Saturday, August 20, 2016


As you read what follows, please bear in mind the following:

  • In the FY 2013-2014 JFNA 990 the organization disclosed that it had 5 consultants earning more than $100,000 each; in the FY 2014-2015 990 JFNA disclosed that the organization had 15...yes, you read it correctly, 15...consultants who received more than $100,000, only the "5 largest" are disclosed -- and those without detail
  • In the 2016-2017 Budget, the second highest expense category -- second only to "Payroll and Benefits" -- was "Outside and Professional Services" at $6,528,000, 12.3% of the Budget with no disclosure of whom or for what
And, now...

I have always felt that one builds a professional organization by hiring the best and brightest, creating a professional staff of excellence and, thereby, moving the organization forward and upward -- whether it's a law firm, a for-profit or a non-profit. As one of our correspondents' noted, no matter how spectacular a consultant may be, there is not the institutional accountability or continuity that comes with one who is on your staff. Because Jerry Silverman doesn't have a clue how to build an organization, building a staff for the present and future is no longer the path forward at JFNA. No, friends, JFNA has become the feeding trough for the consultant class -- case in point, the "new FRD" at 25 Broadway, but there is so much more...or less. 

Obviously, FRD is just the newest and latest part of JFNA to join the consultants parade that JFNA had already begun -- mystery consultant, Deborah K. Smith, and, then, Paul Kane, Karen Barth, Max Kleinman and G-d knows how many more right on up to the esteemed Sr. FRD Consultant, Vicki Agron. Add to the list the totality of the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence; consultant after consultant after consultant. From the now dead Global Planning Table to community searches to FRD, one consultant after another, their contracts hidden from view; often, too often, their purposes unknown. (See, e.g., Post "Where's Waldo") In fact, the recently filed 2014 990 disclosed that there were 15 consultants (11 of them unnamed) paid in excess of $100,000 in FY 2014-2015; note that the consultant headcount disclosed on the 2013-2014 990 was 5. Who were they; what did they do; who approved the contracts? Will we ever know? Is it none of our business?

And, now, JFNA Financial Resource Development. Vicki Agron, about whom we have written with pride and a high degree of optimism, has brought (or will bring) two of the best and brightest into the organization  to lead what will no doubt be a strong and focused community consulting FRD effort...for a time. Great people; professionals whom any community, any organization, would be proud to have on its professional staff. But in the the bizzaro-world that is JFNA, these two top, proven professional leaders have signed on as part-time consultants -- and, taking this to its weird extreme, until the recently named Senior Vice-President FRD at JFNA -- until Brian Abraham joins the "team"  -- these two consultants (and G-d knows how many more) will report to Agron. So there you have it -- building an FRD function from scratch where two consultants and perhaps more will report to a third consultant who, maybe, reports to Jerry Silverman, at least for a while.

I am certain the two new consultants cited will do invaluable work and will be a real and significant resource for the federations -- maybe even supplanting the FedCentral web mailbox that JFNA has substituted for doing anything itself. But they will be, as we consultants always are (and I am a proud consultant myself -- just [and this will not surprise you] not to JFNA) -- transients where permanence and continuity are desirable, even necessary. And, to the extent that these consultant contracts are not exclusive, prioritizing the work with the federations over the consultants' work for others, who assures that this structure will even work? Will it be Vicki Agron, herself on a non-exclusive consulting agreement with JFNA, Brian Abrahams, or someone else? 

We all know that the National Campaign Chair, Harold Gernsbacher, has signed on to the Consultant plan -- he just wants FRD to work, as we all do. But what is vital and missing from this consultants' dream is the building of a real full-time professional cadre -- and, now, having attracted a Senior V-P FRD will saddle that person with consultant contracts he/she did not negotiate until those contracts end. 

But, it's not just FRD, friends, there remains the mysterious $1 million contract/conduit with the strategic marketing and branding firm, Shepardson Stern and Kaminsky which raised the question, at least for me: where are these consultant contracts negotiated, who approved them, who monitors them? We'll leave that question too a future Post.

Bottom line, friends, as with most things Jerry, this is another idea, structure, program not fully thought through. Not close. This is another band-aid affixed to the gaping wound that is staffing at JFNA. And I had heard that the Board Chair believed that he had put an end to the seemingly endless stream of consultants to JFNA. 

Guess I had heard wrong. As usual



Anonymous said...

Who are these two "best and brightest"?

RWEX said...

I'm going to let JFNA announce these hirings -- assuming those their choose to do so.

Anonymous said...

JFNA lack of transparency, that which it demands of the Jewish Agency and JDC, has made it a laughingstock in the communities which support it. Of course those same communities make no demands on JFNA for greater transparency because that would take some effort on their part.