Wednesday, August 17, 2016


For several years, as faithful readers know, I have been on the search for Deborah K. Smith, JFNA's highly compensated "mystery consultant." Still haven't pinned down what she does for all of that money she's paid but I have learned some important things. 

For instance:

  • Smith was working with Mandel on Executive searches in 2010. I know and reported on these pages of her efforts completed this year in engaging a new CEO for the Rochester New York Federation. In the announcement of the Search in 2015, the Rochester Federation wrote that : "Deborah K. Smith, Consulting Partner and Senior Executive Advisor for Human Resource Development" at JFNA would conduct the Search. This is a job title of which I admit I was unaware.
  • Then, on the other hand, on a visit to the Louisville Federation with the ubiquitous Smilin' Jerry in 2012, Deborah K. Smith did a staff consultation to improve their communication skills and: "Smith told the (Louisville) board that times have changed and fundraising has changed, too. It is essential that Campaigns cultivate younger donors, and younger donors don’t approach philanthropic giving the way their parents did. They want to know what their dollars are doing and often want to have direct involvement beyond their monetary donation." At least we now know that Deborah is a master/mistress of the obvious.
  • So, I was confused -- understandably I think -- is Ms. Smith working on FRD training or is she doing search work or both, if the two can be combined. And, based on personal experience, the two disciplines generally don't work well together. Or, is she working on other things altogether?
So, Deborah K. Smith* remains a "mystery woman," at least to me. Her roles at JFNA appear to be...well, confused. What did you expect? And. G-d forbid anyone manages her -- I think she has a direct reporting line to CEO Jerry whereas most everyone else now reports to COO (?) Mark Gurvis...but, maybe not. And, this is the professional who was among the two or three highest paid on the JFNA payroll -- as a consultant. It is possible that her compensation is now hidden in JFNA's most recent 990 where she appears to be lumped into the "15 other consultants" (up from 5 in the previous 990) earning more than $100,000 never named. 

So, let's see what we do know: there's Smith...there's Agron...there's Kleinman... there's SS+K (which is named as an "independent contractor" but is now revealed not to work for JFNA at all for the $1,000,000 it was paid), there was (and may still be) Paul Kane...there was Karen Barth...all consultants, all supping at the JFNA trough. And I'm sure I'm missing many hidden in the "other 10 of 15.". Friends, this is no way to build an organization, no way to build an organizational culture. 

BUT, then again, take a gander at the Executive Office and a peek into CEO Jerry's. Can there be a singular search more unrewarding than the search for Jerry's areas of competency -- is it as a manager, a planner, a visionary, a marketer, a rabbinic scholar...a font of not thought through ideas or bad sermons? A...what, exactly? What do Richard Sandler and a core group of acolytes see that I and a large group of us sinners don't. Someone...anyone...tell us. Help us understand.

Deborah K. Smith, Jerry Silverman...woman and man of mystery. Nobody knows what either one does. And, apparently, we shouldn't.


* An FOB with a great memory reminded me that this is not the first time I have questioned what DKS (yes, she apparently is remembered by her initials, like "JFK") does. Five years ago I wrote: Still don't know the answer.


Anonymous said...

Pretty sure when DKS was first "hired" around 10 years ago it was to help the organization "streamline", resulting in mass purges.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that JFNA is sending Smith to Minneapolis to urge that federation to once again employ JFNA to conduct a CEO Search after failing ao badly in its most recent effort -- a failing that has the federation up in arms?

Anonymous said...
Note reportage: "JFNA did not know.." What was happening🙈🙉🙊

Anonymous said...

You people think that Mandel was out there representing the Federations in their searches. That's so cute.