When the United Jewish Appeal began the Network of non-federated communities two decades ago, under the great lay-professional partners Marty Stein, z'l, and Russell Robinson, it was with great hope that the Network would be fully serviced by the national system and increased FRD, allocations and involvement would be the results. Sadly, the Network today is more neglected than it has ever been and JFNA has viewed the Network's allocated funds as a source of Budget support more disproportionate to funds raised than is any...any...federation's Dues.
At its conception the Network was seen as a source of leadership of UJA -- and the women and men who led the Network were among the many UJA Vice-Chairs who contributed so much to the vitality and passion that drove the United Jewish Appeal -- and additional financial resource development. Our hopes for significant Network campaign growth were never realized at UJA -- Federation pressure to reduce the UJA Budget reduced the amount of professional support UJA could offer. The hope was that with an invigorated cadre of lay and professional leaders under JFNA the Network leaders would be involved in the work of its national institution and that that involvement would drive the Network campaigns. That would prove a faulty assumption in all ways.
A little over two years ago the Network's new leaders learned for the first time just how much of the funds raised in these 400 (?) small communities were being grabbed by JFNA for its Budget. They appropriately "objected strongly" and equally strongly suggested that they would pull the Network out of JFNA. In fact, the Network could have engaged a professional staff and emerged as a strengthened "community" had they done so -- all at a significantly lower cost than the "cost" of JFNA membership. But, instead they were placated by a position for the Network on the JFNA Executive Committee and a few promises from the current Board Chair of lower costs, better JFNA behavior and more attention.
We already have learned of the limited worth of Executive Committee service; certainly the Network has. And has the amount of the JFNA grab of Network's allocated dollars actually reduced? Are the Network communities receiving greater attention? In a way the answer to the last question is "Yes." ORT has raised significant project dollars from within the Network donor base; so has the Joint; and to a lesser extent JAFI. But increased support for the core budgets of JAFI/JDC has not been found.
The Network remains a place of great potential -- for leadership and Campaign. Someday JFNA might figure that out...but I doubt it.