When you were named National Campaign Chair, I was, with all of your friends and colleagues, past and present, so pleased. For the first time in a long time, I had a sense of some optimism about FRD at JFNA. Now, months after your appointment, and after your cheerful and totally misguided presentation on "Philanthropic Resources" at the GA, I find that optimism shattered as with all else at JFNA.
I would have thought, Susie, given your brilliant performance as UJA's Women's Philanthropy Chair, that that experience would have been informed your leadership in this storied position that represents a continuum from, in my own experience, Mort Kornreich to you. Even in the history of JFNA great Chairs like Carole Solomon, Bob Schrayer, z'l, Marc Wilf, Steve Selig, Joel Alperson and David Fisher, carried on the battle to maintain the status of both FRD and the role of the National Campaign Chair -- sometimes against heavy internal JFNA lay and professional opposition. They did so because they were aware of the sacred responsibilities of the role of Chair and the critical connection between national FRD and the communities -- sacred responsibilities in which the leadership of JFNA the past six years has been, at best, disinterested. Thus, my hope was that you would reignite the fire; instead you hold hands with those who are pouring water that will assure that the small spark that was once a roaring fire goes out.
The federations had made it known during the first five years of JFNA that they wanted far more in the way of FRD services than they were getting even at that time. There were a series of annual surveys of the federations conducted by the Rochester Research Group that, year-in and year-out, placed FRD at the top of their lists of "wants" from JFNA. Rather than provide those services to federations, JFNA just stopped the surveys. (It's as if the intermarriage crisis of the 90's wouldn't have happened if we just hadn't commissioned a National Population Study...and, now, we don't.) You could probably have someone on the Philanthropic Resources staff get those Survey findings from the dead files if you asked. So instead of more, the federations got less and, now, they get almost none.
Please understand, I know that there are some excellent things happening in national FRD. Among them:
~ The "Million Dollar Roundtable" (or however it's branded) bringing together million dollar donors and federation CEOs from time-to-time replicating the "Mega Group" (with a more limited membership) begun with such hope in the UJA era. While not a group originated within the "campaign," it's still a terrific initiative;
~ The "Tarrytown Group" (or whatever it's called) bringing together professional leaders of major foundations with federation CEOs from time-to-time, offering hopes for joint ventures and the cross-pollination of big ideas. While not a group within "campaign," it's still a terrific initiative;
~ The revival of at least a portion of what once was a highlight of the Winter season, then the "National Palm Beach Event," in the form of the Clinton Speech at a "King David Society" event. Of course, the constituency that was the core of 200 major donors who participated in the Palm Beach Event has been abandoned and destroyed by JFNA itself. But we had some great times there;
~ The rebranding of "federation benchmarking" as the "online data dashboard" brings an old and good CJF best practice into the 21st century and offers a terrific data base for measuring federations' successes (or failures);
~ Reintroducing an idea that originated at UJA in the 90's -- direct mail solicitation of low end prospects -- as if it were some kind of new idea; and
~ Flight -- a substantive, important program for a small group of high potential future leaders and philanthropists. While really conceived and led by Jane Sherman and almost completely funded by the Fisher Family Foundation, JFNA deserves some degree of credit. Now, of course, the critical question: who is left at Philanthropic Resources to staff it?
But, Susie, there are also those national Missions you spoke about with such passion (and, of course, you would because you experienced so many of them back in the day) as if they will be enhanced and increased this year. Yet, you and I know that JFNA is reducing the subsidy on its most important Mission, the Campaign Chairs and Directors, by at least 10% when it should be increasing it, selling it and understanding that the ROI from that Mission alone can't be fully measured in connection and inspiration. You will recall that when we as a system understood "value investing," the UJA reinvested in the CC/CD Mission 50/50 with the communities; now, JFNA's "investment" approximates 10% of the Mission cost.
Last year showed the lowest attendance since that great Mission was initiated back in the days of Mel Bloom. I would have expected you, of all leaders, to have used your influence with the Board Chair to demand that the investment (what JFNA calls "subsidy") be increased. But, no, JFNA makes a greater "investment" (as in "good money after bad") of absolute dollars and staff time and travel in TribeFest than in the best sales tool it has, the CC/CD Mission. BTW, you may remember that in the days when the national organization understood "return on investment" that 50/50 subsidy and an inspired lay and professional leadership with the federations produced annual results for the federations that were overwhelming -- so many of the men and women who read this Blog will remember how federation campaigns were jump-started; I remember how I was inspired, time and again.
When JFNA began twelve years ago, we had a clear picture of the role of the National Campaign Chair -- if not the "first among equals," then one of a troika of co-equals -- the Board Chair, the Chair of the Executive and the National Campaign Chair -- each with a critical leadership role. Today, the Chair of the Executive position is gone and the National Campaign Chair's role has been reduced to cheerleader, to a good reader of scripts. (When the last effective National Campaign Chair questioned "authority," he refused top accept a diminished role and resigned -- principle triumphed and JFNA...lost.) Susie, you have the strength that comes from the support of our largest federation and your gifts of passion and commitment. Use that support and those gifts to elevate FRD to its proper position within JFNA -- the choice is yours.