Monday, October 28, 2013


Whenever those involved in the Global Planning Table do anything, you know that chaos will follow almost immediately. And, so it goes. 

The JFNA Board has now approved a Resolution, after truly robust debate (for which Michael Siegal should be congratulated), drafted and submitted to it by the Global Planning Table -- submitted without the ability on the part of the Board to offer any amendments, a bizarre and unfortunate dictate. The substance of that Resolution is described below. But, first, a little background: 

The Resolution emerged from a "process" allegedly arising out of a November 4, 2010, Tri-Party Agreement of JFNA, JA and JDC pursuant to which, among other things "JFNA, JAFI and JDC commit to reaching out to federations directly to advocate for increased overseas funding." (Please note that, over the virulent objections of Kathy Manning, I was engaged to represent both JA and JDC in the negotiation of this Agreement. I know [a] what was in the Agreement; and [b] what the parties intended). No matter hiw JFNA chooses to "brand" this thing, this Resolution is nothing more than an expression of "hope." 

As the current Resolution discloses: on August 15, 2012, JFNA unilaterally extended the term of the Agreement through December 31, 2013. Neither JAFI nor JDC agreed to such an extension.

I have described the structure of the GPT (an acronym that has become to symbolize the futility of JFNA as much as "ONAD" once did) as a "Rube Goldbergian" one -- this time the chaos emerges from something within the GPT "process" called the Partnership Committee, chaired by, trumpets please...Ms. Kathy Manning -- appointed to this position by, trumpets please...Ms. Kathy Manning. Yes, it is the "Partnership Committee" as only JFNA and the Global tail wagging the JFNA dog that could call a Committee "Partnership" when the ostensible "partners" don't even have a seat at the table -- why? It's our childhood game "Musical Chairs" but one that starts two seats short. (Picture the JA and JDC representatives are sent dancing around a set of chairs already filled and from which the JFNA/GPT appointees never rise. Jokes on you JA and Joint. [And that's for sure].) So. obviously, "Partnership" as used in the title of this Committee is, as always at JFNA, nothing but a joke -- what it means is "we'll decide and let you 'partners' know."

Oh, the Committee members? There are 7 of the 19 Large Cities -- the three with the largest allocations (Chicago, New York and Detroit); then 4 that rotate (currently Cleveland, Baltimore, Miami and D.C.); 2 Large Intermediate. 1 Intermediate, and then a whole bunch of lay and pro JFNA leaders (who may or may not have a vote, but probably do). If you are learning this for the first time, I'm sorry, it's the JFNA way -- they probably didn't want you to know at all. So, the Partnership Committee made its recommendation to the GPT Executive Steering Committee (chaired by....trumpets and drum roll please...Kathy Manning who [and I am not making this up] was appointed by...Kathy Manning) which approved the Partnership Committee recommendation (no doubt, unanimously). And, understand this, as well: the Resolution would empower this "Partnership" Committee to lead a global needs advocacy effort -- not JFNA, not the United Israel Appeal, not the Jewish Agency/JDC -- but the self-appointed Committee of the Global Planning Table. (See the membership above and the criteria for membership below.)

You will be pleased to also know that there is one criterion for federation membership: Partnership Committee Membership Requirement: Unrestricted plus other giving to Historic Partners -- 20% or greater of campaign. Sounds good, but, upon further review, not so much. So, a federation which allocates, say 5% (or even 0%) to the partners' core and makes a 15% (or, say a 20%) contribution to them (actually it could be to just one of them) through designated giving is eligible. I guess this just demonstrates how the core allocations have collapsed on the watches of the Partnership Committee Chair when she chaired JFNA, her predecessor and the CEOs who watched it happen while their lips were sealed with the glue of ineptitude and disinterest.

And, what has this GPT decision-making body recommended to the JFNA Board which has now approved it? First the contractual "split" between the Jewish Agency and Joint is over (although it really ended long ago); even as the conversion of "split" to a cash allocation recommendation appears to perpetuate it.  Rather than allowing the market to dictate distributions, JFNA, oops, make that the Global Planning Table, believes that it can establish for the federations the amount of the allocation to each partner. Yet, for those who objected to the "split" as the partners agreed with each other; now the GPT, not the federations...the GPT,  will do so -- yet, when questioned its leaders could not offer any explanation or rationale whatsoever for the anemic recommended cash allocations to core for 2014. 

