Sunday, June 10, 2018


Soon there will not be sufficient space on JFNA's 990 to list all of the Consultants that the organization has hired. As we have written before, the engagement of consultant after consultant paired with JFNA's leaders refusal to disclose the nature of their work and their compensation under a fictitious claim of "confidentiality" compounds the felony.

And, now...this:

"Incubated at Bain, The Bridgespan Group brings Bain-quality strategic thinking to the nonprofit world. The Bridgespan Group is the preeminent consulting firm of its type, and serves nonprofit organizations, foundations and philanthropists. As a nonprofit organization itself, Bridgespan collaborates with mission-driven and philanthropic leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and advance learning. Its roster of more than 1000 clients served includes organizations such as Harlem Children's Zone, Youth Villages and KIPP, as well as several major foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Omidyar Network."

Maybe the thinking at JFNA was: "if we hire Bain's Bridgespan Group, we're really as important as we think we are." Maybe they didn't have a clue. Perhaps, I am the last to know that these consultants (and if one looks over Bridgespan's team of Managers, Directors, etc., it is a very impressive group), perhaps, everyone in the JFNA food chain knew of this hire and the purposes for which Bridgespan has been engaged and how much Bridgespan is being paid. But, I doubt it.

Much has been made of Bridgespan's experience with "other large network organizations" that will bring that experience to bear on reorganizing JFNA in so many ways. 
The Bridgespan Group has been engaged by JFNA for a six-month consultancy on JFNA "reimagining itself!!!!!" through some form of strategic planning and reorganization -- " an external resource for a review of the National System." OMG!! Six months.  Should be so interesting -- a reimagination? Shouldn't there first have been an "imagining?" Bridgespan was introduced to the JFNA Board at its June 4 Board Meeting where the "reimagining" continued (we're told that this "process" began at the January Board meeting. No one but leadership seemed to remember this; and no summary of the Table discussions that took place there have been distributed.). And, of course, there will be a JFNA Task Force to work on this -- but not yet???

As it turned out, it appears that the Bridgespan consultancy had begun before the June JFNA Board meeting. (We can't be sure when inasmuch as the contract was never processed through the JFNA Board.) Here's what the assignment may be:
" ~ Sharpening focus on the most critical areas of functional support for Federations.
            ~ Conducting a zero-based budget process aimed at ensuring that our financial     resources are focused on our most important priorities, maximizing all possible efficiencies and economies; and
  ~ Beginning a strategic review with support from an outside consulting firm to take a critical look twenty years post-merger at JFNA's value proposition and to devlop a new revenue model to ensure sustainable operations in the future."
If this be "reimagination," I've lost my imagination.

Not that "reimagination" can't help.  Anything would. But...$450,000 to Bridgespan* for 6 months? Really??

But...doesn't JFNA's leadership remember that it was only a few weeks ago that Richard Sandler announced Silverman's "retirement?" Is this the appropriate time, then, when JFNA is truly without a CEO and will be until a new CEO is hired and onboarded? It's possible that the answer to this question can be discovered in JFNA's own history.

"Way back in 2001, frustrated by the lack of attention to federations' needs, the then "Pillar" Chairs -- the United Jewish Community Chairs of all Standing Committees -- created a Strategic Planning and Priorities Committee to develop programmatic priorities and to then submit them for debate and approval of the appropriate governance vehicles. After months of study and debate, this "SPP Committee" found itself unable to achieve consensus; and JFNA's Chair and Co-Chair offered no leadership in the process. Then, as the SPP Committee continued to attempt to find consensus, Steve Hoffman became the CEO, and, for a variety of stated reasons, Steve let it be known that he did not endorse the Pillars' 'Big Ideas' and wanted the whole matter 'set aside.' (Some suspected that an unstated reason was that Hoffman was not 'in the room where it happened.')
And, once again, rejecting Santayana's warning, JFNA has engaged a Consultant to help it "reimagine" itself while simultaneously in the Search process for a new CEO. If the idea -- "reimagining" the organization -- is an excellent one, the timing is so, so wrong.

So, so wrong.

Only at JFNA.


* My apologies -- in the original publication of this Post, I referred to Bridgespan as "Bridgestone," the tire company. I have corredted my error.


Bob Hyfler said...

How much billing time will be expended on the learning curve to understand and answer the question "What's a Federation?"

Anonymous said...

Richard, I could not agree with you more.

First, how you can create a strategic plan without a CEO. Will the next CEO "buy in" or be forced to accept the strategic plan developed. Who would want the job at that point? Let someone come in with their own passionate vision and lead the organization -- not be "hog tied" to what the consultants create. The thinking is backwards.

Secondly, my other concern is the plan itself. I have watched too many times where consultants work with organizations and suddenly every strategic plan looks like the six other organizations the firm worked with. JFNA consulting would often be mocked because every city they went to seem to come out with the same plan. Literally they would just change the community name and claim success -- until the execs sat and discussed their plans and realized they were almost identical.

JFNA does not need a cookie cutter approach. We are not the YMCA or United Way or Boys/Girls Clubs of America. Our mission and purpose is different. And I would suggest even how we operate is different. So find an excited, committed, passionate Federation professional from any city-size who can see a clear picture of the Jewish Federation landscape and let them (with others) craft a vision for JFNA for the future. And I bet that person/those individuals can do it for a lot less than Bridgespan.

PS -- Since they will go with Bridgespan, let's make sure at end of the process we get copies of the 5-6 other strategic plans they recently created and see how similar they are to JFNA.

Anonymous said...

Richard, this latest consultant will be reviewing something called "the JFNA Value Proposition." What the hell is that? Shouldn't this be a review of the "JFNA No-Value Proposition?"

6 months and $450,000? Ridiculous?

Doing so without the new CEO on board? Ridiculous.