Sunday, June 2, 2013


Every year at this time we all confront the JFNA Budget, as we have noted these past few days, one of the funniest and saddest efforts to be sprung on the federations. It's already been approved, no doubt unanimously, by the JFNA Budget/Finance and Executive Committees, and with the usual dose of "best Budget I have ever read" or similar, no doubt regurgitated by those who in all likelihood never read it.

We'll get to the humor in a moment, but let's start with some reflection. Back in the days of the United Jewish Appeal, I chaired its Budget Committee. UJA's CFO, Lee Twersky, with whom JFNA's current CFO, Pam Zaltsman, worked for years, and I as their lay partner, were frustrated with criticism from a number of Federation CEOs who claimed that the Budget  lacked transparency and that federations were excluded from the UJA Budget process. So, advising the totality of the federation CEOs that UJA's Budget Committee was comprised in the main with lay Presidents and Campaign Chairs from their communities, we took it one step further: with the aid of CJF leaders, we invited the totality of federation lay Chairs and CEOs to a public session at the New York GA where we would present the Budget and respond to any questions. And, this was at a time and in a City that attracted almost 3,000 registrants to the GA.

The hall was filled as Lee and I presented the Budget -- one that had grown out of a two day Budget meeting following vetting among the UJA Departments: a Budget meeting where serious debates among the lay leadership and hard questioning had taken place -- as opposed to the current circumstance where a 4 hour meeting (excluding lunch) yields a $30 million dollar thing.  When we were finished, I asked for questions about any part of our process, any Program, any number...anything. There were none.  

Today? There is, in lieu of Budget transparency, there is translucency (please look up the definition, I promise you it is perfect), read it and read it again and you still will not know with any specificity at all what JFNA plans to spend $31 million of your donors' money on. I've never read anything like this -- oh, wait, there was last year's.

Any questions? Hearing none, move to approve.


1 comment:

Dan Brown said...

Last June, Silverman emailed me asking what areas I thought JFNA was not transparent in.

I responded, "Budget to start. I've asked previously for, and have never received, JFNA's budget.

I'd like to see JFNA provide exactly what JAFI does - a public, category by category budget, released as soon as it is approved, along with regular budget updates provided during the year highlighting all changes."

Silverman responded (6/29/12) that he did not know why it was their practice not to publish the budget as it is made available to all federations and others. He also said he would look into it.

It's almost 12 months later and I haven't heard boo.
Have you? Surprised? Not with this leadership.

As an aside, what's with the *hijacking* of administering the U.S. government grant? There were reasons (that are still valid) it was placed under UIA. Maybe the legal-eagles at JFNA should read the fine print from Uncle Sam to see if they even have the legal right to do what they're planning.