Wednesday, March 21, 2012
FOUNDATIONS/ENDOWMENTS...AND FEAR OF HONEST DEBATE
Friends, this Anonymous response to my Post on the failure of JFNA to even debate the issues raised by so-called Federation foundations/endowments' apparent ole goal of maximizing assets but failing to focus on maximizing distributions to Jewish causes and Federation priorities, underscores the problem:
I could not agree with you more. I am in a community with a separately incorporated Jewish community foundation from the federation. Their mantra is growing their assets. By growing their assets (DAFs, permanent fund, etc) they believe they will make Jewish life stronger into the future -- they are "about tomorrow" while federation's campaign "is about today." Really? I thought we were all about today and tomorrow.
What they are unable to see are the following:
1. The foundation seems almost afraid to "pitch" ideas for funding to DAF holders. Why? Because they want to be seen as "non-biased" and cannot help one organization over another. And, I would suggest, in most cases the foundation professionals have no clue about the interests of their fund holders. Therefore, donors are left to themselves to give their money away -- typically to pay off annual pledges they make every year to organizations -- not for new and innovative ideas.
2. More assets in reality for these foundations means more fees. They want to expand their capabilities and the only way to do so is to have more fees generated.
3. The foundations typically see themselves as an island unto themselves -- not involved in community priority setting processes. Therefore, if they make grants on their own (via own unrestricted funds) it is for projects of their choosing that may not be in line with the community's priorities at all.
4. The real measure of the success of the foundation, as you said, is not the amount of assets, but the amount of distributions. Where they go, how many dollars, what percent of assets are being given away, etc. is really what matters.
5. In addition, the ability for communities to speak directly to fund holders must be opened up. Ideas are out there...money is already in the bank...yet "blocking" conversations is not a healthy scenario.
6. Finally, especially for those that are separate from the Federation, when there is a "community emergency" and funds are needed immediately, people always turn to Federation. How many times has a Foundation stepped in with their assets in the bank (especially unrestricted) and put dollars into the community itself? They often stay far away holding onto to their resources. Where are they when the community needs them?
I am glad you raised this issue. It has been a challenge for many years. Let's tout our billions in assets, yet watch as a large percentage of that money goes to non-Jewish causes or far less than 5% of the assets are distributed on an annual basis."
Isn't the Planned Giving and Endowment Department part of JFNA; and isn't JFNA a federation institution, owned not by independently incorporated Foundations but by the Federations themselves? Yet, nowhere, never, are the 6 issues raised by this extremely knowledgeable Commentator ever discussed. And, just why is that?