Sunday, January 24, 2016


"I'm from JFNA and I'm here to help you."

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 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 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.



Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct on this Richard but is anyone listening?
The I&O Empire doesn't want to hear it and FRD doesn't exist to hear it. The current National Campaign Chair would certainly be all for this but will anybody let him take charge?
No, the powers that be are not serious about real advocacy for our "historical" (i.e. "former") partners - only advocacy for themselves.
And where are our lay leaders? When are they going to step up and take charge?

Anonymous said...

If other federations are like mine typically the ones that come to advocate are the representatives of JDC, JAFI, and ORT. They come to speak about the specific programs or projects that they have each previously submitted. How will these new ambassadors be able to advocate or explain these programs adequately with 15 minutes of briefing(!!!)especially if each organization has submitted something different to the community. It seems to me that if this is to be effective each ambassador needs to be partnered with a professional from JDC, JAFI or ORT. In fact I vaguely remember that some time ago you may even have suggested creating such teams. Am I wrong about that?

RWEX said...

You are correct. We have suggested, over the years, among other things, that JAFI/JDC/World ORT enter into their own advocacy effort -- together -- approaching the communities -- together -- in their advocacy effort. We had urged JFNA to take advocacy seriously: time will tell if this is a serious effort.

Anonymous said...

the measure of success is getting increased historic allocations - huh? why is it a given that that is the right outcome? Present some evidence that JAFI 2016 is more important than the other many needs Federations should be addressing. That JAFI couldn't/shouldn't survive on 50% less funding. JDC -- 2/3 of Federation leaders probably don't even know that a huge portion of JDC's budget goes to its work in Israel ... maybe good work, but how much core goes to the neediest world (non-Israel) Jewish communities? how much duplication is there? What's the Israeli government doing around the world these days in Jewish communities -- what should it be doing? Briefly trained lay leaders meeting with other lay leaders probably can't begin to answer these questions in meetings lasting days... each town really does need to figure it out for themselves. The autopilot give to the "collective because you should" days are so an open marketplace JAFI/JDC/Ort (-- does anyone really know what Ort does?)would be getting a lot less than they do now...and that might even be for the better.

Anonymous said...

Hey 4:43, you're stealing my lines:). Maybe improving on them.

Raising money isn't a measure of success. Sending more funds to JDC/JAFI isn't a measure of success.

So what is?

Really. What is?

How do federations measure success?
How does JFNA measure success?

Other than local and overseas beneficiaries feeling like they have the money coming, what is the rationale? What specifically do the funds achieve year over year -- and over a period of years? Are the funds being spent to accomplish objectives that have been set in advance? If so, what are they?

RWEX said...

Oh, friends, the last two Anonymous Comments have left me depressed. Hopefully they were written by the same person (we'll have to check the URLs), because it is too depressing to think that two people might frame questions as preposterous as these two (one?) have.

Envision a federation that raises no money at all -- what is that community's ability to do good, to accomplish great things, to build community, to build Jewish Peoplehood, to come to the aid of those of our People most in need? Any...that's any...person committed to community know that raising money is the means by which we measure our communal capacity to do good. The Jewish Agency, the JDC, World ORT are our agents for assisting those of our People overseas and in Israel most in need, just as the local communal agencies that educate our young and care for our elderly and loan funds for our poor are serving our People to the maximum extent possible. Those who do not know of their work have chosen not to know.

And the more funds we raise and do not waste, the more good we can do. And the more good we can do the more we are responding to the moral imperative embodied in kal Israel are vim meh l'zsh -- each Jew is responsible for every other. That's what community is about, that's what federation is all about.

I am really not sure what the two (one) of you are all about. Shame on you.

RWEX said...

