Saturday, January 2, 2016


Really, what the heck is the "I and O Agenda?"

This is an example -- an example of cost and waste -- the kind that happens when an organization, any organization, has no management nothing more than mismanagement from the top down. Read it and weep.

Less than one year ago, three silos within JFNA -- Israel and Overseas/Global Operations, the United Israel Appeal, and the Global Planning Table -- sat together apparently to assure that in the implementation of their separate "Portfolios," there would be working relationships, a full court press on Israel and Overseas matters and a minimum of overlap among the silos. Just a few months ago, the GPT, to our collective relief, collapsed of its own weight -- a total failure. It took only weeks thereafter for Israel and Overseas/Global Operations to carve up the remains and reallocate GPT roles to themselves -- make that reallocate everything left to Israel and Overseas, the biggest unmanaged silo in the JFNA universe. UIA and I and O published a new document last September 7, enumerating the Portfolios (the "Portfolio Document" hereafter). It is a document worth reading and, then, discarding. It is a further example of the lack of overall management, structure, purpose and accountability within JFNA and the absolute void in thoughtful leadership.

I counted the use of the term "I and O Agenda" at least five times in the Portfolio Document; I saw the term referenced as "this important work." Nowhere can you discover what the hell that "Agenda" is. You know, just a declaratory statement that starts like this: "The Israel and Overseas agenda is as follows..." No, there are 12 "strategies and goals," 11 "deliverables," and a listing of the GPT programs I and O will swallow up. There is also an allocation of the 22 Israel and Overseas professionals (excluding Becky Caspi, Silo Manager, and 6 UIA personnel) to their tasks; none of these professionals are resident in JFNA New York HQ but will, nonetheless, purportedly be able to engage with federations on everything from allocations to Missions. 

Immediately post-merger, an "Israel Task Force," co-chaired by the great leader, philanthropist and humanitarian, my great friend and mentor, Marvin Lender, past-UJA Chair and first Co-Chair of JFNA's Israel and Overseas Task Force, and Bob Aronson, then the Detroit Federation CEO and one of the great fund raisers and professional leaders in our system's history, studied our engagement with Israel, JAFI and the Joint. A number of the readers of this Blog may have served on that Task Force. Among the recommendations that flowed were: the focus of the JFNA Israel/Overseas Office be relocated to New York with a skeleton Israel presence, that many of the Office functions in Israel be carried forward by the federations' growing number of Israel-based professionals, that JFNA Israel/Overseas work be fully integrated with JFNA's FRD operations, if not fully absorbed by the FRD effort. Integration was the main thrust of the Task Force's recommendations.*

And, here we are today:

  • Although rumor has it that the National Campaign Chair, working with consultant Vicki Agron, is attempting to create a FRD function within JFNA, there is none today...and there is no FRD staff (other than for Missions and VIP travel and that staff is lodged within the JFNA-Israel Silo);
  • But, for the bloated success-free Global Operations: Israel and Overseas operation, that's just fine because:
    • This Silo just grows and grows arrogating to itself every conceivable JFNA function, staffing up and accomplishing nothing;
    • Israel/Overseas is totally and exclusively housed in Israel, self-managed, self-contained and irrelevant to the federations which, at last examination, still purport to own, or at least fully fund, JFNA.     
Friends, the "strategies and goals" and "deliverables" set forth in the Portfolio Document are beyond the ability of JFNA to achieve. Whether they were merely thrown together to arrogate further power to the Silo upon the demise of the Global Planning Table or to preempt the potential emergence of a strengthened JFNA  FRD effort (what role, if any, did the National Campaign Chair play in the creation of the Portfolio Document?  That's purely rhetorical, of course.) or, G-d forbid, the engagement of a new CEO who might put an end to the on-going mismanagement and waste at JFNA or someone said "hey, nobody's doing this stuff, why not us?" The Silo continues to grow with no return on that investment.

The Portfolio Document, among so many other things, ignores the need for complete integration into FRD of allocations advocacy (through "Envoys," "Ambassadors" or just plain "federation leaders"), Special Campaign FRD and allocations, cash collections, and related matters. Oh, and the Silo will "attempt" to raise $750,000 for JFNA programs from Israel philanthropists. 

With no FRD function within JFNA, with no management, and no accountability, the Silo wins every time. And all of us lose.


* As the new I and O Council Chair took office last year, I suggested to him that he might wish to read the post-merger Work Group Study. This Portfolio Document strongly suggests he didn't


Anonymous said...

