Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Hiring Jerry Silverman was a bold and desperate stroke, a Hail Mary (excuse me!!) pass if you will. From all I have observed, and from all that I have heard from Jerry directly and indirectly, this was a great hire. There is an ingenuousness about Jerry that is beyond endearing -- coupled with a deer in the headlights quality that can only be reduced if Jerry is receiving mentoring from Federation CEOs and others who understand what Federation with a capital "F" really means. There is only so much that Jerry can learn from his commendable visits with so many federations -- and he has learned much.

For those of us reduced to tears having watched our hopes for JFNA dashed on the shoals of years of incompetency and a void in lay and professional leadership, Jerry's words sound like celestial harps. But even Jerry would admit that to date, his words have been just that and no more. Some of us urged that Jerry build on "small victories" into larger ones. But, no. Oh, sure, there have been serious distractions -- Heroes, #ish are but examples -- that have acted as the juggling clown off to the side to distract from the obvious. Now the hard work begins. And Jerry continues to be without lay partners who have the ability to communicate the federation experience so vital to his and JFNA's success.

Jerry has now projected an Annual Campaign this year...2010...or maybe by 2011, that will reach $1 billion at a time when JFNA's own numbers conclude that in 2009 our aggregate campaigns fell by $110,000,000 to closer to $800,000,000. He projects increases in donors to 1 million when we are closer to one-third of that today. Now, I am from Chicago, often citing the brilliant Daniel Burnham who said "make no little plans." I congratulate Jerry Silverman for his optimism, for dreaming the greatest of dreams. But dreams without a scintilla of reality can quickly turn to nightmares.

And why do these dreams lack reality? Because to date...and I emphasize to date...JFNA has acquired no capacity to assist Federations in increasing their Annual Campaigns -- on either the senior professional (where JFNA may have taken action --if the New York annual campaign experience is a meaningful and transferable one) or lay sides. (On the lay side, lay leaders experienced in campaign have been "laid off" --or, in JFNA parlance, "rotated.") On the donor side, there is no basis in fact today for the hoped for "projection." (Oh that there were.)

But, given the lack of progress at JFNA in its first decade from the activities of the predecessor organizations, we need great dreams -- for a great dream can offer powerful motivation. Up to now we have had the "JFNA doll" -- you wound it up and nothing happened. Silverman offers, he embodies, hope. Now he needs greater mentoring, he needs to match hope with the skill set and the leadership support necessary to implement that hope in a focused way. Stephen Covey mandated that you must "begin with the end in mind." And, that just hasn't happened.


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