Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Recently, an Anonymous Commentator responded to another who had proffered the "day school model" as an exemplar of effective change:
"Yes, let’s look at the Jewish day school model with its underpaid teachers, massively subsidized and inefficient budgets, and woefully unskilled managers and administrators. Perhaps they could teach federations something? Let’s contemplate that for a while. Perhaps it would be in how to claim relevance with a shrinking market share. Wouldn’t it indeed be fascinating to involve day school professionals in the deliberations of the federations? Except, of course, that they already can if they wanted to. It’s called community involvement."
Harsh criticism or a dose of reality? Opinions will differ but we would all agree that this Comment offers no suggestions as to how to effect change while pointing out the numerous conclusions of exactly why change is necessary.

I disagree with the Comment in so many ways but let's "contemplate (this) for a while:"

  • Who has experienced a greater "loss of market share" than federations? Their donor base aging, the number of donors down 70% or more since the creation of JFNA -- and no attention being paid to that sad reality. If the next JFNA CEO and his/her professionals do not address this, JFNA will not deserve to exist any longer (if one assumes, arguendo, that JFNA does exist).
  • While I think any...that's any...rational observer of this catastrophic evaporation of the communal fundraising base would have to conclude that here, right here, and now, right now, JFNA had/has the opportunity to make a real difference for its owners, the communities across North America. Instead, JFNA FRD, still allocated about 50% of the $53,000,000 JFNA Budget, has focused, not on increasing donors and dollars (as was the entire organization's mandate in the merger of almost two decades ago), but on "community consulting." I'm certain that the 9 part-time consultants are doing a great job "consulting" with the few communities with which they are engaging but this effort pales in comparison to the great needs communities have for answers.
  • Why can't JFNA FRD be an agent of transformational change? Why can't this consulting corps bring directed to bring back to JFNA for the widest dissemination the best practices they identify in the communities they've been assigned -- best practices for, e.g., donor development and donor retention? What am I missing here? Are there no best practices to offer? Or, are the federations who have not been reached for in-depth consultation to be denied them because the consultations are "confidential?"
Is JFNA just like the hamsters on the running wheel, round and round getting nowhere? Where are the results? Are there quantifiable results? Or are there no results?

Round and round they go and where they stop nobody is to know.



Anonymous said...

As the person who suggested looking at day schools, I'd like to clarify my comments: I was not suggesting that JFNA look at the
"day school model" as a way to to improve JFNA. Rather, I was suggesting that the skill sets and methods used by day school folks may be of some use. Day schools have many of the same concerns as Federations: Sustaining the interest of "customers" as well as donors, providing real service and benefit to those who are in their sphere of influence, creating realistic strategic plans and following them.

The pressures on day schools are serious: The loss of one student (and other siblings) can mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in current and future tuition. Not delivering an excellent experience and/or educational product can impact a school's reputation and future enrollment, as well as the academic future of each child. Inattention to donors can lead to the loss of important donations.

Addressing these issues effectively is crucial. There are some Heads of School and Board leaders who know what they are doing. They spend their time ensuring a quality product/experience, now and in future decades. I was just suggesting it might be worthwhile to bring them into the discussion.

Anonymous said...

It's truly hard to know what purpose JFNA serves other than its self-perpetuation for $53 million per year. It's busy "consulting" with many communities but to what end? Campaigns are down. Donors have to be found under a microscope, The communal relationship with Israel is hanging by a thread. As you've written, way too often but clearly true, this is Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Let's start over.

Anonymous said...

And with the present group of MEN that JFNA is pushing to succeed Sharansky, the relationship with Israel will likely get worse as they are uniformly unqualified to build relations with the Diaspora (Prosor aside, but he appears a real long shot).