Monday, March 10, 2014


The Chair of the Global Planning Table Committee, Kathy, oops, David Butler, e-mailed the general population with the news that his Committee was moving forward with two "Signature Initiatives." This was to be done only if financial commitments had been received for the costs of start up. But, were those commitments really in hand? Here is what Chair Butler wrote:
"Prior to the meeting, GPT leadership reached out to member Federations that were involved in the design of the Signature Initiatives in order to secure the minimum threshold commitments required (according to the GPT design document) prior to officially launching any Signature Initiative, namely a minimum of 10 Federations willing to invest a total of a minimum of $500,000 per year for 3 years.  We have secured tentative commitments that meet these thresholds."
There are a lot of lawyers involved at JFNA and David is a good one. But it doesn't take a lawyer to understand that there is a vast difference between having in hand a "minimum threshold commitment" and a "tentative commitment." It appears that what the GPT has in hand is "fools' gold," another hope and prayer. And is the illusion of real "commitment" enough on which to build "Initiatives" that bear a price tag of ultimately 10s of millions of dollars? Is that how we built our law firms, our businesses? Of course not. But that's exactly the illusory foundation upon which the Global Planning Table has been built from the get-go. Suggestion: publish the list of federations which have made a commitment and the amounts thereof. Simple? Apparently not.

We all know what a real commitment is. There are federations of course which for one reason or another don't. Examples abound, unfortunately -- allocations made, then unpaid in the millions; quid pro quo agreements (agreements between individual federations and the national organizations pursuant to which certain debts were forgiven for promises of increased overseas support) breached almost before the ink was dry; and more. At the beginning of what is now JFNA the federations unanimously agreed that they would freeze allocations for two years to stabilize the system; in the first year, all federations held to that obligation. In Year 2, one...a single...Large City, announced that it would walk away from the responsibility; and the entire deal unraveled. (Later, when the JFNA Fair Share Dues formula was announced, that same community demanded that its annual campaign statistics [the basis for Dues] be revised downward to subtract out designated dollars [dollars that had been included in that federation's statistics forever] so as to lower its Dues obligations.) And, as we have reported, since Operation Promise, either by reason of a lack of Continental commitment or federation will, for the past eight years, not a single JFNA financial initiative has come close to its goal.

One could ask the inevitable "why?" Is it a lack off trust in JFNA? Is it a lack of resources at the federation level? Is it a constant failure to prioritize? Is it a failure of the causes themselves? Is it the constant distraction at JFNA of new shiny objects? Is it all/none of the above? One thing we know as a certainty: JFNA has not had one fund raising success to which to point in at least 8 years.

So, for critical "Initiatives," that require 10 federations to pony up $50,000 each (on average) per year for three years for each of two Initiatives as "seed money," administered by JFNA, what may we reasonably expect based on JFNA's sorry history of failure after failure? First, while the GPT has arrogated to itself the responsibility for advocacy for the core budgets of JAFI/Joint (through the appointment of a subcommittee so "special" we aren't to know who is on it), there is no prohibition of federations raiding current core allocations to fund the Initiatives. Forget conflict of interest; in fact, forget every value. Second, while there may be close to full payment of these "commitments" in Year 1, there will surely be growing fall-off beginning in Year 2 -- meaning that to the extent the Initiatives are being offered as the federations' means of participating in the Prime Minister's Initiative, the federations will have dropped the ball. And, when that ball is dropped, then the financial burden will fall more and more on the Jewish Agency and Joint.

And, in this context, haven't the Agency and Joint leadership been hearing demands from CEO Jerry that they will be responsible for major funding of these "JFNA Initiatives?" To CEO Jerry, that's fund raising.

It's all such a mess. Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall...


Next up: The GPT Hypocrisy


Anonymous said...

Contrast the GPT process and product to the JAFI/GOI initiative and its a tale of two cities: from the neverland of JFNA we see a dragged on expensive process dominated by the few and an over compensated consultants. Out of JAFI a promising work in progress with an ambitious startup timeframe and the engagement of diverse 100's in the conversation. Their just released Preliminary Report is well written, sensible and clear with some inspiring suggestions. Was it perfect? Maybe not? Was it an attempt at transparency and inclusion - definitely. Did it cost less in time and dollars to get to this point? Undoubtably.

Anonymous said...

And while the Large City Execs are having their pow wow, the Jewish Funders Network is having their annual meeting. Those who believe the word revolves around them figure "no biggie", but where was the JFNA staff - who could have both contributed, and learned, from the various JFN sessions? Out to lunch as usual.

If JFNA's CEO had any common sense at all, the LCE meeting would have also taken place in Miami - where personal relationships with hundreds of funders could have perhaps bloomed.

But no, JFNA continues to live in its own bubble trying to be all things to all people and succeeding at none.

JFNA, z"l. May their 20th Century memory be a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Richard, you were expecting integrity from this so-called process? After years of this abuse of process and governance? You are not naive.