Then, it is urged that the core allocations to our system's historic partners be increased. Fabulous idea; I applaud those who framed the concept. And, in the framing GPT document, federations are urged to add funding to special projects from new dollars, not out of core -- that is to be applauded as well. But...and this is a major "but"...the specific increase in 2014 core dollar allocations recommended by this GPT Committee to the federations would yield less to the historic partners than the reduction in core dollar distributions anticipated in 2013. This reminds me of those federations which project flat annual campaigns as a "goal" for the year to come -- relatively easy to achieve while the ball does not move forward. (Maybe one should compare this anemic "goal" with the JNF's recently announced $1 billion campaign goal. One organization which understands that there is no failure in reaching for highest goal; there is only failure in reaching for the lowest.)  If you understand the rationale for such timidity, please explain that to me. Maybe one of you does. And, enforcement -- don't be silly. This is a plea, nothing more -- it echoes the futility of the same pleas that were inserted (with the support of the same Large Cities) into the ONAD recommendations for four or five consecutive years. 

And, now, the GPT, or is it JFNA, (trust me, it's that confusing), wants to insert itself into the core allocations advocacy fact, establish one that does not currently exist. This from a body and from current GPT and former JFNA leaders who dedicated themselves for the past 6 years to the deconstruction of those very core allocations -- allocations to the Jewish Agency, Joint and World ORT that are today at historic lows. Is it not fair to ask why the three historic partners should entrust advocacy management to an entity -- the GPT Partnership Committee and its Chair, Manning? And, further, why would JFNA itself allow the Partnership Committee lead an advocacy process when JFNA should have been devoted to just that process from its beginning but which has, but for one futile effort over thirteen futile years, ignored this historic obligation as it has so many others? Is it not fair to ask who at JFNA, oops, GPT is even capable of leading such a critical process? It sure isn't Ms. Manning. It's all more of the same.

As noted above, back in that ONAD "era," if it can be recalled as such, each year the ONAD Resolution was accompanied by a gratuitous plea -- that the federations increase the overseas allocation for, e.g., the Ethiopian National Project, without reducing the core allocation to the Jewish Agency or the Joint. The response -- eyes rolled, glazed over, the hortatory language meaningful only to those who made the plea -- was the now "traditional" use of the overseas core allocation as the communal ATM, raided year-in and year-out by those who chose to close their eyes to the meaning of collective responsibility or never understood the concept to begin with. Leading the way --  the very organization that was created in part to protect that core overseas allocation and advocate to increase it. The Board and Executive Chairs who preceded Michael Siegal and Dede Feinberg were too busy with the shiny objects of the GPT and vendettas to be bothered. With their JFNA CEOs in tow, they preferred to deprecate the work of the historic partners ("you would be doing better job if you [JA/JDC] knew how to market, had better programs, etc.") rather than to work positively to enhance and promote their value to our People. So it is worthy of applause that there are federation leaders imploring their fellows acharei on the allocations front. That is an achievement after 6+ years of silence and a shrug of the institutional shoulders as the core allocations reduced and reduced and reduced again and again.

Over the past decade, what happened to those who argued for advocacy? Pushed aside, told to "get with the team or get out," ignored or relegated to this Blog. Collective responsibility was "so 90s and so over." Instead it was special projects, Signature Projects, the Global Planning Table -- when, in reality, there was no planning, nothing more than a rationalization of the GPT by and for she who dictated its terms (and, almost, its outcomes). Now, JFNA implores JAFI and the Joint to "trust us." They say: "We'll (or, make that the GPT) lead an advocacy effort for an increase to your core allocations. No, we have no staff to lead this effort...but, we'll find some. No, we have no lay leaders to lead this effort, but, maybe, UIA , can provide us some for the Jewish Agency's advocacy -- we own UIA after all and, therefore, we can control them. And, the Joint, trust UIA or the long dormant Israel and Overseas Committee or the GPT to advocate for you as well. We know, we know, we convinced both JAFI and JDC to make the merger that created JFNA by telling them it would all be about increasing their resources; if we fooled 'em once, no reason we can't do it again, is there?"

Is there?


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