A few months ago I participated in a rather spirited debate over wealth, of all things, and whether a community or national organization should consider the source of funds (other than that it not come from a criminal enterprise or from a person guilty of moral turpitude) when determining either high (or higher) office or honors for a communal leader.
Here is where I come out -- donors (or potential donors) have many, many options today for their philanthropic giving. If a person of wealth, be it a man or woman, inherited that wealth, obtained it in a divorce settlement or it is a couple's determination that major gifts be distributed in the name of one spouse or the other, shouldn't we just applaud the decision to invest in our cause rather than in another?
But what should we make of those who have deployed their philanthropy in pursuit of offices and honors that would not otherwise be theirs? Do we care? Should we care? Should this even be a matter of debate or discussion? Is there something politically incorrect embodied just in the questions?
And how have the leaders of our causes gone about the cultivation of future donors regardless of age or gender who may become the inheritors of great wealth, regardless of source, without patronizing, pandering or worse? Well, in some places there has been grace, encouragement and acceptance; in others, there has been pandering and patronizing of the worst kind coupled with the transparency that accompanies rewards -- positions, offices, honors and/or places on the "meeting agenda."
Is this somehow a "bad thing?" Our donors and prospects have an ever-expanding array of philanthropic choices; one might even say a never-ending array.. And, for the most part, these are choices among "goods." So, our system is so fortunate when a donor, a prospect chooses "us," our philanthropic choice becomes theirs. To me, that is a good thing, a great thing. And, in order for that "choice" to be made, we have to assure the prospect, the donor that we are entitled to their trust, that we have earned that trust -- trust that their dollars will be dedicated to their philanthropic goals.
Friends, over the last decade, under a JFNA that used to dedicate itself to (and, in fact, was "dedicated" by the merger that created JFNA to) "more dollars and more donors," we have lost over 50% of our system's donors. AND JFNA IS DOING NOTHING ABOUT IT. Yeah, we have a leadership that's dedicated to something, we just can't tell you what that is -- and neither can they. We used to worry, even obsess, about a generation disinterested in federation or community -- today we don't even seem to give a tinker's damn about the reality that everyone...that's every generation...more and more seems to care not what we are doing let alone about what we are supposed to be doing but aren't.
It's one thing for JFNA itself to be irrelevant; it's quite another when JFNA so clearly doesn't even care about our communities growing irrelevancy. Hey, gang, let's do another "Signature Initiative."