Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Each year we all look forward to the annual JFNA Budget to see just how far the JFNA leadership -- and, specifically, its Budget and Finance Committee, the Treasure and the Board Chair -- can be pushed before their brains simply explode.  This year the Budget is simply an astonishing insult to the JFNA's lay leadership across the board. Candidly, I expected more from Jodi Schwartz and Richard Sandler. Instead we continue the charade -- every Budget year is sui generis; never are the prior years' results/failures measured; never is the chief professional officer held accountable. And on June 6 the jFNA Board will approve the Budget without change -- as it always does.

Let me begin by simply stating that I have seen the 2016-2017 Proposed Budget. I have compared it to the Budgets of prior years and to the best budget practices of federations and the old, gone but not forgotten UJA and CJF.  This year JFNA Board members are being given enough time to review a complex document,and can compare it to the fictions that were prior years' budgets, and, hopefully, they will finally do so. When I served on that Committee, in the fourth and fifth years of JFNA, Los Angeles had two members of the Committee -- terrific leaders. After the second year of their service, walking out of a meeting that, at the time actually had some substance, minor to be sure, but some, we were talking and they asked me: "What the hell are we doing here? We fly in the day before, then we show up, we're ignored, and we fly home." I picture most of the Budget Committee members in 2016 wondering the same thing.

Most of you who read this Blog with regularity know that I have strongly objected to using the Budget "process" as the internal planning mechanism for any organization -- especially a non-profit. The Budget should be the implementation vehicle for the organization's plans -- plans thought through, vetted with the owners  and, then and only then, funded followed by careful monitoring and evaluation. But, of course, not at JFNA. At JFNA, the Budget is and has been "the Plan," and that "Plan" has changed year-by-year-by year with seemingly no thought whatsoever. For example:

  • Last year the Budget was expressed in terms of Priority Program Goals ostensibly to answer the questions: "where can JFNA have the greatest impact for Federations and which programs can only a national system deliver?" Those questions have never been answered and certainly aren't in 2016-2017. 
  • Then, that 2015-2016 "Budget/Plan" focused on "five key areas" -- "Enhancing the fundraising impact of the ...system: Strengthening the human capital of the...system: Providing platforms for convening and collaboration; Coordinating and recommending domestic and international policy, advocacy and allocation priorities; and elevating the profile of the...system."
  • Of course, other than in its D.C. grants, in absolutely none of those priority areas did JFNA demonstrate competence let alone excellence and in most, abject failure. For example, the "goals" for FRD were so modest one would have expected total success even without a Senior Professional leading FRD -- but, no. 45 people...that's 45...on the FRD payroll and no leadership -- sounds like JFNA. And no one asks -- what were the millions used for?
  • And, we were assured...a.s.s.u.r.e.d...that because there were specified deliverables there would be constant and transparent monitoring and evaluation...and there were neither. JFNA lay leadership must examine and adopt the New York UJA model where a professional leader is in charge of measuring program success and reporting on success/failure; Yes, of course, JFNA of all organizations needs a Managing Director: Impact and Performance Assessment. It  won't happen, but can't one dream?
The Dues Budget -- revenue from Dues remains at $30 million (+) -- whereas JFNA's total Budget is at $53 million (registration and Mission fees, etc., and minimal additional fund raising). And the bottom line vacuum in planning continues while the organization claims it will suddenly engage in vigorous planning efforts in 2016-2017.

In the Budget document for 2016-2017 JFNA announced that it is "...committed to sharpening our focus on our core mission and aligning our resources and budget with that mission." That "mission," by the way, is unchanged from the days of UJA and CJF raising the seminal question: what the hell has JFNA been doing up to this point in time? (That's a rhetorical question -- we all know the answer.) Too many words, too little action.

