Friday, May 31, 2013


Continuing our reflection on what passes for an organizational Budget for 2013-2014, let's take a look at "Priority Programs-- Objectives and Outcomes." And, though I know they are impermissible, let's start with a question: Have you ever seen a legitimate organizational Budget without specific allocation of resources to Budgeted programs? Me, either. But, welcome to JFNA.

There was a day in Jewish organizational life when the division of labor and responsibility among our organizations was not only clear but respected. There was an institutional respect, one for the other...and it worked. The United Jewish Appeal not only created the case for annual giving, led special campaigns. but trained federation solicitors, compiled comparative campaign reports, ran mass fund-raising Missions, and led advocacy for our partners serving needs in Israel and Overseas. The Council of Jewish Federations trained future professional leaders of federations, was the Federations' Trade Association, advocated for Washington funding, and engaged in critical thinking on the present and future of our system while it also ran successful General Assemblies. The Conference of Presidents was created at the urging of the Government of Israel to have a central address for Israel advocacy in the United States. 

Into the 90s, even into JFNA, the sole overlap among these three critical organizations was CJF's attempt to lead in the FRD area of Planned Giving -- a circumstance resolved in the short-lived UJA-CJF Partnership and in the emergence of an FRD concept developed at UJA -- the collaborative fund-raising model. But JFNA, beginning almost seven years ago, began a rapid withdrawal from all forms of Financial Resource Development -- sure enough they even left the business altogether, other than through its weakened constituencies -- changing the name from FRD to  something called "Philanthropic Resources," forcing out brilliant cutting edge leadership professionals without evident replacement, no longer engaged in solicitation training, or in solicitations themselves, running national missions with no fund raising requirement, a succession of national "campaign" chairs left with nothing to do but give speeches, some quite happy to do no more, and read reports. Good people, willingly reduced to Cheerleaders.

And, here is what passes for Philanthropic Resources Priority Programs, one more ridiculous than the next:

  • "Increase Focus on Mergers and Collaborations" -- not collaborative fund- raising the most innovative FRD program to emerge from JFNA after its rolll-out in the waning days of UJA -- that was "so 2005." Now what was Financial Resources is engaged with federation mergers -- we have proved to be so good at them;
  • "Finalize the launch of JEFII (the Jewish Endowment and Foundation Institute)" -- which requires $500,000 in grants before it gets off the ground (too bad JFNA didn't consider that pre-condition for Festivus);
  • "Generate Revenue for JFNA" -- that's $875,000 in "new revenues...from Philanthropists/Foundations...and over $375,000 in corporate sponsorships." What's the strategy for raising close to $1 million from your donors -- "hire staff." 
And those are the Priorities for Philanthropic Resources -- no Budget attribution, of course. And, as pathetic as these are (and you will note that almost all are about JFNA, not the federations) only gets worse.

Join me now for a quick tour of the most preposterous -- Global Operations Priority Programs:
  • GA 2013 -- let's start with "[R]ecruit 3,000 people to the GA." Not 3,000 Registrants, "people." Get "positive feedback." Uh, huh. And, I loved this one: "Announce headline speakers and complete 89% of the program by May 30th." Quick, what day is it? Who, other than BiBi are the "headline speakers?" Now go to the GA website.
  • The Global Planning Table -- which will soon eclipse (inasmuch as there is no budget attribution, may already have) FRD as a JFNA function in terms of expense. The JFNA is busy "launching" those so-called "Signature Initiatives" -- we have already commented on how preposterous most are and how slovenly drafted. Sadly, it is the GPT that is now in the core allocations business.
  • Then, there is the worst of the worst, the so-called Priority Program that only JFNA professional leaders could dream up as their function -- JFNA Positioning in Israel -- Reach key influencers (their made up word for their made up program) and thought leaders in Israel, positioning JFNA as the "go-to" place for information and access to North American Jewry. The arrogance that resides in the over-staffed under-performing JFNA Israel office is unreal. This contemplated duplication of the work of other organizations is based upon on-going failures about which we have written: a wholly duplicative "Hebrew newsletter," "participation in conferences and events in Israel" by JFNA, not "individual federations," "stories in the Hebrew press." 
  • Oh, while ramping up the 2013 GA, JFNA will once again "reimagine the 2014 General Assembly." This will be by my count the 5th "reimagining" of the GA in a decade as registration has dwindled to a few lay persons.
  • In the JFNA Category of "if it ain't broke, let's break it," the work of United Israel Appeal -- including supplemental giving and the U.S. Government Grant -- will be placed under JFNA's scrutiny. To what end? Maybe, as with all things JFNA touches, to screw it up.
Friends, there is more, most of it repetitive or, as above, just page filler. But, remember, this is no Budget as you or I have seen. Yet, it is a Budget already approved, presumably unanimously, by JFNA's Budget Committee led by the Cheerleader-in-Chief, and, then, by JFNA's Executive Committee.

Any questions?



Anonymous said...

Give the gods of JFNA credit-they know how to play the organizational flim flam game. Hire a new exec, declare a new day where all past initiatives are mothballed, give the exec a honeymoon period, follow it up with a bunch of reimagining when the marraige starts to go stale... then hire a new exec, put all past initiatives on hold and start the cycle anew.

Anonymous said...

I have known small community leaders for over 30 years.At one time they were the most loyal leaders of all to whatever national there was. UJA,UJC,JFNA.
But today these same leaders feel betrayed.what a sad sad world we have let the new national leadership create. And make no mistake we let it happen

paul jeser said...

Today's JFNA Facebook post

JFNA Poll: It's starting to get hot outside! Do you have any favorite summer Shabbat food/recipe staples?!/jfederations?fref=ts