Thursday, May 26, 2011


When I read the JFNA Draft Budget, it hearkened me back to the rubric: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." And enwrapping a Budget in jargon and cliche doesn't make it a better guide to JFNA's plans for the coming year. Categories of service change, promises of monitoring and evaluation reappear (echoing the unrequited promises of previous years) and, trust me, confusion reigns. There is one applicable truism here: if JFNA has ten, twenty, thirty priorities, it has no priorities at all. And that is where we find ourselves today.

Sure, I hoped that the final Budget would show some real focus on federation needs, federation issues and on the things that JFNA could do best. Instead we have thirteen pages of "priority goals" -- a ridiculous 36 "priority goals" in all. Hence, "if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." Where there are no priorities, there is no focus, there is chaos. The final Budget and a book of Appendices merely validated the Draft Budget reflecting it like a fun house mirror.

So confused is this Budget that, Philanthropic Resources... has lumped within it all kinds of things: A "Millionaires project" after four years of this "project" first appearing in the Budget; "Targeted Support for Challenged Federations" the Objectives for which include "[D]evelop tools that will support JFNA's outreach and support for underperforming federations..." and "identify (hello? 'identify' after three years? Hey, look around) and support strategic collaborations...;" "...leverage the Consulting Fund" (the budget for which will be cut); "[c]ontinue to strengthen affinities" (when the position of lead professional for, e.g., the Young Leadership Cabinet has been vacant for, how long, two years?); "shape the (non-existent) missions program going forward; and so on -- as Salieri might have said: "too many words." How about Marketing funded to
"[I]ncrease the number of Federations that adopt continental branding from 76 (that's less than half)." And, of course, there is the implementation of the Global Planning Table; the delivery of a "white paper on new strategy for the GA;" "develop organizational capacity in the area of research" (after most of those experienced in research and planning have left); and a whole slew of plans from JFNA-Israel irrelevant to the federation system.

I could go on but, really, is it not evident that most of these plans and programs exist in a vacuum. What is the relationship of the page after page of programs to the Mission of JFNA? If there were one, of course. What we have instead is the JFNA version of an impregnable VENN diagram -- designed exactly that way and for that purpose -- you aren't supposed to know that the programs, generally, have no dollars attached to them -- the dollars, of course, being fungible with no controls. And, now federation leaders have approved this Budget in lockstep as the recent past was repeated. But...but...aren't federation leaders -- lay and professional alike -- sick of reflexively endorsing by their silence the unplanned narrative of JFNA's leaders?

To paraphrase Newsweek's Niall Ferguson (who was writing about Obama's failed foreign policy): "The defining characteristic (of JFNA) has been not just a failure to prioritize but also a failure to recognize the need to do so."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

**You don't need to publish this...but I want to let you know this, as I don't know how to email you outside of this blog**

The Director's position for National Young Leadership Cabinet has been vacant since last September (2010). During this time, the previous director has filled that position. It's not like there has been an absence of someone leading in this role.