Thursday, February 18, 2016


Bob Hyfler was the long-time, exceptional Senior V-P of Planning at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington before moving to JFNA to join Steve Hoffman in service as a quasi-COO and to create a planning function within an organization in desperate need of one.  After Hoffman returned to Cleveland, my recollection is that Bob was a victim of one of Howard Rieger's thoughtless "restructurings." Bob has neither lost his love for the federation system nor his understanding of how the Continental organization can assist the federation owners. Recently, Bob Hyfler wrote:
"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 there 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 'hows' 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." 
I would wager there are not more than two persons (maybe not more than 1) at JFNA, and certainly not Smilin' Jerry, who understands what Hyfler is talking about, let alone is capable of implementation.

Needless to say there is no on-going planning function at JFNA; G-d forbid. It's hard to conceive of a serious continental organization of and for the federations that not only has no internal planning function for its own work, but no external planning function that would assist the owners -- for example, in annual campaign and special campaign planning assistance; federation-agency planning assistance; merger planning (as opposed to merger implementation); allocations planning; and on and on. But...there's no one home at 25 Broadway. There is no planning capacity...none at all.

I have never been a believer in those for profit or non-profit organizations that operate on a "planning through budgeting model" -- where the budget is the plan. If JFNA leaders were to have the temerity to suggest that we can find its "plan" in its budget then it would be obligated to demonstrate how it has performed under its budget -- and it can't do so. In fact, the JFNA annual budget is nothing more than framework and, since the departure of its former CFO, Sam Astrof, JFNA has been transferring budgeted dollars from one silo to another with no evident lay oversight -- how else could one explain the alleged 50% of Budget ascribed to Financial Resource Development when there is and has been...none? Where has that money gone? Don't ask...never ask.

And, again, the question: where is the leadership demanding that JFNA exercise its planning responsibilities? How can JFNA legitimately claim to be planning for the system (or even itself) when it has no planning budget, no planning personnel -- and, yet, it does have and has had a Senior Vice-President for Institutional Advancement!! (And, what's that job description?)

Ahhh, me, the circus is so much fun.



Anonymous said...

It funny because every time JFNA tries to actually implement a planning function, you're the first to attack if.

RWEX said...

Let's see. I was critical of the Global Planning Table that had nothing to do with "planning" -- name another and we'll discuss.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Rieger 'restructured' Hyfler out of a job.....probably because he didn't want anyone around who knew more than he did about Planning and providing guidance to the Planning & Allocations Departments in local Federations.
So assistance to the Federations in Planning & Allocations was eliminated by Rieger.
Under Jerry Silverman, Financial Resource Development was virtually eliminated (Yes, Vicki Agron has been hired to staff up that department, but Jerry let it 'de-staff' for the last 4 years).
The only department that has survived is Marketing (and the Israel Office), and it would be interesting to know how much of the Marketing budget goes to providing direct support to the Marketing Departments of Federations (the smaller 50% of the Intermediates and 100% of the Smalls, who can't afford a full-time Marketing professional).

Anonymous said...

1. Of course the GPT was about planning, and not just because it has planning in its name. At its core, the entire purpose of GPT was to better leverage federation resources for selected (prioritized) programs.

2. With all due respect, proclaiming the federations' role to be still relevant does not make it so. The marketplace decides. Jewish communities don't need the same infrastructure as they once did. Israel doesn't need the same nation building as it once did. safety and support for beleaguered and struggling Jewish populations aren't needed as they once were. Celebrate the successes! But with apologies to Shakespeare, past isn't prologue.

3. What grassroots? To the degree there are grassroots, they don't just want to be listened to. They want to make decisions for themselves and their funds. Information is available. Technology is available.

4. What does it mean to improve communication with donors on program specificity? It'd be interesting to see how that works and isn't ultimately about program-specific funding.

5. What are the smarter ways of allocating federation dollars? Why should a very small group of people, the allocations committee, decide how to allocate funds? Besides, in most communities the funds are allocated they way they were allocated the prior year, unless there's an increase or decrease in campaign funds, in which case there's usually a percentage adjustment one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I'm sure by now you've received the 2016 Board of Trustees Reference Guide, but in case you haven't, there are a few 'interesting' things about the content:
1. Under the first Tab, 'JFNA Resources', the first page refers to the 'Development Department', etc. My recollection is that it has been called 'Philanthropic Resources' for the last number of years. Could it be that the section was just 'copied and pasted' from a previous Resource Book?
2. Under the Tab 'JFNA Committees', there is an Endowment Committee and a Planned Giving and Endowment Committee; however there is no 'Campaign Committee'....what a shame!
3. Probably the most 'interesting' Tab, the 'Lingo Guide', is an alphabetical list of the acronyms that have been used in the system throughout the years......but 'UJA' isn't there.......someone had to make a decision to leave it out.
4. Tab 'JFNA Key Contacts/Professional Leadership Team', related to my Point #2 above, there is no Professional on the list for Philanthropic Resources/Development/Fundraising.....
Here we have a $30 Million organization without any professional leadership in fundraising.
Sort of speaks for itself.