Here's the "essential list of what JFNA seeks to achieve in support of our Federations..." in 2016-17. Maybe you've heard some of these things before:
  1. "Federation Relations -- Shift our business model from a program-centric to a customer-centric approach that deepens our relationship with individual Federations and our ability to deliver services that match their unique needs  (This should be enough to make you ill -- rebranding: our specialty)
  2. Planning -- Enhance the domestic and Israel/Overseas planning functions of the Federations (don't ask Jerry just how he might lead that given the lack of a planning function at 25 Broadway)
  3. Fundraising -- Strengthen the fundraising capacity of the Federations (does Mr. Silverman even realize that he has no senior FRD professional staff at 25 Broadway?) while abandoning real fund raising (except by its own constituencies) completely. I have been told that there are 45...count 'em, 45...FRD staff on the payroll with no senior professional leadership* Now there will be all kinds of "new" programs (most of which echo as "old wine in old bottles," truth be told) -- Major Gifts,  new FRD Education and Training department, new Supplemental Giving program and a  new FRD Community Consulting program -- absent almost any senior FRD professional leadership at this time let alone an FRD CEO, and, but for the National Campaign Chair, no lay leadership. Explain how that will work? Nope. Budget for FRD -- up by $324,000 while FTE are down by 2.5. Questions, anyone??
  4. Talent Development -- Strengthen the professional and lay leadership capacity of the Federation system (yet, Mandel determined to sunset its work in this area [funny JFNA failed to mention that]);  and without getting into whether Mandel competently performed JFNA has no internal capacity to accomplish this work. JFNA is out of the "Search" business -- the destruction off the proud Federation professional cadre is now a process "led" by the organization that should instead be leading its strengthening and development 
  5. Shared Services -- you have to wonder: was this Budget developed by just cherry-picking old Budget documents or what???
  6. Representation -- influence major issues and policies that affect North American Jewry, domestically and in relation to Israel, and respond to crises (I think this means more of the same). While critical areas of Federation need are living on fumes (or false promises), JFNA-Israel continues to be incredibly overfunded. The Budget for "Israel and Overseas" continues to amaze --2.-0 FTE in "Communications;' a new FTE for IRep and Negev Now (!!); another .6 FTE for something called "Israel Program and Planning" But, on the bright side, JFNA is no longer funding Sheatufim -- nice investment that wasn't. And Marketing and Communications, another ambitious silo, increases "Strategic Marketing and Communications to 10 FTE and a $400,000 budget bump (offset by a  corresponding cut to FedWeb.  
  7. Federation Brand" -- we'll strengthen it (Jerry believes that means getting his name in the media). See "Marketing and Communications" above.
Much of this exercise in fiction-writing is based on pure hope -- leadership's hope that Silverman can hire professionals who can implement these goals; professionals Jerry has never before been able to identify or hire. In the FRD area I'm just guessing that the narrative comes directly out of portions of the unseen "Agron Consultant Plan" but without the staffing or funding -- in other words...meaningless. How can anyone consider this Budget legitimate?

You will probably find of interest that JFNA is eliminating the "Talent Acquisition function within" Mandel -- actually abandoning it as Mandel phased out its work in that area, along with the the historic FEREP Program but, rest assured, friends, "JFNA remains committed to the Talent Acquisition focus." Whomever wrote this document, let alone those who approved it, should be ashamed.

And, given the propensity of JFNA to throw fresh money after failure, it will be "investing...an additional $250,000 in the GA program." In JFNA's words -- and this is true fiction -- "[T]his will help insure that we can build on (the GA's) growing success." OMG!! And, seeking of OMG, JFNA is increasing its theft of funds from  the National Agency Alliance Funding Pool from $350,000 to $819,000 (has the Alliance already approved this or is its approval no longer required?) for JFNA's own Education Unit. As you know, this is what JFNA calls fund raising.

And, as always, there is no disclosure of the compensation being paid to Jerry, or the amounts and extent of the JFNA consultant contracts outstanding -- because, well, frankly, it's none of the Trustees business.

And, please, don't worry. there will be constant program evaluation -- sure, just as in past years. If the past is prologue I guess that means there will be none. Please read the "Specific objectives for 2016-17" just as in last years Budget there were a set of "Objectives and Measures of Success." I urge Richard Sandler, if he has time, to review these and, then, do the right thing. But, most important, when will there be full disclosure of how the 2015-2016 Budget was applied -- ever? Where is accountability anywhere down the line at JFNA? Where is the demand, the outcry -- anywhere? 

There has to be real skepticism reading this Budget -- none will be expressed in public. It's just --sha sha, we're moving forward. Charles Bronfman recently wrote a fitting coda to the work of his and Andy Bronfman's, z'l,  ACBP Foundation. He closed that important tribute to their work and their partners as follows:
"We've discovered that everything can be measured, provided one sets standards and goals. That's true in many disciplines and not-for-profits should be no exception." (emphasis added)
JFNA believes that reciting standards and goals is all an organization needs to do; it doesn't mean you have to measure your performance -- G-d forbid.

Again. And Again we demonstrate the JFNA eternal truth: You can fool all of the people all of the time.


* Recently, a Mandel professional was named the "senior manager" of FRD -- yes, you may ask what she is managing.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

To prev anon: Ha ha ha ha!

Anonymous said...

It should be seen as a test case - a test of our leadership.
If there are any leaders on the board that care enough and are willing to rock the boat a little bit (hopefully a lot!) then maybe there is a chance to save us.
Budget changes are a great opportunitu to get back on track - to stop doing what we shouldn't be doing at all and to start performing our true mission.

Anonymous said...

Don't just speak up - vote NO!
Force them to come back with a revised budget before being willing to vote in favor.
Force them to come back with a budget that reflects our true mission.
Let us finally step up and accept the responsibilities of leadership!

Anonymous said...

Contributing to the silence is the fact that many federations (and many of the many are large Dues payers) hide Dues within the gross of their overseas allocations. This cover-up means that there is no pressure to even object to what these communities' leaders know to be the fact -- that millions of dollars a year are being wasted by 25 Broadway. It's just another shanda among the many.