Thursday, November 1, 2012


It's a little early, I know, for a Purim Spiel, but Boston's Federation has created one of the best...ever. So, please read what follows and then we'll talk below:

"The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston took a donor family’s lead in creating a new program to provide jobs for young people with disabilities.

Jay Ruderman, head of his family’s foundation, and several of his relatives approached Bos­ton’s Jew­ish fed­er­a­tion two years ago for help in pur­su­ing a new philanthrop­ic goal for the family: pro­vid­ing aid to young adults with dis­a­bil­i­ties. Officials at Com­bined Jew­ish Phi­lan­thro­pies of Great­er Bos­ton didn’t take any action at first, they just lis­tened very care­ful­ly.
Then, the federation swung into ac­tion. It reached out to Jew­ish Vocational Services, a group it had long sup­port­ed that pro­vides job train­ing to adults. Now the do­nors’ mon­ey is help­ing the vo­ca­tion­al char­i­ty serve a broad­er num­ber of cli­ents, giv­ing teen­ag­ers and college-age students with disabilities ac­cess to train­ing, in­tern­ships, and jobs.
The Bos­ton group is un­usu­al in its will­ing­ness to col­lab­o­rate with do­nors over where they want their mon­ey to go. As long as a pro­ject advances a Jew­ish cause and meets oth­er bas­ic cri­te­ria, do­nors can ear­mark their funds. And when do­nors sug­gest a pro­ject that the fed­er­a­tion thinks might be pop­u­lar with oth­er sup­port­ers, it might even pro­mote the idea in city­wide fundraising pitch­es.
That ap­proach is not typ­i­cal in the Jew­ish-fed­er­a­tion world, where for dec­ades lo­cal lead­ers have cho­sen which so­cial-ser­vices and other char­i­ties will ben­e­fit from the mon­ey raised in an­nu­al fundraising drives.

Shift in Ap­proach

The Bos­ton fed­er­a­tion’s fundraising ap­proach evolved un­der the lead­er­ship of Bar­ry Shrage, its pres­i­dent for 25 years. He in­cor­po­rated the ear­mark­ing idea into a 2007 plan for ways of im­prov­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the or­gan­i­za­tion by more than in­cre­men­tal in­creases over the five years that fol­lowed.
The new ap­proach did not in­su­late the Bos­ton fed­er­a­tion en­tire­ly from the bad econ­o­my. Do­na­tions to Com­bined Jew­ish Phi­lan­thro­pies fell by 21 percent in 2009 and 14 per­cent in 2010. But with the group’s new fundraising out­look, those losses have been more than erased.
Bos­ton of­fi­cials have worked es­pe­cial­ly hard to col­lab­o­rate more with peo­ple who set up do­nor-ad­vised funds, ac­counts that in­di­vid­uals and fam­ilies set up at the fed­er­a­tion to make char­i­ta­ble gifts at a lat­er date. Be­cause more and more do­nors went to use some of the mon­ey for sec­u­lar causes, says Da­vid Strong, the fed­er­a­tion’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, “we want to make them un­der­stand how we can work with them on all their phi­lan­thro­py, not just Jew­ish causes.”
That at­ti­tude, along with re­cov­ery in the stock mar­ket, Mr. Strong says, has helped gifts to do­nor-ad­vised funds to soar, to $76-mil­lion last year, and then more than dou­ble in fis­cal 2012, to $159-mil­lion.

