Thursday, April 21, 2016


Please join me in looking at a hypothetical federation. Let's take an environmental scan of what we will call "Community A":

  • It's Annual Campaign used to be $20,000,000; last year it was $12,500,000
  • It now has 3,200 donors; it once had 17,000, a decline of 82% over a number of years
  • It is the guarantor of hundreds of millions in debt
  • It pays JFNA Dues in excess of $500,000 (yes, that's not a misprint...more than $500,000)
There are probably a whole bunch more statistics I could make up in furtherance of the hypothetical but this Post is not about that hypothetical Federation (except as representative of 10s of others) where it has reinvigorated the highest levels of its professional staff and that of its Endowment with great professionals whom I find inspiring; this is about how our system's deconstruction over the past decade and its cascading deconstruction affects so many communities similarly situated. Because today there is a Jewish Federations of North America incapable of assisting "Community A" (and so many similarly situated) in any of the areas in which it needs aid and comfort.

Here is what might have happened were JFNA a functioning organization with the capacity to assist the communities. There would have been an "early warning system" in place through JFNA Regional staff who would have been in constant touch with "Community A" and who would have alerted JFNA to a federation still reeling from whatever external and internal influences had devastated its donor base and its ability to respond to communal needs, locally and globally. The community's CEO, recognizing that he/she would benefit from experienced assistance, would know that he could call 25 Broadway for that assistance. The JFNA CEO would convene his Cabinet and direct them to work with the communal CEO to create a plan for the community. The Senior FRD Professional and National Campaign Chair would convene a meeting of the Campaign Cabinet to coordinate a campaign strategy including a hands-on series of solicitations in the community by the members of the Campaign Cabinet in partnership with local solicitors; the JFNA Senior Marketing professional would coordinate a marketing plan with communal leaders; the Senior Director of JFNA Consulting would work with the federation in developing a leadership enhancement effort; the Young Leadership Cabinet members from the community and nationally would work to assure the integration of Cabinet members in communal leadership.

Here is what will happen today. The Community "A" Federation CEO has to call some of his/her City-size colleagues to ask for advice, guidance and assistance; or he/she will engage a consultant or two. JFNA would express its sympathy with the challenges to community is facing -- in other words...nothing. There is no JFNA Campaign Cabinet just as there is no CEO of FRD; there is no senior professional at JFNA Consulting; the JFNA Senior Marketing professional is busy promoting the JFNA "brand" -- promoting the facade behind which there is no building -- and the GA. 

Yes, today, as we all know, JFNA is incapable of undertaking any of these communal assistance initiatives. In other words, the JFNA of today a $30 million per year organization unable to assist its members as it was supposed to be able to do with excellence -- and it's not that it would undertake its responsibilities and execute them poorly; it's that it is absolutely incapable of doing so at all.

Most federations, if not all, believe and can express the reality that their Dues are paid out of their sense of collective responsibility. I sincerely believe that that is what they are supposed to be. The assumption, once irrefutable now rebuttable, is that if our Dues payments exceed the value of services our community receives from the continental organization, other communities in  greater need than our own are receiving services because of the Dues we pay. That, my friends, is no longer true -- hasn't been true for maybe a decade and, certainly, for the past 5+ years.

Yes, where help is needed, there is none. Community "A" and every other federation that could  and would benefit from a strong and capable and focused JFNA is on its own, paying its Dues and getting back exactly...what?

And the circus moves on.


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