Monday, February 16, 2009


Dear Federation lay and professional leaders:

Unlike the leaders of UJC I can't hit a button on my computer and send an e-mail to each of you, so, as always, this terrible means of communication must do. All of you except the most prodigious Kool-Aid drinkers must feel in your heart of hearts that UJC has become a disaster -- bloated and leaderless.

First reflect...reflect..on the implications of the FLI. Howard Rieger has, as only he can in his View last Thursday. As Frank Rich observed about others: UJC's leaders "...are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber...out of touch with reality." Unfortunately, rather than "seizing the day," as Gary Rosenblatt charged the federations in a brilliant pre-FLI editorial, when opportunity presented itself it was the old: "never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity." I had predicted long before the FLI itself that it would be "rigged" unless federation leaders stepped forward. It pains me to have been so right.

Let's begin with the reality that after all the pre-Institute hype, the constant hold the dates, pleas to attend, e-mails and phone calls -- 70...70 of 155...federations were in attendance. Yet, UJC's leaders would claim a sufficient, pardon me, "overwhelming" consensus in support of every proposal on the table. It strikes me, as it must you, that if well more than half of your owners are not in attendance, what you ought to be focusing on is "why?" But, no, these leaders once again congratulate each other profusely.

And after you set aside the tchotchkes -- the fortune cookie sayings, the sugar cubes, the cute stuffed elephants, etc. -- what you have is an example of an extremely well-managed show, the appearance of engagement and wholly predictable results. Let's start, therefore, with the Board Chair's opening. Consistent with past practice, Kanfer presented a present value analysis using it to deprecate the Annual Campaign once again, as he has so often in the past. Even his CEO was forced, in his own excellent summary of the proceedings, to point out the miraculous achievement the AC is when one considers the $700 million raised by the federations in two emergency campaigns, $30 million in Hurricane Relief and $1.5 billion per year in endowment growth. But, Joe is motivated -- his thesis that the Annual Campaign growth is stymied by a lack of "big idea driven" product and that that is the fault of...JDC and JAFI, described throughout the FLI as our "beloved partners" right before the knives are driven into their backs.

The Institute was the first place where at least some (those we are allowed to see) of the research findings of the Branding & Marketing Initiative were released -- via Power Point. (If you link through Rieger's View to his speech, you can further link to the Power Point. First, there has to be more to this for $2 million!! Second, on general Jewish attitudes toward charity, the findings are similar to those of the 2000 National Jewish Population Study. And, third, I think it fair to conclude that throwing out the UJA brand at the birth of the new organization is proved to be among the most reckless, wasteful acts of our generations of Jews. For today, ten years later, UJA remains four times more "branded" in the minds of affiliated and non-affiliate Jews, than does UJC. (But, fear not, UJC will continue to deconstruct its own brand.) Critically, Federations are found to be trustworthy, responsible, efficient and results-oriented. s only 10%-14% of the respondents had ever heard of UJC, no questions needed be asked -- except of and by the federations themselves. "Why," you might ask, after the expenditure of over $400,000,000 of our dollars, is UJC so irrelevant, so unengaged?

As to the actual research, Rieger, in typical Rieger fashion misrepresents (or, quite possible misunderstands) any opposition to the engagement of two firms at a cost of ultimately $2,000,000 for this work, He accuses the naysayers of being opposed to the research and how "they" would have denied the system this incredible work-product had we listened to them . Howard, let me make this clear: my opposition was to the cost and to the manner in which the $2 million cost was merely applied to the project without any process -- something that wouldn't have happened in Pittsburgh, Cleveland or any of the other place you learned your craft. It would have been grounds for dismissal and/or removal from office. Got it?

So, among other things at the Institute, 18 tables discussed major issues. Their conclusions dutifully recorded and then...ignored. For example, from the 30 people, more or less, there was seeming unity that global responsibility was the federations' highest priority; yet. Kanfer would report that " global responsibility is among the highest priorities, supported as such by 35% of the people," we ought to take another look at it?? This was characterized by some as gracious."

But Rieger's Summation illuminates all:

~ On efficiency. "...working together to develop (a) state-of-the-art information systems for running our campaigns, so one framework could meet all of our needs. By creating one dynamic Web site template so we don't have to waste money on ultiple solutions. By investing together in top flight marketing tools that would obviate the need for one-off solutions. By down-sizing or eliminating the multiple federation offices in favor of creating one trusted federation presence." All excellent ides, all tried...and all...all...rejected by the federations at whom and for whom they were intended.

~ On increasing the donor base: "As we sit and ponder our narrow interests, we've gone from 900,000 to now under 500,000 contributors. We must invest in opportunities to bring new people on board, but a timid response is more likely to be our answer if business as usual prevails." Howard, Howard, Howard -- your own FRD Plan released simultaneous with the FLI wholly fails to make donor development a priority -- "business as usual" indeed, words without action. Nice sounds, terrible music.

And, then, on Planning Tables. Attempts by Rieger to justify what is contemplated by the Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations seem designed to frighten JAFI and JDC more than comfort them. Recasting the IEC Work Group that, prioritized JAFI/JDC expenditures during the Hizbollah War and ignored its mandate in reallocating precious funds from JAFI and JDC to others in response to the Hamas War as the model for the bigger "planning table" now contemplated; accusing that "JAFI and JDC have not even been able to agree between themselves as how to divide the core funds we provide to them" with no recognition of the disruptive role played by UC in the process in which Howard's own actions disqualified UJC from its role as the honest broker mediating the issues is typical -- create a villain, blame them, it or he or she.

And, finally, the FLI bottom line -- "agreement on a dues formula that will be adhered to and a governance system that we trust to represent us well." And, Howard and Joe want us to remember: "...the Federations of North America aren't being ruled by the dead hand of the past but rather by an enlightened view of the future." Oh, my.

Rigged? QED.


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