Gains Not Typ­i­cal

Over all, few fed­er­a­tions have a­chieved such im­pres­sive re­sults. Compared with the Boston federation, al­most ev­ery oth­er Jew­ish fed­er­a­tion on the Philanthropy 400 had a much small­er in­crease or re­port­ed a de­cline in to­tal con­tri­bu­tions last year.
At the Chi­ca­go Jew­ish fed­er­a­tion, for ex­am­ple, do­na­tions were flat in 2011, de­clin­ing by 1 per­cent, even though fund­rais­ers had per­suad­ed about 70 of its most gen­er­ous do­nors to dou­ble their an­nu­al cam­paign gift.
Chi­ca­go takes an ap­proach sim­i­lar to that of oth­er fed­er­a­tions in urg­ing its do­nors to make un­re­strict­ed do­na­tions. Mr. Schrage says that what both­ers him a­bout that long-held tra­di­tion at the fed­er­a­tions is that it fa­vors the same “en­ti­tled in­sti­tu­tions” year af­ter year and is “gen­er­al­ly emp­ty of vi­sion and pur­pose.”
With lit­tle rea­son to donate more, he says, do­nors sim­ply contribute a lit­tle more ev­ery year when they might give big in­creases if they were ex­cit­ed a­bout a cause or asked to pay at­ten­tion to new and press­ing concerns.
While some fed­er­a­tions have philo­soph­i­cal ob­jec­tions to let­ting do­nors have so much say, they also have a prac­ti­cal con­cern: Will peo­ple give as much in unrestricted mon­ey to an­nu­al cam­paigns if they are al­lowed to ear­mark a por­tion of their do­na­tions?
As it turns out, the Bos­ton campaign hasn’t suf­fered from of­fer­ing the op­tion.
Its an­nu­al drive will raise $45.6-mil­lion this year. It’s one of the fast­est-grow­ing cam­paigns a­mong fed­er­a­tions in big cit­ies, says Jer­ry Sil­ver­man, pres­i­dent of Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tions of North America, an um­brel­la or­gan­i­za­tion for 155 fed­er­a­tions.
Over the past five years, do­nors who ear­marked a por­tion of their gifts for par­tic­u­lar causes in­creased their un­re­strict­ed gifts at twice the rate of oth­er do­nors, the Bos­ton fed­er­a­tion found.
While oth­er fed­er­a­tions may be sub­ject to crit­i­cism from do­nors or board mem­bers if they em­u­late Bos­ton, Mr. Sil­ver­man says the fed­er­a­tion is “on the lead­ing edge of be­ing able to rec­og­nize a shift in their mar­ket and be­ing able to adapt, ap­ply, and grow—and raise the me­ter on re­sults.”
Oth­er Jew­ish fed­er­a­tions have tak­en no­tice and sent staff mem­bers to Bos­ton to learn more a­bout Com­bined Jew­ish Phi­lan­thro­pies’ in­ter­nal op­er­a­tions and its re­la­tion­ships with do­nors, says Zamira Korff, sen­ior vice pres­i­dent for de­vel­op­ment. “There is a sense of emo­tion­al and in­tel­lec­tu­al part­ner­ship” with do­nors, she says. “We are not just hand­ing out a menu of giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.”
Serv­ing as an ex­am­ple to oth­ers, she adds, can be both ex­hila­rat­ing and daunt­ing. “It’s a high-wire act,” she says. “The more we suc­ceed, the more pres­sure we have to keep the bar high.”
As Vice-President Biden might say: "this is just a bunch of malarkey." Had the reporter -- for the Chronicle of Philanthropy of all places -- understood the basics of Jewish Federation FRD, she would have known that she had been served a plate of hogwash. Let's look at some facts:
  • Boston with the same Jewish population as Chicago, claimed to have raised $45.6 million -- Chicago, which Barry Shrage for some bizarre reason chose to criticize, raised $80 million in that same year;
  • And, Boston has historically lumped together its designated gifts (which, at last look, comprised the lion's share of its Annual Campaign), while the $80 million Chicago reported was the amount of unrestricted gifts;
  • It was Boston which was the first Federation to unilaterally reduce its overseas allocation after committing, at the creation of what is now JFNA, along with all other federations, to maintain the level of overseas allocations for two years; and
  • After the Fair Share Dues obligation was imposed by the Federations upon themselves, it was the Boston CJP which was the first to demand that JFNA recalculate its dues, subtracting from its annual campaign totals the very designated gifts it now brags has set "the bar high."

Then there are the quotes from CEO Silverman that reflect how little he still understands of where federations must be -- to suggest that Boston "is on the leading edge" by embracing designated giving as its mantra, is strange in that "donor choice" has been around for a long time....a long, long time. Strange that CEO Jerry would not have known that, thinks its something new and different. Stranger still is that the "collaborative model" was developed at JFNA (back when it had an FRD Department) -- but why would Jerry know that?

Friends, you should know, as the reporter could have easily learned, that Boston's professional leader has been attempting to peddle his anti-federation message for too long -- with its suggestions of deconstructing the very basis of federation as the central planning instrument of the Jewish community. Now he used "statistics" that bear no relationship to truly raising money...and who applauds it? CEO Jerry Silverman.

Boston embarked on its anti-federation journey long ago. Barry Shrage has been trying to sell his community's story -- which is one of lack of success clothed in a camouflage jacket of so-called "cutting edge innovation" for as long as we've known him. Now, with further proof that 55% of all statistics are wrong, he has "convinced" the Chronicle and Jerry Silverman. Pitiful that some will now buy into it without regard for the facts.

Sad indeed.



Anonymous said...

I know this has nothing to do with your post but maybe you can find out if JFNA at 25 Broadway is open today. There is nothing on the website, the emergency hotline is not working and there have been no emails about this. Wondering if there is electrical power in the building. Thank you for any information you may be able to provide.

RWEX said...

I share your frustration. I would assume that while JFNA can send out an announcement that OTZMA is being closed down, it has sent out nothing with regard to its own operations at 25 Broadway and is unreachable.

Anonymous said...

There is very little open with power below 34th Street (Empire State building area).

Of course, JFNA being JFNA, announces only what serves their interest; stonewalls the rest.

paul jeser said...

More on the killing of OTZMA!

fyi - OTZMA alum:
Michael Jeser
Executive Director, USC Hillel

Anonymous said...

Come on Richard . . .Can't believe you missed this one. OTZMA is out, but the $1 million Festivus venture continues???

Trivia: Which program has created more Jewish communal professionals, lay leaders, donors and congregants.

OTZMA or Tribefest???