Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Following my Post on Relevance, I received some insightful albeit Anonymous Comments that merit our consideration. Those Comments follow, then some response from me:

Anonymous said...


I'm going to take a stab at a partial defense of designated giving. I'll begin by saying that nothing can or should replace undesignated giving to the Annual Campaign. Local and global agencies need these funds for their basic operations, particularly the things that we don't usually see as being "sexy" as well as having the flexibility to move around resources in times of emergency or crisis.That being said though, our system has a history of designated or elective giving. Let's use the overseas case as an example. Fifteen years ago communities started to feel that they needed to better connect to what their money was doing overseas. That gave birth to Partnership 2000 and eventually the ONAD process. Would JDC and JAFI rather receive the money that is used for elective programs in the form of core allocations? Absolutely, but for the donors it is important to be able to see the clear impact of their funds in specific programs. We can use these funding processes and the programs themselves as vehicles for doing good and telling the stories of what we are doing with precious community resources.Just as we couldn't ignore the need to have an elective funding process that takes into account North American community/donor interests, we can't ignore the opportunities that donor designated giving affords. When coupled with annual giving, it can be an effective tool to engage the community in specific initiatives while increasing the financial resources available.As the old adage goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.


Anonymous - part 2

My only objection to what Anonymous said today is that I always believed that the creation of designated giving at the national level (UJC) was as a response to some federations that were already funding outside the traditional boundaries. In order to make it appear that they were in compliance, these communities pushed for their “outside the family” grants to be included in the total overseas funding thus raising their percentage to overseas. Once that Pandora’s Box was open it forced JDC and JAFI (then ultimately ORT) to have to compete among themselves as well as against the organizations that were receiving the designated funds. I further believed (and still do) that JAFI created P2K in order to secure at least the 50% of the allocable designation from federations. Remember that the original formula was 90% core and 10% elective. In fact, if you look at where the money really goes, I believe that most of the P2K money actually ends up in the hands of other organizations with JAFI as a pass through. These “service providers” were taken out of the equation thus preventing them from competing directly to the federations.

Anonymous 1 here again-

In response to Anonymous 2, I think that you are right that there has always been lag time between what is happening from community to community and the policies the UJC adopts and tries to "enforce."

That being said, even the pass through role the JAFI or JDC may play, and we should acknowledge that it happens with both organizations, the ability for communities to "own" an initiative is an important hallmark. The weakness in the elective process is when a community is scatter shot and does not have a focused approach to what it is doing overseas. It is no different than working with local partners. Even in communities that still provide core allocations to their local agencies, and sadly that is increasingly rare, the small programmatic grants/funds for specific initiatives are an effective tool to ensuring the innovative or new initiatives are undertaken.

What I personally object to is the movement among some federations to go to entire elective funding (whether local or global). In 2006, we can see how critical it was that JDC and JAFI had the flexibility to redeploy resources when Israel failed the people of northern Israel. That a federation and its leaders make agencies jump through hoops for every dollar is a travesty, but designating small amounts that perhaps have more measurable impacts beyond turning on the lights is still valuable.


Friends. I couldn't agree more with both of you. Designated giving needs no "defense." It has proved to be critical to our system's donors, to our agencies, local, domestic and international, and, in those federations which use it, as does mine, as an add-on to the Annual Campaign, it builds federation, as it should. But, as you point out, the tail has begun to wag the dog...hard. At the beginning, designated giving was to offer new opportunities to donors who had "capped" their Annual Campaign gifts. Today, in some communities, designated giving now overwhelms the Annual Campaigns and reduces them to the federations' detriment.

And, as donors now designate to federations, many federations are imposing "designations" on their allocations. Even at The Jewish Federations of North America, there are those in leadership who wish to designate federation allocations to the beneficiaries, not as matter of equity or partnership, but as a matter of control. More and more, we see "Bowling Alone" overtaking and overwhelming our system; the desire for "control" tossing aside Maimonidesian principles of Jewish philanthropic giving. And, that's not only sad, it will, if it continues to grow, and if the federations' voices remain silent, the system will ultimately self-destruct.



Paul Jeser said...

Richard - you end with "if the federations' voices remain silent, the system will ultimately self-destruct."

I won't argue the question of 'is it good or bad?', but the fact is that, in most communities, the Federation's strength has been diluted because it has not understood the world of designated giving. In most communities, the Federations are just one more charitable organization.

And the concept of an 'annual campaign' that raises funds that will be allocated by others is a concept that no longer is effective.

Times have changed - significantly - and the Federation world is way behind. If there are not significant conceptual and practical changes made very soon, there will be no more Federation communtiy.

Anonymous said...

and others might argue that Federation's were too timid in reminding the community of who they are and what they are about -- the primary link to global Jewry , no let's say it - ISRAEL, and the protection of safety net services for all Jews in need at home and throughout the world. That chevre is a "brand" that has proven itself over and over again for 70 years and more. Do we, god forbid, need another crisis to drive home the point?

Dovidele the Dinosaur

paul jeser said...

Dear Dovidele,

There are many organizations that are also part of the link to global Jewry/Israel. That's the changed world (for good or for bad).

The Universities, Hospitals, Social Service agencies, etc., that raise funds outside of the Federation umbrella have become as important, if not moreso, to most major donors than the Federation.

Federations were not too timid in stating their case; they were/are too timid in redevolping their much needed role in/for the Jewish community.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,

You, I and many readers all know that if JAFI, JDC and their Federation supporters dissappeared tommorow we would have to recreate them. They do the heavy day to day lifting that boutique charities cannot do and are the shver arbiters of Jewish life. In local communities they are there for agencies when government dollars shrink and when foundations move on to the next "big thing". And before you say it, we also know that many of these sexy philanthropic products so touted today were nurtured with Federation help before the foundations caught on to them.
It would be gratuitous of me to say Federations must change --change is natural and essential for all institutions. However the reasons for the creation of the UJA - Federation system have not dissappeared.


paul jeser said...

Dovidele, The 'proof' that your scenerio is non-functional is that many of the institutions/organizations that do/did receive JDC/JAFI funds are now raising funds directly.

The boutique organizations were founded mainly because they did not receive funds from the federation world.

What I am saying is that the Federation needs to become not 'just one more findraising organization' for it to be the force that is needed.