What do you expect? It's the blind leading the blind over at JFNA - Silverman and Caspi are both forever clueless and together have no accomplishments to their names. The board is in la-la land and the LCE's apparently don't care - happy to just waste their own federations's hard-earned donations on this useless merry-go-round.

Anonymous said...

There should be a clear I&O agenda but it indeed does not require this continually expanding "empire" in Israel.
It should be a part of JFNA's New York headquarters, working with Federations to advocate for and to promote I&O related issues.
The Israel Office should indeed be made up of no more than a skeleton staff serving mostly a liason function - perhaps also doing some logistical work with visitors and some coordination work with our operational partnres and other organizations.
Unfortunately, the egos on the ground do not agree and those who are supposed to be setting limits and boundaries for staff and their egos and desire for more and more power are nowhere to be found.
What a waste of effort and resources! Most of Caspi's bloated staff in Israel accomplishes nothing of real added value while the so inportant I&O agenda has no serious advocacy and service framework for campaign support and assistance to our federations in the USA.
No strategy, no plan, no supervision, no oversight = no results!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it about time to start taking this issue to the JFNA Board?
We can complain on these pages about Smiling Jerry and Becky Caspi (and her bloated staff in Israel), but in the end, shouldn't the JFNA Board, both current and past (during Jerry Silverman's reign), be taken to task?
After all, it is the JFNA Board that has allowed all of this to take place during Silverman's term.

Anonymous said...

If you want to take anyone to task, we need to begin with the handful of LCE's who pull all the strings at JFNA. The board is NOT going to challenge them.

Anonymous said...

All roads for any real change lead through Chicago and NY.

Anonymous said...

The LCE's are supposed to be working for us - not the other way around!
It is the JFNA Board's responsibility to determine policy and oversee implementation of that policy.
With all due respect to our LCE's, they have their own vested interests and priorities which may or may not mesh with our best interests as a national and international system.
The time is long overdue for our JFNA Board members to act and take back control of what is now out of control.
We need to jump in and at least put up a fight for setting things right.
So much depends upon it!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Anon 7:15 am.
Regarding the LCEs, yes they have their own interests that involve their Federations' agendas.....that is part of their job.
Regarding 'Collective Responsibility, unless Richard or someone else can offer a different observation, the LCE group continues to pay its Full-Dues to support JFNA (and, if JFNA is doing it's job, thereby providing financial resources for the 120 Intermediate and Small federations).
It's the JFNA Board that has been asleep at the switch.

Anonymous said...

If you believe the LCE group pays its full dues I have a bridge to sell you. I don't have any hard evidence as to the specific dues they each pay but remember that the LCE includes such "renegade" communities as South Palm Beach (didn't pay any dues for a few years), San Francisco barely if at all participates in the core funding formula, Boston which has pretty much abandoned the core funding formula, Philadelphia which I believe is now designating all unrestricted funds, and I may be missing a few others.

Anonymous said...

To anon at 6:07 am - *IS* JFNA providing financial resources for the 120 intermediate and small federations? And if you think yes, why are their CEO's pretty much not in agreement?

Anonymous said...

JFNA isn't providing financial support for anybody anymore - no FRD, no campaign, no Israel & Overseas advocacy (an "agenda" maybe but not what it should be), no collective responsibility, no leadership, no accountability...

Bob Hyfler said...

The issue is not simply one of personalities and operations but of strategic role and first principles. In my proudly demoded way of thinking our system will not prosper by fully embracing the unholy grail of designated giving. Federations were built to guarantee the infrastructure of community building at home, the infrastructure of nation building in Israel and the safety, support and rescue for beleagured and struggling Jewish populations worldwide. Aping the distribution practices of private foundations (which for a host of reasons we do poorly) will not further these aims. The day to day business of Jewish life seldom meets the criteria of sexy, innovative and new, nor can it survive based on 3-5 years and out grant making. Are their smarter ways of distributing the dollars raised by Federations? Definitely. Should we be listening more to our grass roots? We must. Can we communicate with donors based on greater program specificity - of course. However the"how"of Federation practices must not be so transformed as to undermine and hence lose sight of our historic and still relevant strategic role in Jewish life.

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is that many of us who once worked at UJC/JFNA had no clue what I/O was doing, or who their employees even were, and vice versa. This became painfully obvious when we had rare occasions to interact.