Saturday, July 30, 2016


We have reflected on these pages the continuing saga of mismanagement at JFNA from the top down -- almost an absence...a void...of management in almost every area of JFNA's work -- non-management, if you will, that would not be permitted in most of the federations, regardless of City-size, with which I am familiar. Now, a keen observer of the federation field has written me about this total mismanagement embodied in the recently completed, what once was the proud Campaign Chairs and Directors (CC/CD) Mission now rebranded to add "Campaigners"* -- in other words, "come one, come all." 

Here, in part, is what he/she wrote me:
"How many JFNA professionals does it take to lead/staff a mission of the campaign chairs and directors? According to the list of participants there are 113 total participants from 32 communities. This list includes 11 JFNA professionals plus Vicki Agron. That’s a ratio of about 1 to 10. We used to run community missions with a ratio of no more than 1 to 20 .  that was rare. 
If you break it down by actual communities I suppose each professional could staff three communities. Maybe in that case they will be overworked.
I assume that the reason there are so few federations represented has something to do with the cost and it is evident that the high cost is directly connected to the large number of non-paying JFNA professionals."
Like so many other areas of JFNA operations, the CC/CD (and Anyone Else) is JFNA in microcosm; it raises the seemingly constant question of JFNA: where the hell are the adults? 

In the early years of JFNA, before the hiring of the current CEO, JFNA, without debate anywhere, practically scrapped the CC/CD Mission, which, within UJA and JFNA, as well, was one of the critical investments the continental organization made. JFNA, and UJA before it, had offered a full subsidy to federation Campaign Directors (general and Women's) who delivered their Campaign Chairs to the Mission. At UJA we assured that lay leaders other than the National Campaign Chair (who still played a major role on the Mission) were the Mission Co-Chairs; UJA also assured that JAFI and Joint staff participated in the Mission to articulate those organizations' programs and goals; and, during my National Chair days and under others' leadership, the Young Leadership Cabinet Chairs participated as leaders and solicitors. Today, the Mission offered an $1800 (+) subsidy -- apparently to anyone who applied -- because, it appears, this has become a numbers game. 

And, how do I come to that conclusion:

  • The 2016 CC/CD (and anyone else) Mission participants ranged from a few Federation lay and Campaign Chairs, to an even fewer number of CEOs to couples (probably wished to experience Paris together) to young leadership professionals to federation Board members to a couple of endowment professionals;
  • Three communities sent 6 lay and professional participants each;
  • There were 31 communities represented -- 20.5% of the 151 federations; and
  • There appeared to be no criteria for participation in the futile quest for numbers. Back in the day, perhaps in a simpler time, the participants were limited to Annual and Women's Campaign Chairs and Annual and Women's Campaign CEOs; today it seemed to be, by any and every measure, come one and come all.
So, the numbers game, taking into account the small percentage of federations represented,  and even with this "we'll take anyone and everyone approach" failed...certainly JFNA will inflate the meaning of the numbers and the impacts of the Mission  (a 25% campaign increase would be great, if true) -- it always does -- but the facts are the facts. Certainly, like any Mission, this CC/CD (any thought given to changing the name to reflect the realities -- you know, a rebrand? Oh, wait, it was now the CC/CD and Campaigners Mission) had to be a success. didn't it?

BUT, that's not all. 

Just as many communities in the days when GA programming dazzled us (I know, it's hard to remember those days) divided up their attendees to make certain every program and venue were covered, then convened the attendees so that all would understand the scope and depth of the programming, one would have expected the multiple participants on the CC/CD (and, want to come, we've got room)(from any one community to be assigned to different buses for site visits for the same reasons. Not this JFNA...uh uh. Nope. On this Mission, all of the participants from, e.g., Kansas City, were  assigned to one mini-bus to make a site visit together -- maybe a JAFI site, maybe a Joint site visit, maybe a World ORT  site...but, probably not. So no community experienced all of the sites. Just another lost opportunity.

