In my last CATCHING UP Post I reflected on the agenda of the Young Leadership Cabinet Retreats wistfully. The fund raising results raise some real questions about the YLC in 2011 and beyond reflecting, as always, on the direction (or, more likely, the lack thereof) of JFNA's Development effort.
Along with so many of you, including the JFNA Board Chair, I served on the Cabinet. I did so at a time that Cabinet membership meant something -- it was "elitist" in the sense of our financial commitments and it demanded capacity giving. The Retreats were intense and emotional. The caucuses were both of those as well -- small rooms, full disclosure, intense...and you didn't leave the small caucus setting until you had satisfied the 4 or five others in the room that your pledge commitment satisfied the others in the room that your gift represented your capacity...and beyond. There was ruach, common purpose, a shared vision and passion. We were propelled from these Retreats into federation leadership if we wanted it.
This year, over 90 men contributed an average of $9,850; over 80 women, an average of $8,500. This is not a reflection on these young leaders or their capacities; it is a reflection of the criteria now being used for YLC membership. And, certainly, many of these young men and women will grow their annual gifts. That's not the point -- the Cabinet was supposed to be a place for those who are already demonstrating leadership and to grow them. I know that in some communities it is not uncommon to find local Campaign Chairs who contribute at these levels -- but I can tell you that those federations' campaigns are in trouble. And when the Cabinet, which graduated so many to Federation and national leadership roles, is populated by those whose capacity is reflected in a gift of less than $10,000 (and these 2011 gifts represented increases in excess of 25%!!), we have the strongest evidence of our institutional weakness.
Our friend Paul Jeser wrote:
"richard - of everything you have written, this 'update' about the YLC is the most depressing - and saddening.
Back in 'the day', us small/intermediate city Fed Execs looked to the YLCs as a most important part of the system. It was the glue that tied us all together.
The YLCs were the breeding ground for future leadership - especially from the smaller Feds who did not have the same leadership/donor strength the larger Feds had.
That the Feds 'allowed' this to happen, it seems to me, is more proof that the Fed system, as we knew it to be, just is no longer viable."
What did Michael Lebovitz, Linda Hurwitz and Jerry Silverman tell these leaders at their Retreat: "you inspire us?" "I am reenergized by being here with you." "It's your century; thanks for sharing it with us." All of the above"? It used to be true. Not any more.
One of our correspondents has described his/her pain that this lay leadership and their predecessors "...have taken something beautiful and desecrated it." Nowhere is that more tragic and more true than what has happened to the Young Leadership Cabinets. This constituency was the gem, the diamonds...turned into zircons. Did this occur by neglect? Through a lack of attention? Through a failed competence?
Perhaps I now better understand why a "highlight" on the YLC Program this year was a "Casino Night." The Cabinets were entrusted by us to this leadership; by failing them, they have failed us. We have lost our way. Oy vey.