Tuesday, June 2, 2015


A number of you inquired in Comments to our Post on the JFNA Budget and off-line as well as to which federations voted "No" in the Delegate Assembly action last Monday. There were 89 weighted votes against the Budget, a seemingly large number. Upon inquiry I learned that three Large City Federations (and, perhaps, some smaller) voted against a Budget that was so poorly presented that, in a less compliant environment, would have been tabled and sent back to the Budget and Finance Committee for further action. But, not at JFNA. These were protest votes against the enormity of Dues the federations pay, probably nothing more although there could be...

These three Large City federations really have little in common but there are some interesting factors at play:

  1. Detroit -- this community has a history of opposition to the enormity of the Dues forced upon it by a succession of JFNA Budgets dating back to Penny Blumenstein's years as Federation Chair. There was a moment in time when Detroit not only voted against the Budget but was first cajoled and then threatened with expulsion. Ultimately, a deal was struck and Detroit continued to pay Dues. Curiously, a fine Detroit lay leader succeeded Steve Silverman as chair of the JFNA Financial Relations Committee charged with enforcing Dues obligations.
  2. San Francisco and Palm Beach -- the former has a history of opposition to Budgets that would impose large Dues obligations; the latter? But these two federations share something in common -- in San Francisco, the federation has just hired a terrific communal lay leader as its CEO and in Palm Beach, the federation is in the final interview process to appoint a successor to its last CEO. In other words, in both of these communities the lay leaders are in charge. There is no CEO who can be pressured by his/her colleagues to pay Dues or risk being tossed out of the frat house. Lay leaders who may actually question a preposterous bloated Budget.
Of course we know that a common practice in the JFNA Dues process has been and will be to take a recalcitrant federation aside and whisper with a wink and a squeezed arm: "Just take the Dues out of the overseas allocation. No one will ever know or care." It's such an easy sell, isn't it? And, if that doesn't work, the threats soon follow: "Your (always Your) women won't be able to continue as 'Lions'" "Your young leaders won't be eligible for Cabinet" "Your CEOs won't be able to go the City-size CEO Retreats" "Your Board members won't be able to register for GAs" -- whatever works. Never can Dues be justified by the return on investment...because there is none.

In an alarming trend more and communities' annual JFNA Dues obligations exceed their overseas core allocations -- that would be an "alarming trend," that is if anyone at JFNA cared that that is the case. Just get those Dues paid and then complain that Dues are not enough.

Sixteen years post-merger, JFNA still cannot figure out its role, how it can add value to the work of federations, how it can make Dues relevant. So it preceded its June 1 Board Meeting with a White Paper -- Revenue Discussion. This disjointed piece of ____ -- possibly the result of putting four people in a room, getting them drunk and taping crayons to their feet for drafting* -- jumped from a pseudo "analysis" of the "collective" (which only proved again that these people don't have a clue what the "collective" means) to its real purpose: Dues Formula Options. And here they are:

"Option 1
Maintain the status quo which is a three year rolling average of the annual campaign applied to a budget number for dues within the JFNA approved budget.

Option 2
Within an approved budget, funding from Federations is to be provided from two components:

  1. a)  A first portion from dues, which would be a fixed percentage of a local Federation’s campaign.
  2. b)  A second portion from the collective Israel and overseas allocations pool, in exchange for a
    reduction of fundraising expense by our Israel and overseas partners.
Option 3
Build an
a la carte model where there is a base of funding support for the national system through dues based on a fixed percentage of a local Federation’s campaign; and where other services are funded by fees for direct service to a community. Examples of services for which fees may be charged include: Mandel Center searches; consulting projects; targeted training programs like Fundraising University or Yesod; VIP services in Israel.
Option 4
Charge each Federation a flat percentage of campaign achievement
for dues that won’t change, based on the current budget base of $30.3 million from dues. As the collective campaign grows, the board can determine if the overall JFNA budget would absorb the full increase in dues revenue, or if a portion would be held in reserve against down campaign cycles."

I for one call "Option2" the Chutzpah Option -- the overseas partners have expanded their FRD because JFNA and the Federations have reduced overseas allocations to unheard of levels, so now let's further reduce those allocations to increase the JFNA Budget. Sadly, the authors really mean it.

But, as with all things JFNA, there is no thought given to how we can add value, demonstrate success with purpose. Nowhere is the threshold question asked: "What should JFNA be doing to be worthy of the Dues Federations pay?"

The only thing more surprising than that San Francisco, Palm Beach and Detroit voted "Nay" on the Budget is that more federations did not do so.


* From a Congressman's opinion of the quality of writing of a Presidential Report on Veep.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I fully understand each of the options so if one of them is as follows I apologize. I suggest a model that takes 50% of the budget ($15 mil)and prorates that against the fair share formula of federation's campaign. That 50% is frozen as a base. Increase against this 50% would get voted on by the board based on added value each year. The other 50% would come from 8% of the collected allocations toward the overseas funds based on a three year rolling average that is independently audited and verified by the overseas partners as actually having received the funds. I recommend the 8% since to get back to the current level of dues JFNA needs to advocate for increased core funding up to about the $200 m level or reduce their expenses. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Option 3 puts JFNA in a position to either show value or not.

RWEX said...

I am not so sure.

Anonymous said...

Now that is a great JFNA diversionary gambit. Get the Federations to argue the year away over a dues formula so that whatever option is chosen would translate into marginal differences from the others and what already exists. Its like debating who's better Mantle or Mays or who was worse Jerry or Howard. We have become FIFA!

My suggestion would be a handful of fed-up laity and pro's start talking in whatever venue available to make a big smelly stink at the GA using every grandstanding and "unfair" verbal and procedural tactic (including ridicule). To quote the other guy from Chicago:

“Do one of three things. One, go find a wailing wall and feel sorry for yourselves. Two, go psycho... but this will only swing people [the other way].Three, learn a lesson. Go home, organize, build power and at the next convention, you be the delegates”.
― Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Anonymous said...

Isn't it obvious that the time for a real revolution has arrived - is long overdue?!
Only those that don't care or don't see this as the existential issue that it is can remain apathetic and not fight for change!

Anonymous said...

With all respect to the complainers on this blog - many of you mean well but are simply timid; you are not angry enough at the situation occurring at JFNA to actually DO SOMETHING as opposed to writing anonymous comments of complaint.

Back in 1969, a group of dedicated angry students did do something - they hijacked the GA!! Let them be your example.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that Jerry Silverman has ever looked himself in the mirror and said "I'm just not up to this job. I should resign." Or does he look into that mirror and just laugh hysterically because he hasn't been fired after, what, six years without success?

Anonymous said...

I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!