Thursday, June 28, 2018

OY VEY!!

A few weeks ago an apparently well-meaning Anonymous correspondent raised questions in response to the JCCA summons to our collective responsibilities -- questions that really depressed me. Here they are:
"What I mean is that Jewish expressions of unity, like Jewish 'collective" giving,' are being done differently. Do you only have to give to a federation to be interested in klal yisrael or Jewish collective giving? Does a federation have to participate in the national funding process to fully express responsibility for all Jews?"
The correspondent is one who, sadly but quite clearly, rejects the core values on which federations have been built; values which are required for their strength. If this person is representative of what passes for federation leadership today, I repeat...oy vey.

Back in the day, the United Jewish Appeal basked in the rreality that, as UJA put it, "No gift touches more lives." UJA's Campaign marketing materials for the federations reflected this -- what was then a reality. JFNA has picked up the mantra but, by inaction, made a mockery of what was once the reality. 

The correspondent above asked essentially, does the federation hold some monopoly on "klal israel or Jewish collective giving?" And, the answer is, must be --  no. There are more and more Jewish charitable vehicles for expressing the solidarity of the Jewish People; fewer are those which are engaged in the collective. If one looks at current communal philanthropic trends, we are seeing far more examples of "bowling alone" than of collective response -- and we have a vehicle -- JFNA -- that should be leading us to greater collective impact but has proved unable or unwilling to do so.

Yet, were JFNA leadership capable of understanding its responsibilities, the so-called "value proposition" that are its building blocks, certainly one would be that our greatest strength is evidenced when the communities come together "...to fully express responsibility for all Jews" through its collective actions. Absent the collective, my friends, JFNA becomes "just another charity." And so do the federations. 

More and more we have seen community after community decide that the community will go it alone. In Israel the proliferation of "federation offices" has often, but not always, resulted in communities individually funding Israeli NGO's with minimal dollars and even more minimal returns on investment. And, JFNA, with its bloated and ineffective Israel Office, seems  not to understand that one of its functions must be to idntify programs for collective response. This must change.

Even if it is determined, after a 6 month consultant study, that JFNA should be nothing more than CJF with an FRD function, it will fail, as it has failed since the merger, if JFNA, not your author, is unable to respond to our correspondent's questions above. And, that will require a whole new leadership cohort.

Rwexler




4 comments:

Bill Hochman said...

Good Morning,
I have been receiving your daily email for quite some time.
I am unaware of your 'history' with JFNA, but clearly you have been involved for many years and unfortunately have seen the decline in JFNA.
My question is simple (and maybe you can write a blog). You bring up many issues, but I do not recall seeing any clear suggestions from you of what needs to happen to bring JFNA back to being the resource for Federations and taking the lead, with vision, for the Federation community.

My father,A'H, always told me "don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

By the way, I agree with you that using consultants, in this case, tends to mean that leadership thinks an outsider can fix what's wrong.. If leadership has to seek out consultants, then we need new leadership!

All the best

Anonymous said...

Well I am that anonymous contributor.

Respectfully, you've either misread or misinterpreted what I've written. You've certainly leaped to a few conclusions.

1. I'm not actively involved in federation. I am a donor. I did serve a stint in senior federation professional management.
2. You, yourself, agreed with my point that federation doesn't have a monopoly on klal yisrael or Jewish collective giving.
3. The thrust of my point is that donors who have a collective giving -- meeting klal yisrael needs -- approach can make their own decisions on what are the most pressing needs facing the Jewish people / Jewish communities. Perhaps they consult with federations and/or overseas partners (either directly or indirectly by tracking federation allocations). Perhaps they have their own sources for information and advice. In the information age, there's no shortage of useful (and less so) information.
4. Here's where the rubber hits the road, Richard. If your preferred collective giving system, federations/JFNA/traditional overseas partners etc., is so meaningful, effective and unique, then it should win in the marketplace. If it does something the marketplace values ("when the communities come together '...to fully express responsibility for all Jews" through its collective actions.'") then the donors should follow. Right? Now you may argue that people like me, who are market-oriented, are inherently misguided because these shouldn't be marketplace decisions because the collective is above all. Fair enough. But that's also a cop out. Attacking (or ignoring) the marketplace isn't usually the answer to winning it over.
5. How does your vision win the marketplace? It (federation system) accomplishes things only doable through its engagement. It plays an essential if unique role in accomplishing worthwhile impact that can only be achieved via your favorite institutions and the roles they play in collective giving/klal yisrael. And it convincingly and compellingly communicates its role.
6. The major Oy Vey, and on this I think we agree, is directed at the federation system that is slowly but surely losing its positioning. Yes there are many external factors and it's easy to blame them. But that's too easy. Want to win? Do great and important stuff that nobody else does and/or do it better than everybody else. And stop blaming the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

Well I am that anonymous contributor.

Respectfully, you've either misread or misinterpreted what I've written. You've certainly leaped to a few conclusions.

1. I'm not actively involved in federation. I am a donor. I did serve a stint in senior federation professional management.
2. You, yourself, agreed with my point that federation doesn't have a monopoly on klal yisrael or Jewish collective giving.
3. The thrust of my point is that donors who have a collective giving -- meeting klal yisrael needs -- approach can make their own decisions on what are the most pressing needs facing the Jewish people / Jewish communities. Perhaps they consult with federations and/or overseas partners (either directly or indirectly by tracking federation allocations). Perhaps they have their own sources for information and advice. In the information age, there's no shortage of useful (and less so) information.
4. Here's where the rubber hits the road, Richard. If your preferred collective giving system, federations/JFNA/traditional overseas partners etc., is so meaningful, effective and unique, then it should win in the marketplace. If it does something the marketplace values ("when the communities come together '...to fully express responsibility for all Jews" through its collective actions.'") then the donors should follow. Right? Now you may argue that people like me, who are market-oriented, are inherently misguided because these shouldn't be marketplace decisions because the collective is above all. Fair enough. But that's also a cop out. Attacking (or ignoring) the marketplace isn't usually the answer to winning it over.
5. How does your vision win the marketplace? It (federation system) accomplishes things only doable through its engagement. It plays an essential if unique role in accomplishing worthwhile impact that can only be achieved via your favorite institutions and the roles they play in collective giving/klal yisrael. And it convincingly and compellingly communicates its role.
6. The major Oy Vey, and on this I think we agree, is directed at the federation system that is slowly but surely losing its positioning. Yes there are many external factors and it's easy to blame them. But that's too easy. Want to win? Do great and important stuff that nobody else does and/or do it better than everybody else. And stop blaming the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

The leaders of JFNA consider themselves and their actions to be beyond question. How many federations are today unwilling or unable to pay in full JFNA Dues? Is the amount at risk in excess of $1 million, $2 million or more? Failure is writ all over this failed institution.