When I wrote the Post, quoting my philosopher, Charles Barkley, STUPIDER...AND MORE STUPID, on October 20, little did I think that I thought I would have to add another "STUPID" to the litany. For I should have known that the powers that be -- the so-called leadership of JFNA -- would surface their own response to the Post (actually it's to "circumstances") -- a proposed Amendment to the JFNA Standing Dues Resolution dating back to 2002, to be voted on by the Federation Members Corporation at the General Assembly. The draft Resolution (claimed to have been vetted by JFNA's Governance, Financial Relations and Executive Committees) came out of the blue -- unmarked to show the changes from the prior Dues resolutions. So, let me help.
I worked with the venerated Albert Ratner and JFNA's pro, Rob Hyman (who is no longer on staff), in a Dues Committee/Financial Relations joint effort to derive a fair and standardized Fair Share Dues structure in 2002. It was quite simple: (1) a Dues formula based on the ratio of your federation's annual campaign to the aggregate of all annual campaigns in the formula year; (2) a payment schedule; (3) a failure to pay Dues would result in a termination of the defaulting federation's rights to membership (including the service of any of its leadership in any JFNA or JFNA-related roles); and (4) a Financial Relations Committee process to determine if a federation had suffered a hardship that might relieve it of the Dues obligation in the year of or year following the claimed hardship.
This process worked well at first. A great set of professionals under Sam Astrof were dedicated to the federations, JFNA and, as well, the overseas partners. A terrific group of Financial Relations Committee members joined me and Cheryl Lefland for JFNA, in visiting federations which asserted a hardship. Jerry Yanowitz, Jay Sarver, Connie Giles, Joel Alperson, and others all visited federations. At the time most of us were discharged (in JFNA-speak "rotated off"), there were no federations in Dues default.
Now, there are many in "default." Some believe they get no (or relatively little) value from the Dues they pay; many were devastated by Madoff; more were devastated by the economy (and many of those had unique circumstances0. And here is what happened -- with no authority to do so JFNA declared a "hardship moratorium." So, to be crass, for the past 6 years going on seven, JFNA's message was: "Yes, you might have a hardship but so what, so do a lot of others, and if we grant you hardship what about them. And we have to fund our budget."
Ahhh, the JFNA Budget, all $30.3 million of it, there's the rub. That Budget, each and every year, presumes full Dues payments by the federations. (I don't know, but if my business's income reduces, we reduce our budget. Same thing at home. But not JFNA.) The expressed attitude of the immediate past Board Chair do what my federation does -- take it off the overseas allocation. The attitude of the current Chair of the Executive has been for a few years that Dues come first and off the top. The best JFNA professionals have acknowledged that if my federation sends in a 1/12th payment of dues and allocation but fails to designate what percentage is to flow to JAFI/JDC, JFNA applies the entirety of the payment to its Budget -- I guess the attitude is that "we'll catch up later and JAFI/JDC can go borrow."
Granting no "hardship" relief, no matter the fact that hardships existed all over the continent, JFNA began cashing underpayments of Dues and sending back to the "offending" (or is that "defaulting") federations (a growing number) a promissory note and a payment plan for the difference between Dues paid and Dues "owed." No prior discussion -- just "sign and pay." Not really a "best practice" for a membership organization; and one being ignored by any number of federations unable or unwilling to pay.
Then as I wrote last week, word began spreading about Dues "deals" that had been cut -- with Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Orlando, etc., etc. -- across the country. Deals that were never processed at the JFNA Executive Committee. Deals of which the relevant JFNA professionals may have been unaware until after the fact. "Deals" that are characterized still sounds like "deals" to me. The communities I have heard about were all suffering hardships but, in reality, hardship status denied many other communities similarly situated.
This leadership now scrambles to codify its worst practices -- promissory notes and payment plans -- without ever discussing those plans with the federation members just as the deals cut have never been discussed with or presented to, e.g., the JFNA Executive Committee. (Want to wager that the JFNA Executive hasn't even seen a list of federations not paying full Dues...can't be trusted.) Oh, they'll have the votes -- it's weighted voting at the Federation Members corporation after all -- but will they have an organization when this is all over?
Do we have one now?