Saturday, February 10, 2018

CHANUKAH APPEALS -- A RETROSPECTIVE

                   "FIVE REASONS YOU SHOULD GIVE TO JTA THIS CHANUKAH"

 "'EIGHT DAYS OF GIVING' -- "DO YOUR PART FOR TIKKUN OLAM -- GIVE TO JCPA"

I won't offer a critique of these "direct mail" solicitations, if JTA or JCPA or the countless others pursuing us this past Chanukah think this an effective financial resource development approach -- b'hatzlacha. To those who responded to these appeals, great. Direct Mail FRD has proved to be an effective tool for low-end giving. Nothing wrong with it.

Yet, some of our organizations appear to believe that FRD begins and ends with the Internet and Direct Mail. And some believe that after the collapse of the National Agencies Alliance, Direct Mail will more than make up for the coming Draconian revenue shortfalls these agencies will experience. As one of you wrote, it is timely that the National Agencies compete in the federation marketplace like all others from JAFI/JDC to every other right down the food chain -- national agencies, Israeli NGOs, local agencies, synagogues. I find it to be a formula for fund raising chaos

Reading these Direct Mail solicitations I have been amazed that some of these Agencies seem to believe that a significant body of donors will just check a box, enter a Credit Card and send the donation on, never doing any due diligence, never demanding "truth in advertising." Agency after agency, many led by terrific professionals and lay leaders, suggesting achievements and areas of activity in which the organizations play no (or just a minor) role as if they are the leaders in the field seems to be the common approach. And, you know exactly whom you are.

There was also the mail solicitation from HIAS -- once a giant among the smalls. The organization at least/most offered candor in suggesting a basis for your gift would be providing assistance to HIAS (which has deleted the basis for its acronym -- "Hebrew" -- from its name) so it can continue to provide immigration services to a named Syrian refugee. Another organization asserted that a contribution to it be based in part on its leadership of a 29 person Mission to Israel (and, I assume this was a Mission of its own leadership). 

Look, I am all for raising funds for real needs in the most direct and efficient manner possible. Sometimes, Direct Mail is that vehicle -- although in responsible organizations which understand FRD, Direct Mail is a secondary or, even better, a tertiary fund raising vehicle. When Direct Mail is elevated to the status of the primary fund raising methodology, you often have a sponsoring organization that is orsoon will be in serious financial difficulty.

With the imminent collapse of the JFNA/Federations-National Agencies Alliance, created to support the national agencies now nearly done without having done so, the pressure on the National Agencies to raise funds directly from the federations will have grown exponentially.  beyond their means and, in most instances, beyond their capacity. The Boards of most of the National Agencies were not recruited as either major donors or fund raisers -- they were recruited because of their incredible passion for the cause of each of the agencies. These are terrific leaders; they would probably admit that, in most instances, they are not great fund raisers. 

Some of the National Agencies are well-situated by their purposes and actions to raise significant dollars -- JTA by reason of its reporting, the NCESJ in its dealing with the governments and Jewish communities in Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe come to mind. Others are umbrella organizations, servicing their members -- JCPA, serving community relations councils across the country in addition to its advocacy functions, and JCCA, serving local community centers (and now, stepping into the void left by JFNA and the Mandel Center, engaging in Executive searches) -- and facing  difficult fund raising challenges inasmuch as the local agencies they support are themselves struggling for sufficient budgeted funds. 

The National Agencies gained the support of CJF, then JFNA, through entities like the Large Cities Budgeting Conference and the National Alliance. Until JFNA decided to just abandon them. Now these Agencies -- those that the federations have charged with executing programs that benefit the federations themselves -- will soon be visiting your federation pleading for critical budgetary support. 

And, then, there are agencies like the Israel Action Network, created by JFNA in a partnership with JCPA with a mandate that its budget be paid solely by JFNA. Pleading poverty a few years ago, JFNA passed the buck (literally the buck); and, now, IAN leaders are raising, or trying to raise, significant dollars.

