In this political season, as every four years, the question that will most asked and most repeated will be a simple one: "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" And, in the context of our national organization, our JFNA, the question becomes: "Are you better off today than you were six years ago?" And, the answer, my friends, seems so self-evident. On the cusp of another desultory Board meeting, I thought we might wish to reflect...
Why 6 years? Why not 4? Well, the current leaders snuck through a By-Law change to stretch the terms of the current Board Chair and her predecessor to three years. The rationale -- none that I recall, other than "we can accomplish so much more if we have that additional year." The reality, the original by-laws provided for one Co-Chair to have a single extended term so that the organization would not experience the turnover of both Co-Chairs at the same time. Ne'er mind! Now they both turn every three years rather than two unlike 90% of the successful federations in our system.
And what have these successive Chairs and two CEOs accomplished over six...count em, 6...years? The expenditure of over $200,000,000...that's $200,000,000 of our money, friends. Shouldn't there be more on the score sheet than the continuation of programs of UJA and CJF from the prior decades, more than the consistent successes out of JFNA-Washington, more than Heroes, #ish and a couple of Fests (which cost about $500,000 [or more]) to serve 1,200 and 1,500 (and probably less and, in Year 2, duplicative) mainly already affiliated young adults for a weekend in Vegas; more than growing brand identity for a "brand" that still, in surveys suppressed at 25 Broadway, ranks below UJA in the minds of the Jewish Community; more than Cabinets whose diminishing financial contributions compared with their elders reflects their dwindling influence in our communities; a Missions program constantly promised to be "reignited" but forgetting, on most, the critical element of fund raising.
And, speaking of fund raising -- where is it? In a succession of Budgets? Sure. In the field? Afraid not. A $Million Dollar Round Table?" (Another week, another "Table.") Yes, one meeting after four years in planning, while two mega-donors who graciously agreed to Co-Chair the effort were spun with promises of "real soon." The first meeting was so successful, no second meeting has been planned. The FRD staff has been cut back and cut back again. What exactly do some of these professionals do? Who gives them direction...and is that person capable of doing so? Name ten...just 10... people outside of 25 Broadway that have been solicited by JFNA. Take your time.
Then, there are the "historic partners" -- I call them the "lip service partners" -- because all they get is lip service while for at least the last six years, no leader of JFNA has raised their voice on a constant basis in support of the work, let alone the core allocations of the Jewish Agency and/or JDC. This is the greatest shame of all. For three years at least, these "leaders" have been planning for and are now implementing, at the cost of millions in Budget, a Global Planning Table designed to further deconstruct the communities historic commitment to overseas needs as embodied in the work of the Joint and Jewish Agency. These "leaders" have conjured up a Global Planning Table arising out of a discussion engaging about 25% of the Federations at a Retreat no one remembers any more, so discussion could morph into a "mandate" -- a "mandate," apparently, for the "chaos" we have pointed to in a series of Posts, chaos that will make the last days of ONAD look like nirvana...yes, like real nirvana.
And, I'm not even bothering with the vendettas -- against National Campaign Chairs, UIA Chairs, Federation Chairs and federation execs, constituency Chairs -- anyone who spoke out constructively or not who were frozen out, walked out to azazel, attacked in the shadows. The narishkeit that seemed to be the energizer for all that has gone wrong.
And, so, when this Spring the JFNA Officers Nominating Committee went "rogue," it sent a signal -- we're moving away from a leadership that over six years of waste failed to significantly invest in the federations' success. (Remember, this was a JFNA that two years ago was organizing a Continental Conference Call on "What To Do Now that the Recession is Over," so out of touch are they at 25 Broadway. We're moving toward a leadership of and from the federations -- rather than of and from JFNA. What a couple of refreshing choices.
(Of interest: the current Board Chair had promised one of the Chair positions to a federation leader of note, one who had also provided significant support to the this Board Chair in her efforts to build the one-legged Table of Global Planning, in her efforts to breach the JFNA Agreement with JAFI/JDC, Yet, the Nominating Committee didn't think so and turned to another leader untainted by any association within JFNA with these Chairs. Embarrassed, the Board Chair and CEO are searching for a position, literally any position, for this leader, who really was too disappointed by this insult -- clearly not as embarrassed as was/is the Board Chair. Must be tough for a Board Chair who believes that the office granted her carried with it total dictatorial authority.)
And, here we are, after six years in which the federation system has slowed to a halt and our national organization hasn't a clue how to move it forward; after six years in which we have watched JFNA spend over $200 million of our donors funds without regard to our donors' wants or our federations' needs; six years without discernible Vision or direction.
Six sad years...the saddest.