Tuesday, June 22, 2010


CEO and President Jerry has been making the argument that JDC and JAFI must abandon their FRD plans. On this one Jerry appears to be tone deaf -- impose national discipline on the Joint and Agency while ignoring the reality that JFNA offers them nothing...nada...squat in terms of Development or advocacy in return. No national campaign (JFNA has neither the professional or lay leadership to mount what it has over 11 years abandoned); no advocacy (JFNA hasn't the will or the person power, lay or professional to do so); no national cash collection process...just "no, no, no..."

JFNA (which, given the absolute paucity of lay leadership, means "Jerry") took on the responsibility in May 2010 to lead the federations to consensus on a meaningful, binding allocations effort. So far, what has it done...or, should I write, what hasn't it done? Jerry has spoken at least once to each City-size executive group since the May JFNA Governance meetings. If he used those conference calls to bring the allocations issue up, it was done with such subtlety as to not register. JFNA's lay leadership, after a righteous discussion at the May Governance meetings on collective responsibility have, once again, totally abandoned the effort. "Leave it to Jerry," is their byword while they piddle and diddle with narishkeit.

So, Jerry makes the argument that JDC and JAFI will destroy local campaigns through their FRD within the federated communities -- I guess that's something Jerry thought about when he led the Camp FRD effort in the same jurisdictions. In fact, we have all heard the argument -- "we reached out to those who had either capped out their annual campaign gifts or wouldn't give to federation anyway." This rationalization has been articulated since time immemorial -- and it is farcical and fails to meet the smell test. What both JAFI and JDC assert is that they will fund raise in those communities which fail to support their core budgets. How does JFNA respond -- does it go into those communities on JAFI's and JDC's behalf? Does it advocate and make the argument for collective responsibility in those communities? No, instead, Jerry is sent out to threaten JAFI and the Joint if they pursue their plans.

In an insightful piece in his eJewish philanthropy preceding the WZO and JAFI meetings (June 14, 2010), The World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Struggle to Find Meaning, Dan Brown sums up the quandary of so much happening and needing to happen while the federation system appears to be but a by-stander: "Where are our Diaspora leaders while all of this is taking place? When might they wake up?" This seminal question applies with equal weight to the growing sense that these organizations and ORT have -- that they are no longer "partners" except when being patronized. Brown continued: "First and foremost, is the decision to establish a global center in New York (for the Fund for the Jewish Agency), and all the ramifications involved. Coupled with the beefing up of the FRD staffs of both the Joint...and World ORT, it heralds the decreasing influence of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), through the United Israel Appeal, as a facilitator of global allocations...What does all this competition mean to JFNA"s constituent organizations and grantees?" (emphasis added) What, indeed.

Long before this Blog started (and certainly since), I have pleaded with a succession of JFNA lay and professional leaders to act in the best interests not only of Newco, then UJC then JFNA, and meet their responsibilities assumed in the merger of education and advocacy for collective responsibility. Now, JFNA having sown the wind is about to reap the whirlwind. More's the pity.



Anonymous said...

Another take: "Partnership" dissolved on a national level once "partnership" dissapeared on the local scene. With the emergence of messiah CEO's, even the most respected laity lost (or were stripped) of their ownership perspective and became one more prospect, one more potential asset to be mined. The "leave it to ___" refrain did not start with JFNA.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, the entire effort at FRD by JAFI, JDC and ORT was a logical conclusion of the original intent of UJC encouraging competition among the federations for the 10% discretionary funds. As federations were "solicited" by the 3 organizations more individuals became aware of the needs ending in more designations through the federations thus lowering the total collective funding. In an effort at "self preservation" each organization ultimately was in a position to cut out the "middleman", the federations, in order to further stimulate designated funding to their organization. The end result is that the organizations now go directly to the source of federation funds,their donors or prospective donors regardless of whether or not the donor is disenchanted with the federation. Those that still love the federation but still want to give a designated gift are encouraged to do do so through the federation. Those that are disenchanted with the federations now have a way to accomplish what they want by dealing with the FRD team of the organization. Either way, the more contacts that can be made by the respective organization the better success that organization will have. The end result is a need to beef up the FRD team for each organization. I seem to recall that this was predicted several years ago and may have even appeared a one of your posts, Richard.

Anonymous said...

I live in not the largest sized community blessed however with a couple of dozen major donors comfortable with six figure Jewish gifts. They may or many not be tapped out philanthropically but they are savvy enough to play off one charity against the other. And now JDC and soon JAFI will have professional fundraisers circuit riding through our town and the JCC and the day school have taken on their own hired guns. As more than one industry has discovered, in a zero sum market, talent can cancel out talent.