Thursday, November 18, 2010


In a flash during the JFNA Board meeting on September 28, JFNA effectively announced it is going out of the Campaign business. But a few years ago, the Campaign Department was rebranded as "Development" -- now "Development" is no more. Henceforth (until the next rebranding), what we knew as the United Jewish Appeal and then as Campaign and then as Development shall be known as Philanthropic Resources. No, I haven't a clue what that means -- the expanded scope of the Department's services??? -- if so, a list, please --and I don't believe for a moment that when the National Campaign Chair announced the change, that he understood what the change meant either. (You may add to that knowledge void, the intent of Tribefest. [More on that sad subject in few days.])

What this change signals is nothing less than the death knell of national leadership in the area of the Annual Campaign. It is ironic that at the very moment Michael Lebovitz, now the "National Philanthropic Resources Chairman," I suppose, was making the rebrand announcement, I was corresponding with professionals in the "Philanthropic Resources" Department about an invitation, initiated by a federation, to provide lay support to a "Campaign Fly-In" effort. For, you see, the federations (such as Orlando) recognize that they need national campaign assistance. No, not Chicago and not New York, but so many, many others. In fact, in annual research conducted for the then UJC, a vast number of federations annually called upon UJC for more campaign support -- campaign assistance was at the top of their "wants" from JFNA. But what federations wanted and needed was inconsistent with the national narrative starting about 6 years ago (when national leadership began to publicly deprecate the annual campaign) and continues to this day and through this rebrand.

But with all surveys of federations evidencing the cry for more campaign help, what did JFNA do? Well, first, it stopped taking surveys; then it restructured Campaign into Development and pushed out its top professional leadership seconding Development to Consulting Services (which, itself has been shunted aside), then it claimed to be elevating the National Chairman's position (but did no more in my opinion than change the letterhead), and now a "rebrand" out of existence.

Jerry Silverman came in as CEO charged to make of JFNA an organization that would make a difference for the federations which own it. He clearly believed that new branding ("JFNA") would make a difference even though it had little to do with the federations beyond the name; and others apparently believe that rebranding the campaign effort will be a substitute for actually engaging in it. Oh, there will be a national mission now and then, a Prime Minister's Council Dinner at the GA, some other events, lip service at Board meetings to National Women's Philanthropy, and Regional "Ignitions" but the fund raising assistance federations other than the Large Cities (and even there who doesn't believe that San Francisco would embrace an all hands' [if JFNA had two or three] campaign investment) want and need? Not from this JFNA.

The pairing of Israeli philanthropists with their North American peers; has that disappeared off the JFNA map? Without a trace? The Special Campaign for Children? Where did that go? Without a trace with a "confidential plan" placed on the shelf with all the others?

What have we? We have 2010 federation campaigns that in the aggregate, as at November 1, that are up a bare 3% according to JFNA's numbers (always questionable in this area). Given the typical fall-off at calendar year-end, it appears that 2010 will finish no better than at or, worse, below the disastrous results for 2009. We have a JFNA that is, but for isolated instances, all about itself, all about irrelevance. If you wish to see what we have been reduced to, visit: As one of my friends wrote: "It cheapens everything that we once stood for." There is no understanding of the value proposition that supports the work of federation. Time for them to go.

A sad day. A sad time. A great waste.



Anonymous said...

What is needed is not more events or brandings from our national entity but grass roots initiatives and cooperative ventures reinforced by program specific articles, blogs and value statements of why federations matter and make a difference. This coupled with a call, nay a demand, for renewed lay ownership and engagement in the campaign might begin to save the day. We need to be cheerleaders and proponents of what could still work while allowing our national edsel to quietly leave the scene.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see every JFNA professional staff person spend two weeks a year working in a local community.

Tickets For Sale said...

This coupled with a call, nay a demand, for renewed lay ownership and engagement in the campaign might begin to save the day. We need to be cheerleaders and proponents of what could still work while allowing our national edsel to quietly leave the scene.

RWEX said...

To the Anonymous Commentator whose Comment was rejected this morning. If you could clean up the references to a JFNA pro, I will publish the rewrite.