You'd think that there would be a playbook for Missions at 25 Broadway. Hell, they could use the one I wrote in...drum roll, please...1978!! But, no. They write a new text on every Mission. (Yeah, there even used to be a lay-led Missions Committee, but that was back in the halcyon days of yore, when lay leaders -- that's a plural, with an "s" -- were engaged side-by-side with the professionals). Today, too much of a bother, I guess.) Where was the decision made to add anyone and everyone -- I know the "why" -- not enough communities were sending their Campaign Chairs and Directors.

I know, you think that I believe that everything was better back then. Hmmmmm....


* I have ben advised that I may have conflated the CC/CD and Campaigners Missions. I have, if in fact they remain separate. But my conflation, if it is that, pales in comparison to that of JFNA itself.


Anonymous said...

We lay leaders are very lucky indeed! Starting with our Chairman and down to the very last of us, we have been relieved of any responsibility for anything except to continualy congratulate our wonderful professional staff and to say "aye" when called upon to do so.
Ask no questions, don't interfere with staff policies, follow blindly and just keep on saying "aye".
Pay the pros to run our system for us while standing idley by as we watch them destroy it beyond repair.

Anonymous said...

But it doesn't have to be that way. As a person involved in federation life for a very long time I have developed numerous connections around the country with other federation lay leaders and quite a few professionals. I know for a fact of dozens of federations where the lay leaders and professionals still operate with a clear understanding of the importance of the lay-professional relationship and their community's results speak for themselves. I assume Richard could also identify dozens of communities as well.

RWEX said...

To the last Comment -- I wholeheartedly agree. Where the lay-professional partnership is strongest, so is the federation; just as when that partnership was strongest at UJA and CJF, both were at their most impactful.

Anonymous said...

Communities yes but not in our national organization where there is no oversight at the top and no management within. If there was lay leadership and oversight there would have to be management and evaluation of results but we have neither.
Instead we have lay leadership not doing its job and as a result no professional management or supervision.
So we shouldn't be surprised about the terrible results.

Paul Jeser said...

During my years as a Fed Exec I participated on more than a few of these important missions. Yes, for me to attend my chair also had to attend. Great time to bond and to plan. Big difference however - at that time 65+% of our funds went to national UJA

Anonymous said...

That is precisely the point. 65% (although in my 40 years of federation involvement I don't remember the national figure being anywhere near that) went to UJA because the major leaders and fundraisers saw the benefits of how the money was used. In JFNA's world there is no need to show the benefits, to lobby for more overseas funding, etc. So what is the result - probably less than 20% of the cumulative campaigns goes to the three partners. Rumor has it that the allocation to JAFI this year will be under $90 million. Richard - what do your sources say it will be and how long ago did it exceed $200 mil? It won't be long when we start yearning for the days when JAFI got more than a $100, forget $200m.

Anonymous said...

While Richard ponders your question, JFNA's own data project a TOTAL allocation at yearned 2016 of only $121 million; JDC will only receive about $31 million. JFNA has fiddled while allocations burned to the ground. Their leaders will just shrug their shoulders while claiming that it's JAFI, JDC and World ORT's fault.

RWEX said...

2016 In a few days I will publish a Post on the preposterous 2016 allocations "estimates" and the institutional barriers to any allocations success. Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for some JFNA Board member with balls (not from a gender sense) to get up at a JFNA Board meeting and make a statement about how clueless the leadership of JFNA is.

Anonymous said...

Richard - I have recently re-entered the Federation world as a professional and was a participant on the recent JFNA Campaigners mission. I should begin by saying it was one of the most outstanding missions I have been a part of (I have staffed many in and outside the Federation world).

I feel the need to clarify something for you as you may have been confused about the mission. There were in fact 2 missions. The CCCD mission focused on top campaign leadership and took place prior to the Campaigners Mission. The Campaigners Mission had a more diverse group of professional and lay participants. Your blog confuses this distinction and I thought you'd want to know.

