Friday, September 4, 2009


More and more one is seeing federations facing falling campaigns, reduced grant dollars and declining endowment values turning to draconian means to meet the crisis. Were there still a UJC worthy of the name (whatever that may be today) maybe...maybe...there would be some national leadership through this Great Recession; instead, we get conference calls and "Crisis Newsletters." So, it is each federation for itself and, as all politics is local, so are "solutions" in the face of the economic tsunami. How could one not be saddened by the reality that UJC has become Kamchatka, the place where nothing grows. And how urgently UJC must change itself.

This is just a personal opinion, as always: the idea of using "furloughs" to stem the tide of the economic crisis is neither a good nor creative idea. Federation doors must remain open, federations must be at work at least five days a week. Reduce the work day hours...fine; go to flexible schedules to achieve the same result...fine; work even harder to raise more dollars...the best. But close one day a week...a bad idea, even if a skeleton staff remains to keep the doors open. We have seen many, many examples in the federation world, in the non-profit world and in the business world of voluntary or imposed salary cuts to avoid even more draconian staff cuts (not, of course, at UJC) but the very concept of "furloughs" as some federations are imposing them makes little sense in the federation context -- it sends a message to the community that "we're going to be there for you 20% fewer days than we have before." That's entirely the wrong message. (And, yes, reduced hours or flex time schedules are a form of "furlough" but doors remain open, Federation is at work five days a week, etc. Big differences.)

In the meantime, UJC is operating as if it will receive 2010 dues in total satisfaction of its Budget. Some in federation leadership ought to sit down with Kathy Manning, Jerry Silverman and Sam Astrof, and explain that there should be no such expectations. Astrof has a federation CFO group -- they ought to be convened immediately in an effort to have a candid environmental scan if you will of the dire circumstances. And if Sam and his staff are getting periodic candid reports, they ought to be sharing them. (Although I believe that they are.)

I fear that there are those at 25 Broadway who are in total denial of the fiscal realities. The organization's monthly spend rate presumes that Dues will be paid in full even as the federations send their message that they won't be. It's a dangerous fiscal game. I would expect that the first days of Jerry Silverman's service will include a candid analysis of budget vs. income.


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