Let's take a look at the positives and negatives, some obvious questions and, then, some suggestions:
- There were only 19 participants. Most of the federation CEO criticisms that I heard related to the reality that they suggested the "best and brightest," the "superstars" of their professional FRD cadre at the behest of JFNA, only to have them rejected -- "no room," "maybe next time," and "so sorry." Huh?? At the outset, is this University to be so elitist that a larger number of those recommended are rejected than those accepted? And, why? If this program is to have value, it should be about inclusivity. I'm told this year's session is a "beta-test" for a major roll-out in the future...my sense is there is no time like the present.
- Whoever is responsible for planning the University did something unusual for the organization -- instead of reaching out to its current cadre of those who know little about Federation FRD, JFNA reached out to federation CEOs, and many well-regarded thought leaders inside or outside the system as "faculty."
- The "curriculum" focus on "Major/Mega Gifts Management" is confusing to many. In New York a Major Gift might be $25,000, in Chicago, $50,000, in, e.g., Tampa, $10,000 and in most communities it's $2500 to $5,000. Thus, the Program Outline suggests that a significant portion of the "curriculum" will be irrelevant to a significant number of the participants and would be to even more.
- Sections of the Program offer excellence and promise: "Presentation Skills Training," "How Jewish Values Drive our Work," "Focus on the Volunteer - A Dialogue with Philanthropists" -- all will offer much to the 19 selected participants.
Fundraising University could make a real impact; JFNA deserves congrats for initiating it. It needs a broader focus -- there is nothing offered on prospecting, on event planning (including the pluses and minuses of sponsorships), on building and working with a lay leadership team, and much more -- but that will come, I am certain when JFNA brings in a Senior VP - Development who knows, understands and can work with her/his federation colleagues. If Fundraising U. just becomes an excuse for a consulting contract for the recently retired, then shame on JFNA's leaders...and, as always...us.