Im certain your lamenting the loss of the 'good old days' comes from a sincere and authentic place, but I must say that not only was the quality of our mission outstanding, but there was significant lay leadership behind the entire program. I thought it represented the best of lay-pro partnerships.

The only other comment you made which I take some issue with has to do with your statement about JFNA wanting to pad it's numbers. The insinuation is that Jfna is only concerned with quantity, not quality. That couldn't have been further from the reality in terms of who was on our mission. In addition, when did bringing as many stakeholders to Israel as possible represent some sinister approach to engaging leaders?

Your blog seems to convey more of your general frustration with JFNA then a true and objective assessment of the value of this Summer's missions. I don't know how that does the movement any good. It just feels personal.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Anon at 3:20 is missing the point. Richard has already acknowledged the difference in the two missions. One of his points, if I understood it properly, is based on the relative importance of the missions and how they were handled. The CC/CD mission used to be the premier mission under JFNA (other than the Prime Ministers Mission. This one was poorly attended, did not split the communities where a community had several members, etc. For 100 participants they needed 10-12 professionals and didn't maximize the opportunities to showcase a broad section of programs and projects.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Anonymous at 3:56, for your comment. I don't believe I've missed the point. I get the comments about the 'relative importance of the missions', about the increased proportion of staff to participant, the more open nature of who can go, etc...these certainly represent reasonable data points for discussion, but it is hard to know if the data today can be compared 'apples to apples' to 'the good old days'. There are many factors which might contribute to changing participation, modifications in staffing ratios, etc...including, but certainly not limited to:
- growing professionalism of our Jewish communal field (this is certainly not unique to JFNA)
- growing divide in the connection people feel to Israel
- explosion of Jewish orgs that bring their stakeholders to Israel over the last 30 yars
- changing culture of leadership and how they view their roles
- the increasing disconnect people feel to Israel

Most if not all of these factors are parts of a larger challenge...they aren't just indicative of problems at JFNA. To ignore wider trends to make a pointed critique about JFNA does not offer a constructive framework for discussion about how to actually grow and build our communities. And let's be honest, this blog is dedicated to critiquing JFNA. Thus, conclusions drawn through this blog should always be viewed through that lense.

My point in correcting Richard about the distinction between the missions was simply to offer an accurate picture. If you read carefully, Richard writes: "...what once was the proud Campaign Chairs and Directors (CC/CD) Mission now rebranded to add "Campaigners"* -- in other words, "come one, come all." This is simply not what was this summer.

Anonymous said...

And, Anon 5:02, if you read the Post to its end you will see that Richard indicated that he may have "conflated" two Missions into one but couldn't be sure because JFNA did the same thing in its own publication. In Richard's listing of the participants, "come one come all" seems to be an accurate description.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 5:02 again you seem to be reinforcing things that Richard is saying. As a former participant in the CC/CD mission when it was limited to chairs and directors one of the most important aspects especially in the first year of holding the position of chair (at the time) was to create a bond between the chair and the director to work in a full lay-professional partnership while at the same time seeing the numerous good things that federation's overseas allocations did. The message that got sent this year is that this partnership is much less important than providing 10-12 professionals from JFNA. I am not commenting about the large numbers of participants from various communities because I would assume that they have some significant roll in the campaign. But again it was always to strengthen the lay professional relationship in an individual community to maximum their effectiveness when they returned to their respective communities.

Anonymous said...

All of these posts are well taken and I won't debate the fact that approaches (and likely results) have changed. My point, however, is that it feels misguided to attribute blame solely to Jfna. A fundamental reality is that the centrality of Isrsel has diminished in LOCAL communities (not all, but most). That affects who is willing to go and thus affects who the trip is tailored for. I absolutely LOVE the purity and strength behind what was. It just feels like a distraction from the real to inspire meaningful and lifelong engagement with Israel and how to deepen the leadership experience of our community's best and brightest. I don't believe jfna's job is meet that challenge for me.