As regular readers know I frequently receive an opinion piece from readers so insightful and spot on as to merit inclusion as a Post. What follows came "over the transom" from a highly respected national leader who has reviewed the Global Planning Table proposals from the first presentations through the "feedback sessions" to today. Her/his analysis follows:
Despite the enormous expenditure within the JFNA budget to support the Israel and Overseas professional efforts, the sophistication of the allocations departments of federations such as New York, Chicago, Baltimore, etc. far outstrip the technical expertise resident in JFNA. These federation departments understand that building innovative programs require strong partnership predicated upon trust, predictability of funding, and most importantly directed towards providing solutions for resonating Jewish needs.
The many weaknesses associated with the Global Planning Table concept are too numerous to describe in one e-mail, but I want to point out a few.
1. Sophisticated federations will not want to cede 'hard to raise' donor funds to a national organization that serves no real purpose other than to reallocate funds to those organizations that the small group of leaders feels are more important than the historic federation partners, JDC and JAFI. These federations already have the option to do so without forwarding the funds to JFNA and support what probably will be another layer of overhead/cost.
2. Over the last 15 years, while federation allocations to JAFI/JDC/Israel have declined, Israeli institutions have successfully raised enormous dollars outside the federation system. The federation market share decline in terms of overseas funding is stunning, at the very least. And that was one of the basic reasons for the merger of UJA/CJF. The planning table does not address the notion of market share in the least but rather establishes a bureaucratic response with no fundraising drivers. Yet the above mentioned federations have, for the most part, fashioned their own solution set that has resulted in increased overseas allocations and increased federation annual campaigns by old fashioned needs based fundraising that relies on the programs of JAFI/JDC. That's their plan and it is working.
3. There are no revenue projections attached to the formation of the Global Planning Table initiative. In other words, there is no accountability or measurement for success. Clearly, this would require a level of decisiveness and justification that has been absent at the national level. Yet, most federation boards would never approve any expenditure or allocation without a cost/benefit analysis. The risks are too great.
4. Squandering resources in the not for profit world takes on many shapes. The sheer amount of lay leadership resources, time and money, that was wasted on the ONAD process will never be recovered. This doesn't even address the amount of money spent by JDC and JAFI to defend their allocations during the same period. It's as if the professional/lay leadership has collective amnesia.
The template for needs assessment already exists within the board rooms of JDC and JAFI. Top lay leadership from a broad cross section of North American federations already sit around the JAFI and JDC tables and debate resource allocations and challenges facing the Jewish people while never forgetting their fiduciary responsibilities. The officers and many of the JFNA Board members participate on a regular basis in decision making in both JAFI and JDC. The Global Planning Table creates an institutional redundancy without an articulated financial goal. Does this make sense?"
My/our thanks. As always, my fear is that no "leader" at JFNA, if they would read this analysis, will understand it.