And all of this is happening at a time when the federation annual campaigns in the aggregate are themselves under great pressure, perhaps the greatest pressure since 2008. And, JFNA demonstrated its version of "leadership" and fund raising when it made off with almost $1.3 million of moneys allocated to the National Agencies -- their money -- for an Education Unit that, as many of you have pointed out, does not exist.

DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!

Rwexler


10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Richard

Can you explain your concerns with Israel Action Network

I really never heard of them before, but they seem like quite a large and serious bunch

http://israelactionnetwork.org/aboutus/staff/

Was is it exactly they do and have they been impactful?

Anonymous said...

So many words.

How many words has Richard written since he began his blog? - a million++

So little action!

Anonymous said...

I think you argue for caveat emptor when reviewing direct mail or email solicitations from any NGO.

A few years ago, I started writing back to many solicitations, both Jewish and secular, asking them to email a copy of their 990 and to explain how efficient and effective they are with their expenditures.

The responses were amazing.

My favorite were those that wrote back saying that I had never asked for such documentation before and then provided none.

Others didn't respond directly, but emphasized again how important their work was or how needy their target audience is. HIAS is a great example of an organization that sends a weekly email emphasizing the latter, but never explaining how they spend (nor how efficiently or effectively they spend) the capitated payments from the State Department for each refugee they service.

Anonymous said...

To the writer above, please note that HIAS should no longer be feeding at the hand of the organized Jewish community as the organization has long since morphed from the one that helped my father immediately come from Europe immediately after the war.

I don't think they have had a Jewish client or motivation in about 30 years. That doesn't particularly matter to me, but the organization has increasingly veered into political activism, suing the government and even posting partisan statements about the President on its web site. And, like the President or not, it is not the role of a charity to engage in politics, and even more so when 90% of its budget comes from the Federal Government.

Anonymous said...

To the writer above, please note that HIAS should no longer be feeding at the hand of the organized Jewish community as the organization has long since morphed from the one that helped my father immediately come from Europe immediately after the war.

I don't think they have had a Jewish client or motivation in about 30 years. That doesn't particularly matter to me, but the organization has increasingly veered into political activism, suing the government and even posting partisan statements about the President on its web site. And, like the President or not, it is not the role of a charity to engage in politics, and even more so when 90% of its budget comes from the Federal Government.

RWEX said...

Thanks for all of your Comments.

Let me respond to a few:

1. My only "concern" with the Israel Action Network is that it is woefully underfunded. Contrary to the impression that it is a large Network, it is, in fact, quite small, doing excellent work and deserving of far greater resources. When it was created as a subsidiary of JFNA/JCPA it was with a promise that it would be fully funded by JFNA -- that Silverman commitment to fund the IAN from JFNA's budget lasted two years (which, admittedly, is longer than most JFNA commitments.

2. I am certain that I have written in excess of 1,000,000 words in close to 1,600 Posts for an incredibly small, almost immeasurable, return on our investment. But no one ever said that awakening the dead would be easy...

I applaud all those who have demanded some -- any --degree of accountability from JFNA, the agencies, the federations. From my own experience, you do so at your own peril.

Anonymous said...

But what does this Israel Action Network do?

I look at their website and they position themselves at some sort of Israel advocacy NGO

Yet, I have never seen them, but see Stand by US and others undertake conutlness events

The materials posted on their site on BDS and other subjects are banal

RWEX said...

To Anon at 10:17 a.m.,

I am not publishing your Comment but promise to look into your allegations.

Anonymous said...

Richard

Despite your tireless and laudable efforts, do we think you will ultimately have any impact or effect in reforming JFNA? Or in getting Federations to spend their $30 or $40 million more wisely?

Perhaps you could be more impactful by turning your blog into an analytical guide to the numerous charities feeding on the communal Jewish trough.

A reader above already commented on HIAS.

How about others?

RWEX said...

...and I have all of the 990s of al relevant organizations -- thanks.