Saturday, June 19, 2010


Friends, the Mandel Executive Development Program (the "EDP"), begun with trumpets blaring and drums pounding, has proved to be less than the triumph it might have been...far less...far, far less. With a major investment by the federations through JFNA and the commitment of resources by the Foundation, it could have been a great example of a major foundation working together with our federation instrumentality in pursuit of great systemic goals. Instead, since 2005, it has become an example of what can happen when great plans are implemented by bureaucrats. And, it is a shame.

We have already written about the sad results of the first "class" of the EDP -- more than half of that class have left the federation system and JFNA's two professional leaders of the EDP left JFNA long ago. As to the the second "class," sources tell me that half of that class dropped out before graduation. And, then, after none...that's zero, zed, none...of the remaining members of the two classes have become Large City Federation CEOs, the EDP was disbanded -- or, shall I say "reoriented" (more about that below).

Now, the bizarre. If you go to the Mandel Foundation website, you will find a link to the EDP on the JFNA website. (Follow me here.) There the EDP is identified as an UJC program. (Are you following this?) As I noted above, the Program itself has quietly been deep-sixed -- a former "priority program" now unfunded (but still on both the Mandel and JFNA websites). Now, read the Program's noble purposes:

"The Executive Development Program's (EDP) goal is to develop a pool of outstanding candidates who will be trained and prepared to ascend into the the chief professional officer position in the top 40 federations."

And what happened? First, politics. A number of Federations demanded representation based on Dues payments, without regard to qualifications. Then unlike Chicago which offered opportunity to three brilliant young professionals, a number of communities sent "representatives" much like a reward (although the program had inherent value for sure) even as these professionals in many instances had no greater aspiration within the federation system. And then so many just dropped out of the system altogether.

Curiouser and curiouser. The federations' national search "arm" within JFNA is managed with Mandel. Yet, to my knowledge, not a single "Mandel EDP Fellow" has yet to be placed in a CEO position within the largest 40 federations. While Mandel search pros might argue that you do what the customers demand, my response might be that you are obligated to help influence the customers' choice consistent with the purposes and objectives of the EDP. Obviously, by result, I would be wrong.

This was an extremely expensive Program begun with such promise. I remember the enthusiasm at then UJC Executive Committee when Steve Hoffman and federation CEOs proposed the EDP Partnership. To watch the EDP deteriorate into a memory has been almost inconceivable. And no one seems to care that over $1 million was invested with no apparent sense of "ownership" at JFNA of this Program after its JFNA professional leaders resigned. Today, JFNA continues to invest in/with Mandel -- $500,000 in this year's Budget (if I read that Budget correctly -- and, trust me, that's hard to do) -- but for very changed purposes:

"Mandel/Federation Consultations -- Including Mentoring, Executive Coaching, S Planning (for Strength, Success and Succession [ed, oy vey, S planning!!] and work with new CEO's. The purpose is to raise the level of performance of Federation CEOs and key staff..."


So, what "inspired" this Post beyond sadness and lost opportunity. The "graduates" of the first two (actually the only two) Mandel EDP "classes" are having a reunion in Chicago this month -- the 27th to 29th. They invited Silverman to speak. I saw a certain irony -- these professionals, drawn to the EDP because of the "goal" recited above, to give them the tool kit they would use to "ascend" to federation CEO leadership, would hear from JFNA's new CEO who rose to our national organization's chief professional officer position from Dockers through Camps, hired for the very reason that, among other reasons, he had no prior federation experience. And, Jerry is coming. Should be a great presentation!!

We live and work in complicated times.



joebrown42 said...

What do you think of this:

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your comments.

Four thoughts:

1. I know several of the EDP participants (including someone in my own Federation) from my years in the field. They estimate that less than 1/3 of the group ever had expectations to be the CEO of a Federation. Considerations were based on job demands, family, mobility, etc., which all factor into the role. Yet the comment I have heard the most is "who wants all those headaches."

2. The issue of Federation "outsider" vs. "insider" continues to ring true in CEO searches. My impression is that most communities are seeking people from "outside the system" (new ideas, new views, not stuck in the same old ways, etc), yet name three federations where those individuals have had long-term success? A "federation lifer" should be an asset to the system, not a negative. And JFNA, as you stated, should push those individuals.

3. The Mandel Center just does not do enough quality professional development and training. Perhaps too few people on the Mandel staff or perhaps unsure of how to address the issues? Professional development continues to lag in the field.

