Monday, September 9, 2013


The leaders of JFNA seem particularly proud of the creation and implementation of "Fundraising University" -- which held its first of a year-long program in New York City the week of August 4. While I find irony in the fact that JFNA, which so abandoned FRD some years back that it (a) placed it as a subsidiary of Community Consulting; (b) rebranded it as "Philanthropic Resources," a national organization is clearly the only institution that can lead this effort; and (c) reduced the role of the National Campaign Chair to cheerleader (not that cheerleading isn't part of the job).  When I first congratulated JFNA on taking this idea first framed and implemented by the national United Jewish Appeal two decades ago, I received numerous phone calls, anonymous Blog Comments and e-mails suggesting that I take a closer look. I have done so and, while I find the "University" as implemented in so-called "beta" form to be a mixed bag, my conclusion is that it's a badly needed reset of JFNA engagement with fundraising and fundraisers -- and that's a good thing.

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 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


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

let the nonsense stop....this is the same old repackaged stuff that was in our midst over 3 decades ago....admirable but hardly innovative and cutting edge.....basics are important and history/memory of the impact of the system a must....I call on the next gen CEO cadre to put the wheels in motion of securing our future and remembering past contribution.....lets get beyond the 3 of old (CEO's that is)......the individuals who need to step up need to do so know who you are!!!!