First, congrats to JFNA, the Denver GA produced a $300,000(+) surplus. That's great. The surplus suggests that the fewer the full pay Registrants, the absence of the Prime Minister, the diminished number of paid speakers, even JFNA can run a profitable GA. But, is a GA with 848 full paid Registrants really a GA? Is this what anyone intended the GA to be? (To be sure JFNA has calculated that attendance swelled thanks to 254 students and 80 paying a day rate, and a claimed 1,318 unpaid attendees, etc.. etc. I will merely note in passing that next month AIPAC expects over 10,000 at its Policy Conference. That's right: GA 848 full paid registrants; AIPAC 10,000 attendees.)
I do remember a few years ago JFNA appointed a Committee to study how to improve and create a "new GA." Then it rolled out the Study as if it actually represented something "new." It won't surprise any of you that the Chair (sole member[?!]) of that special Committee was...Kathy Manning. And what a success that Committee has made: (1) attendance of full Registrants is at an all-time low; (2) even though the Committee's seminal recommendation was that the event be held in those cities "most attractive" to potential Registrants (resulting in the removal of GAs from, e.g., Houston and Orlando)...see (1) above; and (3) attendance at GAs requires recruitment by the GA Chairs (and an actual GA Committee working on Program and recruitment -- but that would involve more lay involvement and we're against that, right?) in the federations themselves, a concept apparently unknown at JFNA even with the same Chairs the last two years.
Even with the admirable surplus, revenues fell almost 10% below estimates. Yet, the attendance estimates for the Denver GA (1845) were off by only 8%. (Apparently, the fewer the full paid Registrants, the greater the "profitability.") The message I guess is a simple one -- stand Burnham's admonition "make no little plans" on its head. For the GA, make the smallest plans and success shall be yours. Congratulate the GA Co-Chairs for their great work at the microphones and move on to next year. This may make for smaller and smaller GAs but profitable ones. Is this what we want from our premier annual event? Is it any longer a "premier annual event?" Or do we no longer care? Maybe we should just fold it into TribeFest.