That's "kal yisrael arevim zeh la'zeh" -- the Autocorrect be damned.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, this effort has the same chance to succeed as the Global Planning Table, and for the same reason: It is not well thought out, with the obvious evidence being that it is coming out of the I/OS department of JFNA, and not FRD.
I'm guessing that JFNA Leadership woke up and said, 'But we don't have any Philanthropic Resources staff at 25 Broadway, so how can we run it from here?' (Ironically, it was probably Smiling Jerry who made that comment, not realizing that it has been under his 6 years of leadership that the FRD staff that actually services federations has been reduced to 1 person in a side note, where was the FRD Leadership during those 6 years? How can they look themselves in the mirror?)
Having JFNA professionals and volunteers accompany JAFI/JDC/World ORT colleagues to deliver the Israel/Overseas message is an intuitive strategy because JFNA is the honest broker here, advocating for the concept of I/OS commitment, and not advocating for any specific organization.
This has always been the case, as it was in 2009 when the concept fell on the deaf ears of Rieger and Kanfer (and then Manning), and we got the Global Planning Table.

Anonymous said...

1. As the Anon at 5:04, I can tell you that I'm not the writer at 4:43.
2. Your know-it-all derision is one of the many reasons why people are moving away from the very philanthropic effort you are so devoted to. Look how many insulting conclusions you've drawn from what are very basic questions we've posed. How is it you conflated asking what the money accomplishes with whether ANY money should be raised at all? How is it that questioning whether dollars raised is in itself THE measure of success equates to rejecting "kol yisrael araivim"?
3. How about this...answer the questions. Instead of attacking the questioner and challenging their commitment to the Jewish people (which, according to you, there is but one way to support the Jewish people and that's through federations and their historic overseas partners -- and by the way, I agree they do good work; just not the only ones or the only way!), tell your readers what the objectives are, how each year there is progress in achieving these objectives. Obviously you know, since you claim anyone who doesn't "has chosen not to know."
4. "And the more funds we raise and do now waste." How is waste defined? You, my friend? Me? Who determines waste? If I like how funds are allocated, they're not wasted. If funds are allocated to an agency/program I don't like, they're wasted. I get that you define "the more good we can do" as writing an ever increasing allocation check to a beneficiary, be they local or overseas. I get that the immediacy of that feedback, an amount on a check that's more than the last check, is definitive for you. But it's not for me. I want to know what the objectives are. I want to know how programmatic success is determined and what it is. I want to know what kind of progress is being achieved toward the success that has been determined. You know how we'll raise more money? By demonstrating the impact of the money we've already raised. That impact isn't expressed through the generic statements/elongated slogans you make (your middle paragraph). And if you're not sure about it, just look at donor participation in federations; hint, it's not going up but rather been on a steady decline.
5. The kicker is that by and large I don't disagree with you about the value of federation. But it's not enough for the current and emerging Jewish philanthropic marketplace. Today our system needs to prove itself, and simply announcing the campaign goal has been met isn't enough. With all due respect, your understanding reads like pablum -- generic words that don't convey the meaning and power you intend. Your assumptions about relationships/roles, history and measures of success are decreasingly meaningful. It's not an attack on you or others, or meant in any way, shape or form as an insult.
6. Sir, can you see that there are other perspectives that, although sharing your passion for the Jewish people and even for the federation system, seek other ways to define and measure success and share it with the market place, all in service of the Jewish people?

RWEX said...

I debated just rejecting this last Anonymous Comment but I ultimately printed it against my better judgment because it reflects the absolute rejectionist approach of the know nothings to the basic values upon which Federation has been built.

Anonymous said...

We don't need I&O - certainly not the bloated apparstus that it operates in Israel.
We do need JFNA advocacy and FRD assistance in the USA for our oversess partners and for stressing the existential need for them to thrive and continue to do their excellent work on our behalf.
It would be best if we could get our partners to agree to limit their efforts to an agreed upon a division of activity areas and to also advoocate jointly for a unified I&O agenda and strstegy (as opposed to the JFNA so-called I&O agenda).
It should be JFNA's role to encourage and assist them in doing this rather than wasting time and resources looking for alternative "service providers" in Israel and promoting it's "anything but them" policy.
All we really need to do is showcase and market the wonderful work that our partners are already doing on our behalf and help our donors understand and identify with the outstanding activities and programs and the people they touch.