Sunday, November 25, 2012


We republished Haviv Rettig Gur's superb analysis of the current state of both the illusory Global Planning Table and the illusory JFNA last month (courtesy of ejewishphilanthropy)  in our REAL INSIGHTS Post. In response, we received the following advice, certainly worthy of consideration at 25 Broadway:

"What I find most fascinating (and frustrating) is that it should be relatively easy for JFNA to pivot itself and become that clearinghouse for best practices; providing value as a trade organization. There are bright spots out there, with professional and lay leadership who are reinventing the Federation best practices for collective giving and redefining what creating and supporting Jewish community and infrastructure means in the 21st century. Nurturing and highlighting them should not be an insurmountable feat. It is just a matter of making it a priority."

If we had faith in the professional leader of JFNA, we would ask him to work with his new lay leadership team to "provide value" to the federations in meaningful ways.

And, then, further insight from another Anonymous Commentator:

"Anonymous one is correct. And they can start by sending their staff uptown and out to Queens and Brooklyn to see how one Amazing version of 21st century federation community building works when in a challenge mode." 

Sadly, most would not know or understand what they were seeing, but...some would. And, those that would understand this incredible community building and rebuilding to those who would not...starting with explaining all to the CEO. 

Perhaps, as a first step toward understanding, the new Chairs might direct the CEO to spend a week at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, or in the Departments of the UJA-Federation of New York, or a week in Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland...wherever strong  federations are busy doing the sacred work of community.




Anonymous said...

Oh i know the CEO has been to those places. If you call JFNA for a request of best practices their standard answer is "why dont you call Chicago, UJA, Miami, Baltimore, etc..." Gee thanks for all your assistance!

Anonymous said...

As a federation CEO I endorse the Comment
above. JFNA's Consulting Services have deteriorated to the point where the answer to everything is to "call Federation X and ask them." There's no there there. We are seriously considering dropping out if Dues are not reduced to reflect the lack of service or value.

Anonymous said...

Solution; let's just further engage our favorite consultant who developed the plan for both consulting services and the GPT, not to mention JAFI's ever popular strategic vision, to sort this out.

paul jeser said...

So – since we all know the problem, what is the solution?

My vision – or at least the beginning of a concept: We need a totally new communal structure.

• The Federations should no longer raise funds to directly allocate to other institutions, agencies or programs.

Thus it will not be seen as a competitor.

This is the key.

Once the Federations are no longer an advocate for any specific organization, agency or program, it can become the ‘honest-broker’ for the donors and agencies and the effective organization the community needs.

• The Federations should be the communal organization whose responsibility it is to:
o Serve as a resource for all organizations in the areas of fundraising, leadership, staff development and management.

o Serve as a resource for all donors and provide ‘fair and balanced’ (sorry FNC) information about all programs and projects needing funding.

o Serve as the place where all organizational leaders meet to discuss the issues – not necessarily to force a consensus but to allow for open discussion in a neutral environment.

o Serve as a true ‘community relations committee/council’ in developing relationships between the Jewish and non-Jewish community and even within the Jewish community.

o Serve as the community-wide outreach organization to motivate those not involved to become involved and assist them in developing their own paths.

o Convene the community in times of crises or special need. Play the major role in the development and coordination of community action, programs, and responses.

• Federation leadership should include the top local leadership (lay and pro) of all communal organizations and, as importantly, the top donors (who may be much more willing to serve in this new institution than in what we now currently have).

• Funding for this ‘new’ Federation will have to come from the cadre of communal donors who, if they buy in to the new concept, will see this new structure as a benefit to all, not as a waste of time and money.

• This vision does not see the need for the JFNA since the JAFI and the JDC will, as all other organizations, raise funds directly in the community. This vision does see the necessity for an organization much the same as the CJF was – a national umbrella resource for all communities.

This is drastic surgery for the community. However, without it, or something close to it, we will continue to see the diminution of the one community organization/structure that is so needed.

Anonymous said...

Jeser is nothing more than a broken record, constantly repeating the same message -- create a "new Federation" that is not a federation at all. Anyone who cares about the federation system knows that what Jeser suggests is a already in place in some communities and has failed in each one.

New big ideas are needed; unfortunately, Jeser's isn't one of them.

paul jeser said...

Dear Anonymous 4:29...

You are right in the sense that since I do think that there needs to be an organization that really leads the community I keep on sharing my 'vision.'

If you - or any one else has better ideas - please share them - so far all I see is the so sad dimunition of the Federation system with no new ideas or directions being seriously discussed.

It'd also be helpful if you would share your name so that we know who you are.