Saturday, April 10, 2010


It must be nice to know that you lead JFNA and can count on the federations and Network to supply you with $30.3 million (+/-) for your annual Budget. -- an amount greater than the Budgets of all but a handful of federations -- without a serious question. We are now in what passes for a "JFNA Budget Process." There is so much to comment upon...but let me be brief.

To begin, the machers at Jewish Federations of North America will want to know "how the hell did he get his hands on the Budget materials?" Well, I just can't say...but, wouldn't it be better if all Board members had a copy of the Draft? Having read it...maybe not.

Let's start with "Description by Program Activity:" The very first one...the very the top of Page 1 Exhibit D is Campaign Training Materials. Excellent program the "Outcomes" from which are as follows (and this is verbatim): "Leadership relies on JFNA to provide these materials to strenthen their leadship skills and provide resources and direction. Materiasl are both informative and perscriptive." OK, aside from the failure to proof read, the Budget is terribly flawed. These are not outcomes -- a fault in so much of the narrative. (The Budget Books, now in the mail, will no doubt be better proofed.)

But, worse than the lack of measurable outcomes (without them can there be accountability?), the Budget framework has no dollar values attached to any activity within broad Budget lines. You want to know what the investment in, e.g., those "Campaign Training Activities" will be? Sorry...apparently none of your business. I have never seen a Budget like this before -- not at my law firms, not at my Federation, not at UJA or CJF or the NCSJ or JAFI and not at UJC in the years up to this Budget. Yes, JDC's Budget is broken down by "Area" and little else, but even its Budget is more expansive and informative than this.

There is some good stuff in the Budget Draft. I was particularly impressed with the meat on the bones of Israel and Overseas' toe dip into the waters of Advocacy -- the orientation, education and training of 50 federation representatives who will then be the overseas advocates in their own federations. (While I think the concept itself is laughable [could a federation leader realistically be expected to argue forcefully and effectively for overseas allocations within her/his federation against the forces who believe that it is "us vs. them?"] at least it's something.)

But with this Budget, it is clear that JFNA still has no real focus. Some might argue that "yes, we have focus" (on Development, "Talent," and the other three areas of Silverman's focus) but merely lumping all JFNA programs into five subject areas isn't focus, its redecorating. Focus is identifying areas of federation need and matching those with that which JFNA can do with excellence. That would be a helluva a challenge but it would produce a meaningful Budget.

Will JFNA ever offer an analysis of its capacity in every area of its Budget that will allow those who pay for its activities and programs to judge just what it can do with assurance of value added and excellence? I have heard Jerry speak to the reality that JFNA must be an organization dedicated to excellence; we have heard rumors that JFNA leaders aspire to no more than to be a "CJF of excellence." Yet, we have a Draft Budget that in too many...way too many...areas we see funding directed to areas of JFNA's work that has to date, in far too many ways demonstrated no relevance to the federations and something far, far less than excellence.

One wag has suggested to me that JFNA reallocate the entire Budget to build a Hot Tub Time Machine. I would respectfully suggest that Jerry refocus (or just plain focus) on achievable goals, realistic impactful projections and honest outcomes (the ridiculous 40,000 e-mail addresses from Heroes, 50,000 new donors, the expectations from e-philanthropy, etc., etc., etc....) with full engagement and transparency.

Let's get back to basics. Let's assert a federation-centric set of priorities, not a JFNA-centric one. Let's see a Budget that allows the reader to understand that JFNA lay and professional leaders know the difference between a federation and a JCC. Just a personal plea to Heschel Raskes, Treasurer and Chair, the Budget & Finance Committee: your immediate predecessors as Committee Chair wholly abdicated their responsibilities; please don't allow the same to happen to you. Take charge.



Anonymous said...

I think Richard you should volunteer your blog for an open mike contest (no pun intended):

"Identify a specific project JFNA should undertake and/or identify a specific activity from which JFNA should withdraw"

All submissions in 4 sentences or less and to be published on a single day (Lag B'omer falling this year on May 2 might have the right symbolism attached to it)

paul jeser said...

Even if all of your suggestions are listened to ( :-) ) the real problem will still not be solved. As the FEDS continue to lose their power and prestige they will have less income to disburse, and 'overseas' allocations will, as always, be the cutting point.

At issue is the sustainability of the FED movement as a whols. This is what needs to be dealt with. When/if the FEDS can regain some of the respect/clout etc. that they had, and when/if their income increases, then the issues of the JFNA can be dealt with with some real impact.