Sunday, May 27, 2012


As you might expect, when it comes to new, even, in this instance, important initiatives, JFNA's Budget is inadequate to cover the costs. So, the JFNA Planned Giving and Endowment Department determined that there is a system-wide need for Practice Manual that would protect federation Endowments from tax law changes. They produced a very convincing background paper on the need. And, then came the denouement:

"The legal and accounting expertise required to produce the manual is not cheap.  A ballpark estimate of the cost puts it at $100,000 to $125,000.    We would solicit bids from firms that have counseled federations on these issues in the past and have the depth and breadth to handle the engagement.  A draft of our Request for Proposals is attached.

At a recent Senior Advisory Council meeting, there was considerable support among endowment directors for the project, but they urged us to take our request directly to you.  We doubt that this task will be accomplished without raising the funds requested.  An average contribution of $5,000 would require 20 to 25 federations/Jewish community foundations to support this project.  Please let us know whether you support this project and how much in financial support you would commit to it.  Please respond to _____________ by May 22, 2012.  If we get commitments for less than we need to complete the project, we may undertake only a portion of it.  We would return unexpended amounts pro rata to federations that contribute."

Well, first, JFNA could try to find a law firm outside of Manhattan -- as a former lawyer, this estimate sounds totally beyond the pale. Second, no matter the cost, given the apparent imperative of the Manual to assist the federations, why not (may I even say it?) pay for the thing as a budgeted expense out of Dues?  I know this is an heretical thought, but, what the heck, I've already been banished from the Kingdom of Manning to wander the wilderness.

Then, another plea -- on May 17. Apparently, not too many positive responses to the first letter -- "[W]e have extended the response date to June 17." "It is not a JFNA budget item." But, the Compliance Manual " very important." (Italics JFNA's) It's just not important enough obviously to be in the Budget.

Yes, the Budget is otherwise committed -- Festivus, #ish, Heroes...stuff like that. There's just no room for a Practice Manual that would directly benefit the Federations. Nope, "...can't spare a square." So, the federations will line up, with " average contribution of $5,000." As always. As always. Or maybe not.

God bless 'em.



Anonymous said...

Here's a thought. Assess every board member of JFNA $1,000 and every professional sitting on the board $500 and there should be more than enough to cover the cost. I bet that would get the attention of the powers that be and then maybe, just maybe, some of this nonsense would come to a quick halt.

Anonymous said...

EVERY lay leader that sits on JFNA's board should be making a gift to JFNA in addition to their local federation. If they are not willing to wear a "JFNA" hat, they should not be on JFNA's board.

In general, organizational boards MUST support the organization they serve - not just the one that makes their participation possible. it is one of the biggest governance problems at the Jewish Agency (and the Claims Conference, among others).

Anonymous said...

The question could just as easily be asked, what do we get from the philanthropic fund business? Increasing the payout rate for foundations and Phil funds so that they would spend down after 75 or even 100 or so years would significantly Improve giving to agencies (our real clients). Current payout rates deliver a ridiculously low social return. Why should the life span of a foundation or fund exceed the life span of an average corporation? Not to mention that our endowment departments could on the whole be much more aggressive in promoting Jewish giving and partnerships. Like too much in our society, we coddle the most wealthy while increasing demands on the average individual and family.