What follows is not an indictment of any national agency that finds itself required by the realities discussed below to engage in direct fund-raising. Instead, what follows is an indictment of a Continental system that has failed both its federation members and the national agencies which it had expressly commited to support.
It required no genius to understand that with the imminent collapse of the National Agencies-Jewish Federations Alliance the once-funded national agencies would be forced to engage in serious direct fund raising. I thought that that FRD would take place with federations or within the Board members of the formerly funded -- at least funded in part -- legacy national agencies. So, imagine my surprise, one that many if not all of you shared, when I received a fund raising letter* from Cheryl Fishbein, Chair, and David Bernstein, Executive Director, of the JCPA seeking funding for one of their core purposes -- one presumably already funded out of its budget.
The suggested minimum gift in the JCPA direct mail campaign is $250, ramping up to... $5000!! I don't know of a single federation which would not require the names of such an individual solicitation to be cleared through it and, further, would limit the amount of the direct mail donation sought. One might even have an expectation that a viable national/continental umbrella organization would manage such a solicitation effort -- but, as is the norm, there is no JFNA anywhere to be found. One might also have expected that Cheryl Fishbein, JCPA President, a leader in her Federation, a leader in JFNA...oh, never mind.
Back a little over 14 years ago Steve Hoffman, then the UJC CEO, tasked me to chair an effort, with Yitzchak Shavit, z'l, the UIA Executive Vice-Chair, to create a Resource Development Task Force and determine if we could devise a plan to manage fund raising in our communities by overseas and national agencies. Our Committee, composed of federation CEOs and Chairs was extremely supportive. Itzik and I met in Jerusalem with the professional and lay leaders of JDC and JAFI as well as the leaders of the Government effort to register the exponentially multiplying number of Israeli NGOs. The Agency and Joint generously agreed to a plan that would have enabled JFNA to manage direct communal (and, thereby individual) solicitations: we proposed no regulatory control, merely a process of notification and clearance through what would become JFNA. It was simple; it was clean; it created neither bureaucracy nor bureaucratic burdens.
Steve Hoffman went back to Cleveland as we sought approval from what today would be the JFNA (then the UJC) Board. Itzik and I believed we would have the support of Hoffman's successor and the new Board Chair. Never assume. At the meeting, at one of those Board Retreats, several JFNA leaders, also leaders of major/minor agencies objected (never citing their clear conflicts) and the vote was tabled -- a few months later the process passed the Board. When I called Itzik a few months later to move the implementation forward, he told me that JFNA's leaders were "shelving" this management process. "Were they planning to tell me?" Tasked. "Not these chamors," was Shavit's reply. That Plan still sits on a shelf somewhere at 25 Broadway.
Forgive my digression.
From the start, the Federations-National Agencies Alliance was the abandoned stepchild of JFNA. JFNA wanted nothing to do with it from the start evidenced by the elimination of the dedicated professional to the effort, substituting a fine JFNA-Washington pro but one who had a myriad of other responsibilities. In addition, the Chair of the eponymous Commission which designed the Alliance, Louise Greilsheimer, moved from her lay role to that of a senior New York UJA professional where, it appeared, one of her responsibilities was to lead the effort to destabilize and deconstruct the Alliance; no effort was put into gaining further federation members of the Alliance or to increase allocations to it. Allocations dwindled over time to the point that some national agencies saw their Alliance funding shrink from 80% of budget to 20% and, further, to the point that two national agencies -- the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the beloved JESNA -- went out of business for lack of financial resources. And, never was a voice of support arguing for greater resources for the national agencies heard from the leaders of JFNA.
Then, in 2015-2016, JFNA showed a sudden interest, not in the National agencies, but in the National Agencies Funding Pool of the Alliance. Silverman demanded that the Alliance agree to transfer, as I recall, $900,000 designated to the Agencies -- their funds, really -- to the JFNA Budget to fund a new JFNA Education and Planning Unit to make up for Silverman's own failed internal FRD effort. Then $600,000 more reduced to $400,000 was snatched for 2017-2018. (It goes without saying that had funds in those amounts been allocated to JESNA, that organization, providing vital services at the time it was forced out of business would still be doing so and JFNA would not have found it "necessary" to create a Planning Unit out of whole cloth.)
And, now, it has come to this. Every national agency has hired a Development Director of FRD Consultant; every National Agency will soon be at your federation doorstep or in your mailbox; and all of this courtesy of your JFNA -- doing nothing and doing nothing well. The Alliance is on its way out of business.
Doing nothing and doing nothing very, very well.
* This letter was also cited (for other reasons) in http://forward.com/news/380857/exclusive-jewish-groups-did-not-call-for-bannons-firing-for-fear-of-losing/?utm_content=daily_Newsletter_MostPopular_Position-3&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20-%20Sat%202017-08-26&utm_term=The%20Forward%20Today%20Monday-Friday