Thursday, August 19, 2010


Look, at heart I am, like so many of you, a fund raiser -- with all modesty, a damned good one. And, as any good fund raiser knows, you have to be an optimist. I am afraid, however, that our friends at JFNA have taken optimism to a height I can't even approach.

Almost back-to-back two organizations offered environmental analyses that were polar opposites from one another suggesting that one is just totally out of touch with reality -- you guess which.

On August 16, GuideStar USA, the self-styled "...leading source of nonprofit information..." released an all-encompassing economic survey of public charities that revealed, among other things, "...there's no doubt that the nonprofit sector continues to face an incredibly difficult philanthropic environment." The GuideStar report was titled Great Recession Continues to Hurt Nonprofit Sector. This is what Newsweek characterized this week as "the wrath of the relentless present." But to JFNA, even the present is past.

The very next day, on August 17, JFNA issued an important Leadership Briefing -- its title: JFNA RELEASES FIRST POST-RECESSION FEDERATION BENCHMARKING RESULTS. (Emphasis added.)The logical conclusion -- only JFNA and the Obama Administration believe that we are in a "Post-Recession" period. JFNA is busy "...suggesting strategies for growth" and framing its strategies based on the emergence of our philanthropy from "...the 2008-2009 recession"(!!) at a time when most federations I have visited or heard from are in the midst of a continuing struggle to maintain even to survive in the midst of reduced campaigns and falling endowments.

If I were a federation, no matter the City-size, CEO or Chair reading these two studies side-by-side, I would question not just the credibility of an organization of and for the federations which believes its owners are in the "post recession" era but that organization's value to a system in crisis. Is JFNA living in some alternative universe? Have they handed studies like this one over to consultants who consider raw data without any direct knowledge of the realities federations across this continent are facing?

Yes, I recall the days, not so long ago, when federations insisted that then UJC not even use the "R word" as if that avoidance would postpone the impacts of the recessionary flood upon our system's donors, large and small. That was a denial of reality that has now been matched or exceeded by the very suggestion that we, as a system, have emerged from the recession while every other philanthropy and our donors continue to suffer.

If only wishing made it so.


1 comment:

paul jeser said...

richard - should i nominate you? :-)