No doubt it was nothing more than coincidence that immediately upon the publication of our Post Camouflage for Failure that one who shall remain nameless at 25 Broadway snuck an outline to me of how JFNA Global Services: Israel and Overseas would almost immediately mount a program pursuant to which "trained" lay leaders (more on that below) would be approaching communities in a "better late than never" continental effort to educate our communities about the underfunded work of JAFI/JDC/World ORT and seek larger allocations to their core budgets.
We had written, in part:
"... my sadness extends far, far beyond this community or others engaged in the same withdrawal from the collective. It is a sadness and disappointment that the moral compass that once were UJA and CJF is nowhere to be found at JFNA. Nowhere to be found. With all the talk of 'envoys' and 'ambassadors' marching out to assert the need for greater financial support for the core of our system's historic partners, at the end of Calendar Year 2015, core allocations from the federation system reached their lowest levels...ever. Under the professional administration of the grossly overpaid CEO, we have experienced 6 straight years of record low core allocations, one after the other, after the other."Trust me, and long-term readers of this thing know, I appreciate the fact that even now, six years after we first pleaded for continental education and advocacy from JFNA, JFNA is doing something -- it's just a shame that, as we should have expected, JFNA would (a) try to reinvent the advocacy wheel even though the "playbook" that I helped to write is just sitting there gathering dust and (b) this "envoy" effort has not been fully thought through.
Perhaps, JFNA is on the cusp of engaging a new Senior Vice President, Philanthropic Resources, and Becky Caspi, Empire Builder of Empty Promises, feared that whomever grabs the FRD golden ring might be one who understands that advocacy is a component of the FRD effort so she better grab advocacy and do it...now. That's how silos get built -- in particular when the CEO doesn't understand what's going on. And, of course, with the Global Planning Table scrapped, Global Operations: Israel and Overseas divided up everything that wasn't tied down and locked in place with UIA, leaving the latter with scraps and FRD with nothing. (I'm guessing that the National Campaign Chair knows nothing about this power grab.) It made no difference to the CEO that Israel and Overseas knew/knows zip about how to lead an advocacy effort from 7,000 miles away.
So, I/O is reaching out to lay leaders to serve as JFNA's "ambassadors" in the advocacy effort -- looking for volunteers. Time can't be wasted so, instead of the face-to-face hands'-on training sessions that UJA convened for this purpose, JFNA will conduct one...one...Webinar sometime next month to train the envoys for communal visits. Oh, though it appears to this trained eye to be absolutely incredible, the overseas beneficiaries/partners -- the Joint, Jewish Agency and World ORT, with their great institutional complexities, have been invited to participate as well. And that's a good thing. Yes, JAFI/JDC have each been give one-quarter hour...15 minutes..and World ORT...five. Unreal...unless one understands that this effort is really just about JFNA and its leadership, rather than about JAFI/JDC/World ORT. And that's the real shame...shameful actually.
When UJA (and, in its early years, JFNA) led the advocacy effort, most often our lay advocates visited our federations with representatives of the partners/beneficiaries hand-in-hand. We were trusted sufficiently by the partners/beneficiaries to be their advocates when their representatives were not available to join us. Now JFNA gives the partners 15 (or 5) minutes to "fully inform" the JFNA envoys. Come on! Really? When we formed an advocacy group at JAFI-North America, with lay leaders steeped in the work of the Jewish Agency, we still spent a full day in training -- JFNA is giving JAFI 15 minutes? Come on! Really? (I do assume that even JFNA will provide its messengers with detailed info/data on the partners and on the communities they will visit -- if JFNA actually has that information.)
First, who is doing the training? Caspi? One of the 25 staff people from her Office? David Brown, Chair of I/O? A few more consultants? Then, there's the issue of where the JFNA "envoys" are coming from. A true story: one of my closest friends in Jewish life, a leader of his federation and our Partner organizations, called me with great excitement: "Richard," he said, "I have great news!! UIA is forming an allocations advocacy unit and I have been asked to chair it. Isn't that great." I responded, "UIA couldn't have picked a better person. But, your federation has been cutting its overseas allocations to JAFI/JDC by 10% per year -- down to 21%. How could you come in to my community and advocate for a larger allocation when the first question will be 'what does your federation allocate?'" The point? What are the criteria for the JFNA ambassadors/envoys? Any?
So, again, my own recommendation to JFNA: each envoy/ambassador shall first visit his/her own federation and gain an increased allocation there; then hit the road with that success propelling him/her forward. Let's see how that works. And send them side-by-side with the experts from JAFI/JDC/ORT not alone. If this allocations advocacy is not just a throwaway but is a real exercise of JFNA's moral responsibility, then JFNA must make it so -- recognize that allocations advocacy belongs within the ambit of FRD with I/O in support of the effort, not leading it; the envoys must be fully trained and from communities that demonstrably support the overseas partners; and recognize that this must be an on-going effort, not a one-shot visit, over and out.
Let's see how JFNA does.