First, you probably do not remember, but Kathy Manning, during her JFNA Chair-ship, in a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, out of nowhere, advised the incredulous PM that in the event of a crisis like the one Israel faces now, JFNA had a plan and Israel could "count on us" -- kind of like the President advising Israel "we have your back." In fact, as the events of this month have demonstrated, JFNA, as always, had no plan...and now finds itself racing to get ahead of events. That incredulity is now ours.
Last week the JFNA Executive Committee met and authorized a $10,000,000 initial Israel Emergency Fund (G-d forbid, don't call it a "campaign") to aid the victims of terror in Israel. Having done so, JFNA then contented itself with periodic reports from Jerusalem and a "Solidarity Mission" led by Dede Feinberg with, at most, 7 lay leaders participating. (Makes one ask: was this about Israel or was it about JFNA?)
So, they meant well. But the results? You be the judge:
- Some communities, like mine, understanding that $10,000,000 is but a drop in the bucket of potential need, were able to advance their "share" (out of endowment or otherwise) letting donors know that when the need is ultimately determined they will be asked to participate. Then there are the federations who seem to know no better, who convened their most major donors and asked for a total of, e.g., $250,000 seemingly unknowing because JFNA gave them no instructions that far, far more will be needed. These are federations that have forgotten, like JFNA itself, how to raise money.
- As one experienced leader wrote us: "it’s very interesting that on one hand they have no process for other campaigns that were either ill-advised or downright silly but for a real emergency they go thru this process for pocket change. With major leaders on the ground – CCD mission, solidarity mission etc – it seems to me they would have been much better off trying to see what they could raise on the ground and use that as leverage to build a much greater effort." Exactly.
- Then JFNA prepared a generic letter for Federations to fill in with local info about an Israel Emergency Fund. Some federations have dutifully sent the letter out to all donors. Let's say you are a $10,000 donor and get this letter; you send a check for $500. As the crisis deepens, more is needed, and this donor gets another letter (or, even, a phone call) with another ask. Guess what? That donor is going to say: "what's with you people? I already gave." Don't call JFNA; they don't know what they are doing any more than you do.
Friends, a crisis requires thought and planning...but no. Not at JFNA where there should have been a plan, but never is.
No thought + no thinking = chaos. Business as usual at JFNA.