4. The EDP participant in my Federation shared with me the list of questions they will be discussing with Jerry at the reunion in Chicago. I found one question very interesting. JFNA (and you, Richard) continues to talk about the Top 40 communities. Yet, in 10-15 years (and some even today), several of those communities will be smaller in population (and perhaps campaign) than let's say some growing western and southern communities. Why shouldn't emphasis be placed on getting top talent (perhaps these EDP graduates) to lead those emerging communities?

Remember when Las Vegas was the "major emerging" community in America? I remember someone once challenging UJC (at the time) to get one of the large city execs to leave their current community and really build up Las Vegas. Of course that never happened. Yet why don't these large city execs, if they are so good at what they do, leave their long-time homes and challenge themselves to build up these emerging communities. There is a real challenge for you!

Anonymous said...

correction: a reunion of "selected graduates" of the past two EDP programs.

Anonymous said...

As a frequent reader and "insider" I think one of the reasons JFNA doesn't "push" insiders to become the execs in the top 40 may have more to do with the fact that today most, if not all, of the top professional leadership at JFNA are not themselves insiders.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is more the Mandel staff can do to influence search committees. But let's face it -- the Mandel Center wants and needs the business and will likely do little to press federation search committees if it means jeopardizing the deal.

Also, as I hint at -- at the end of the day it's the search committees that decide. And they didn't select candidates for EDP so they are hardly invested in the progression of EDP graduates.

Yes, it does seem that communities are seeking to replace insiders with outsiders. Frankly, the label is silly. Was Jerry an outsider? Yes in that he didn't come directly from JFNA/UJC or a federation, but no in that he came from a prominent Jewish organization that worked closely within the framework of the organized Jewish community.

Is Jay Sanderson in LA an insider or outsider? He's been in and around the Jewish world for decades. And there were federations even before LA that hired "outsiders." I think if you look at the candidates you'll find that most had pretty significant connections with the organized Jewish world. (By the way, are these folks now insiders or do they keep their outsider status?)

The insider/outsider label is silly. It's sadly typical of lay leadership to latch on to what seems to them to be a miracle cure (and of course a cure that leaves their stewardship un-scrutinized, as if but for the exec their ship would be at full sail instead of taking on water). As if only the insider exec is what's keeping the federation from success. So the outsider is the flavor of the month. Guess what -- our issues are do not lend themselves to flavor of the month solutions. By the way, this is not to say outsiders are not capable. I just think it comes down to search committees understanding what they're looking for (remember, Moshe Rabeinu isn't available) and recruiting candidates with the proven skills and experience (wherever acquired) to lead and manage (inspire and execute).

Here's a thought: considering the degree to which lay leaders outnumber execs, maybe what we really need are outsider lay leaders.

Lastly, I suggest you talk with professionals who have been through federation search processes. I think you'll find a dysfunctional process. Not only does the search committee know better than the experts (including Mandel), search committees really don't know what they're looking for (other than a combination of every great leader in world history) and even when they do they seem to lack the discipline to be guided by what they say they want.

For future discussion: Few and far between are the talented Jewish executives who are willing to even consider a federation position. Why?

Anonymous said...

As a graduate of the first Mandel Executive Developmet Program, and not one of the people selected to attend the reunion, I have a different perspective on the program.

One size does not fit all. Those selected for the program were all top quality professionals with a real commitment to Jewish Communal service. The program had an unrealistic goal. Yes, it provided excellent executive development for those who participated, but you can't prepare people for "future positions" at a time when the Federation system and the economy are in turmoil. Too little time was spent in mentoriing and individual leadership development and too much time spent in studying global issues. It's hard to develop someone for a position (major city CEO) that has not been analyzed as to the specific skills, communications and knowledge required. Those serving in major city positions are as different from each other as were the participants in our program. The major common thread was a passion for the Jewish Community and employment within the Federation system. Yet for the most part the training was one size fits all.

During the time I was involved with Federations, (I am one of the people who no longer works within the system)the "personnel department" was void of HR professionals. Yes there were people who filled those jobs at CJF/UJC but they were not professionally trained in that field. Much was the case throughout the system.

Nonprofit leadership and management is too complex and ever changing to be conducted the same way as it has always been for over 50 years. We always thought that the Jewish Community was among the best at nonprofit management and fundraising. During the past 20 years we have been living with a myth.

Instinct, passion, caring and commitment carried the Federation movement for several generations but that alone no longer works.

Until the Federation system establishes an agreed upon mission and focuses on what it can do best (with the support of its constituency) it will be a waste of time to try to train people for positions which are undefined and in constant flux.

Communal dollars will be best spent on developing mid level professionals and on efforts that address recruitment and retention.

I continued to serve the Jewish community professionally. With more support (not dollars) from the system, I would still be a Federation Executive and mentor to others as I am now nationally.