then dissed with dismissed by UJC's leaders (e.g., David Fisher, Rob Mann [who chaired UJC Training for three years, traveled nationwide -- dismissed], Scott Seligman (mega-donor, caring leader, font of communal creativity) or who, themselves, have found UJC of no value (NextGen federation Chairs around the country) and other organizations have already captured important leaders of the Next Generation (such as members of the Board Chair's own family), it's doubtful that UJC can recreate itself with the very lay and professional leadership in place who created this void.
~ And, reconstituting the Million Dollar Donor Group (an attempt to recreate the so-called "Mega-Group" birthed by United Jewish Appeal) a donor level group that has been too long ignored. At Chicago's Steve Nasatir's and NYC's John Ruskay's initiative, Co-Chairs Lester Crown and Jim Tisch agreed to serve and then...nothing. Could have something to do with Rieger being "assigned" to staff this initiative, but I'm just guessing.
~ Enhance the UJC Missions and other programs? Well, it's not a new idea, but a good one. In fact, this leadership (a) attempted to destroy the Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission -- just characterized by Lori Klinghoffer, Chair of National Women's Philanthropy, at the FLI, as "...our most important national fund raising event -- and would have but for David Fisher's and Morris Offit's combined efforts; (b) notwithstanding the national success of the 2007 Prime Minister's Mission, it continues for no other reason than Chicago's continued insistence that it do so; the ILR, abandoned to KH.
~ There is also the characterization of some programs as "new" that go back years. The Jewish Leadership Forum, begun by UJA, continues to be a nice Summer Aspen outing with no follow-up. It would be good to reinstitute a Young Leadership Cabinet alumni effort -- but you ought to ask Chicago's Skip Schrayer about the effort he his late father put into it with little if any support.
~ And, then there is what is left out -- building the donor base (see above), nationalizing the Lion of Judah minimum gift, examining incredibly successful NextGen programs like Chicago's Nachshon and Sherman Missions and either using them as "best practices" or rolling them out nationally; recreating the "Voyage of Discovery" Missions for federation leaders; and others.
And, then, I encouraged Eric to sort it out, put "meat on the Plan's bones" and go for it.
If, of course, they'll let him.