From Day one of what is now JFNA, there has been the expressed desire to create a "new culture" -- one distinct from those of CJF and UJA. Well, friends, kal ha'kavod, the "JFNA culture" has emerged. Unfortunately, it is a culture of arrogance, a culture of immunity from any and all criticism, a culture of the thin skin. Worst of all, it is a culture free of accountability...and we, the donors and federations have only ourselves to blame.
Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon recently responded, in a special Wall Street Journal section on Philanthropy to the question: Should Philanthropies Operate Like Businesses? Their answer: ...to have a sustained and strategic impact, philanthropy must be conducted like business -- with discipline, strategy and a strong focus on outcomes. Organizations receiving your support should be as accountable to you as a company's board is to its shareholders...
This all seems so obvious. In your community and mine, we "focus on outcomes" and accountability is paramount. Yet, when it comes to our national organization, it is as if outcomes are irrelevant and there is no one...no one...demanding accountability. One would think that JFNA is nothing more than a "mom and pop store" -- a $30 million a year "mom and pop store."
How else does one explain that JFNA could convene a Tribefest, lose $253,000 (before overhead costs), not a question is asked publicly, there is no accounting, and a second Tribefest is placed on the Calendar with no budget? Or, where is the accounting for a $250,000 loss on the 2010 New Orleans GA? How are these debts to the organization being repaid?
More to the point, why are you silent? Where is the federations' demand for JFNA accountability? Perhaps one-on-one, if at all? Are we fearful of "offending" the powers that be, of making waves? By our silence we have encouraged more of the same and there is no one telling JFNA's lay and professional leaders that this behavior must stop.
I have to laugh each time I read the Draft Budget (that none of us are supposed to see) with its claims of monitoring results and accountability. These have becoming throwaway phrases without meaning -- like "robust debate" and "dynamic programs."
Friends, it is long past time for JFNA to be held to the same standard of accountability as are our federations. Or do we just not care?