Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Maybe there is something in the water down there:

1. Having written at length about the South Palm Beach Federation when it was most pathetic of federations over the years, after some investigation and a conversation with its CEO after the last Post that mentioned this community, I can honestly say that South Palm Beach is a Federation that recognizes its responsibilities to community and People and is on the rise. It is feckless no more.

And, here are the facts as I understand them:

  • Over two years ago, SPB hired a vigorous and enthusiastic young leader from Aipac as its CEO. Matt Levin clearly understands Community (with a capital "C") and his own Community. He joined SPB at what might have been its lowest point and he and his lay leadership are driving it forward and upward.
  • The annual campaign is still struggling but the increases over the last two years suggest that it is turning around. To go from $12.8 million to $14.9 million in two years is no small achievement with significant growth in $10,000 gifts and above.
  • The Federation has already begun to move its overseas allocations to core northward and expects to reach 20% (designated plus "free" dollars) quickly.
  • Matt made a brilliant hire when he brought Cathy Schwartz from her position as the Hartford Federation CEO to lead the Boca Endowment effort. It takes an excellent professional to bring a strong professional into his ranks and Matt has several of them working with him.
  • There is a healthy bank balance and I sense no fear of both operating a federation and multiple agencies.
There are major hurdles ahead and SPB gets no help from 25 Broadway, nor should it expect any.

South Palm Beach...feckless no more.

2. We also learned that the Executive Committee of the Palm Beach Federation, which hired its new CEO a little less than 3 years ago, voted not to renew his contract. This CEO had been the Director of a camp system serving 700 campers a year (and a large Retreat Center) for 11 years before being hired for his first CEO job (surely good old Jerry "Camp-Guy" recommended him); he had never, to my knowledge, worked for or in a federation. This Federation's Annual Campaign was going nowhere, and this CEO had an unfortunate conflict with his then sitting Chair further evidencing a lack of understanding of the lay-professional partnership (even though that lay Chair, a terrific, caring and generous philanthropist, was the one who resigned). 

One thing one can say about this Federation: when things went flat, unlike JFNA, the CEO went, didn't get the "automatic extension;" its lay leaders weren't concerned with the prospect of "another search" distracting them from other things. The "rigorous and lengthy search" that led to this hire was led by the ubiquitous Mandel Center for Leadership. The new search was led by...the Mandel Center for Leadership!!?? First, I thought, maybe there's another Camp Director out there "ready made" to professionally lead a Large City (or any-size City for that matter)...just ask Jerry I-Know-A-Guy-And-He'd-Be-Perfect. In fact the community had two superb finalists for this position; a community that appears to have a real future if it has real professional leadership. We shall see how their selection of a senior professional from Baltimore will go.

Good luck to them.

3. And, then there was the decision of the Federation just to the south of the Palm Beach Federation to part ways with its CEO. In this instance, the departing Executive was hired and walked into a mess not of his own making -- he found himself in a hole and, try as he did, as is usually the case, he could not dig his way out. Curiously, he had left a community that was in the midst of bailing itself out of the horrific Katrina disaster only to land in a federation truly under water. In Broward, you have a community that once received more national human investment than any other -- UJA and CJF worked to assist in the merger that created the Broward Federation, we worked to assure that one of the best and most generous lay families would lead the newly created federation. But poor professional leadership at the outset of the merger; significant under-giving by those with capacity (too often "corporate sponsorships" were a substitute for capacity giving -- that never works), resulted in stasis...not a good place to be; and there was no assistance available from the bereft JFNA when the professional leader and the community needed it the most. Dues were paid in full.

So, let's add it up: SouthPalm Beach on the rise; Palm Beach with a new CEO; Broward...oy.

At least the climate is good -- in Winter.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should have titled this "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly."