Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Let's say you are a Consultant with a proven and very successful track record -- assisting a long list of communities and agencies, national and international, in their financial resource development planning and execution. It must have appeared very attractive, seductive even, to be pursued by Smilin' Jerry S. to prepare an FRD plan for JFNA that, upon its execution, would/might/might not revive financial resource development within the organization from which the Consultant had been unceremoniously forced to her choice to leave but a few years past. (In fact, that ugly episode, engineered by Jerry's predecessor in the worst possible way, was the catalyst for this Blog.)

The Consultant is too smart not to have known that his/her hiring was at the outset but a fig leaf conjured by Silverman to cover up the ugly reality that he and his then Board Chair had induced Harold Gernsbacher to take the National Campaign Chairmanship with illusory promises of the earth, the wind and the stars -- "anything you want, Harold, you've got" -- desperate as they were after being rejected by others for the position. Harold had apparently failed to notice that there was a total void in the once mighty Campaign Department with no Campaign Executive Committee/Cabinet; no campaign effort...just some constituencies and nothing but a bloated budget with almost no senior staff and almost nothing on which to spend it. The Consultant clearly knew all of this. And the Consultant is on the cusp of a miraculous rebuild of FRD.

So the JFNA's campaign area void presented the Consultant with what must have appeared to be a Consultant's dream -- the ultimate tabula rasa: a blank slate that the Consultant could fill in with only the National Campaign Chair's and Jerry Silverman's input (this was the first National Campaign Chair who had no lay partners whatsoever) and what should  have been a large, large contract, the amount of which is quite obviously none of our business (never is). The Consultant went forward; the Plan was completed and presented (to whom beyond Harold, the Smilin' One and, maybe...maybe...Richard Sandler, remain unknown) by the 2015 GA. And, then...Miracle of miracles...

The Consultant, out of a sense of obligation and commitment, has searched like it's the "Where's Waldo?" mystery ever since that GA for a set of campaign professionals to lead/build from scratch the JFNA FRD effort. Another daunting assignment. We have heard that the Consultant was able to interest one great professional to lead the "Department" but Smilin' Jerry refused that person's compensation demands (it's hysterical that this guy would reject someone because their salary and benefits demands were "too high" given his own), failing to realize that working on FRD under Silverman might be, would be, an assignment worthy of hazard pay. I have no doubt but no proof that Jerry has by now offered the Consultant...the Consultant him/herself...the position, using the same method that attracted Gernsbacher to the Campaign Chair position -- you remember, the earth, the wind and the stars -- "anything you want, you've got." Uh huh. I think that the Consultant is too smart to fall for that one. But...one never knows. But, the Consultant is now Jerry's/JFNA's publicly oft-praised "Senior Consultant." Quite a deal.

At this point the Consultant has worked awfully hard to attract a core group of senior professionals -- most of whom are rumored to be joining with federation experience, many among the best and brightest, to lead the implementation of various critical areas of the FRD Plan. The names we have heard bandied about promise top-drawer talent for the first time: but, so far, this "Dream Team" is just that -- a "dream."  In addition, in place is a top pro transferring from Mandel to the role of "Chief FRD Operations/FRD COO" (or something similar). Yet, Jerry has shown a remarkable talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; if he blows the opportunities created by the unseen FRD Plan, there is no saving him. Further, as the Chicago Bears discovered in the 1980's, it's hard to hire the Head Coach when you already have in place your most senior Assistant Coach(es). But...offer enough money...and you never know.

At a moment in time in which Giving USA reported that "Overall giving to Jewish federations declined over the past 25 years, showing that individual donations dropped 37.6% in inflation adjusted dollars between 1991 and 2015" (emphasis the authors), JFNA, under its current leadership was totally devoid of a professional staff capable of offering any real assistance to its owners -- the federations -- in this vital area. So, here we are -- a Consulting contract, maybe two; a Consultant's FRD Plan that has finally seen the light of day (except as first cut and pasted into the 2016-17 Budget; then distributed at the June Board meeting, six months after completion), apparently suppressed by JFNA leadership, but about to be implemented in the best ways (please G-d); an emergent Campaign senior professional staff with the potential for a real breakthrough though still without any Senior V-P FRD;  and an FRD staff  of excellence being lined up to be slotted into the FRD boxes from which they may ultimately work.  If this all doesn't work, the Consultant, in an act of both self-pride and professionalism should tell the Smilin' One to take this assignment and shove it. . 

But not quite yet.


* Just weeks ago, JFNA quietly named a Mandel professional as the "Chief Operating Officer" of FRD -- "managing" the day-to-day "work" of FRD but this professional will not be the ever-elusive Senior V-P, FRD who is supposedly the focus of a continuing search. Seems to this historian that this is an exact parallel to the FRD model that resulted inJFNA Consulting Services takeover of JFNA FRD  functions -- and the failure of that effort.


Anonymous said...

1. Here's an idea - if said consultant is successful in rebuilding JFNA's FRD perhaps said consultant should be offered the position of JFNA CEO.

2. About one thing we can be certain, if there is FRD success, the smiling one and his PR minions are going to send the message that it was all the work of the CEO. Said consultant will be [once again] nothing more than a casualty of an inept CEO.

Anonymous said...

Not going to be any FRD success if the federations don't have the right people in place. Doing away with recruiting will harm the future pipeline of talent in the system.