At the end of May continuing into early June, that most important daily journal, ejewishphilanthropy, entertained a point-counterpoint, counter-counterpoint, discussion between the CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Andrew Rehfeld, and Misha Galperin, once the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and, then, the President of the Jewish Agency for Israel-North America, on the subject of "Who are Federation's Customers.?"
Allow me to over-simplify: What set off Misha was Rehfeld's conclusion that the community's "customers" are not the donors, seemingly dismissive (though that was not his intent) of the donor community as somehow less important than the community's "clients."
Much ado about....I know of no successful federation that has ever described its donors, at whatever the giving level, as "customers;" I don't think that his community had ever done so. Rehfeld seemed to so characterize in order to have a false premise on which he built an elaborate response. Those federations -- and they are fewer and fewer as we all know -- which have built successful fundraising efforts year-after-year have never lost sight of the reality that those fundraising successes are based upon reaching out to donors to support the most critical needs of the communal clients --as Misha wrote: "mission-driven but market sensitive;" those communities which have proved unable to articulate their mission, have no or, at best, a shrinking, market.
The St. Louis CEO, coming to federation with a fresh outlook from academia, perhaps has built new success in the St. Louis federation without realizing that he has been doing so based on an old, even retro, methodology and awareness. His writing suggests that he has happened on a revelation, when, in fact, he has merely discovered the best communal practices and applied those in new and creative ways or in what has already proved successful elsewhere -- it's hard to tell which.
So, yasher koach to these professional leaders for placing old wine in new bottles.