Thursday, April 22, 2010


Dear Jerry,

You recently sent an e-mail to Federation Executives (but, of course, not all of them) with an incredible attachment -- I-Philanthropy -- Operational Procedures Manual (Working Document). Two of the CEOs, independent of each other, sent it to me -- one indicating: "Enjoy;" the other: "You won't believe this." I didn't enjoy it but I sure believed it..

Apparently, Jerry, you have an absolute belief that if you rebrand dreck, we'll end up with roast chicken...or, maybe, Dockers. So if you rebrand the worthless Center for Jewish Philanthropy and call it I-Philanthropy, guess what, it's still...worthless. Jerry, I, and everyone else I know, wanted and want you to succeed as CEO. My hope was not for "repackaging," it was for boldness; for the courage to create anew, not "rebrand;" and it was the hope that you would understand the core principles and timeless values that brought federations to greatness, not to ignore or fail to learn them.

Maybe you can explain (although you owe me no explanation) what the "brand" I-Philanthropy means, if anything, and, worse, the acronym for the "concept," I P, and all that portends. And, maybe, you could help me understand what an Operational Procedures Manual is for this construct that has no apparent substance. In the "Overview" of I-P you state: "The I-Philanthropy council is the body responsible for philanthropic innovation, signature initiatives, and long-term strategy, as part of JFNA Development." And, somehow, you believe that this new body (and I don't read anywhere that the worthless Center for Jewish Philanthropy -- charged by the way with the identical functions -- is going away) will somehow succeed without any identification of the lay or staff leadership.

Maybe you believe that such an amorphous, vacuous construct will attract mega-donors into lay leadership. I seriously doubt it but applaud your optimism even if misplaced. This has been tried before you know. The use of the "I" preface may be a marketing ploy but it appears as meaningless as does the construct of the Operational Procedures Manual. The reduction of JFNA's work to jargon is so disappointing, so meaningless, so unnecessary.

But all that I read is that JFNA continues to mouth support for overseas needs and the partners who perform them while deprecating their work -- e.g., "Before proposing major initiatives, I-P and the key partners (i.e., an internal JFNA planning council [not even a table?] such as Global Operations, JAFI, JDC or new organizations) will research and develop background information on the suggested area..." Nice -- The Agency and Joint are just "such as" research components of unidentified and undefined and non-existent "major new initiatives."

And, while supposedly "part of...Development," Jerry, "I-P will have the authority to sign agreements" with federation coalitions and "...keep the Development Cabinet, Coordinating Council (is this some formal body) and the Executive Committee apprised." So, which is it: some independent, undefined entity or part of a broader but undefined Development activity...or don't we know or can't we really explain?

Many had hoped that innovation (and the I-P doesn't come close) would be paired with a "back to basics" approach at JFNA that would demonstrate the organization's commitment to both change and core principles. Instead we get more redecorating.

I am certain that the Federation CEOs that received this will have far better questions, but, really, what's this all about, Jerry? We expect better from you than stuff like this.

Best regards,


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