Several years ago the lay leaders of The Network, then the self-governed satellite of JFNA representing close to 400 non-federated communities, complained to Board Chair Kathy Manning about the disproportionate overhead support JFNA was taking from funds raised by The Network and the real taxation without representation that Network leaders experienced. Her response was both cynical and typical -- she promised this leadership that they would gain representation on the JFNA Executive Committee and that she would appoint a Committee to examine The Network's concerns. And, so she did. Manning appointed a fine young leader from Miami to Chair the effort -- with one problem: the Miamian had had no experience with or exposure to The Network. To Manning and Silverman that was important for they would be able to dictate outcomes. And, so they did.
The outcomes: The Network Board, made up of caring and committed Jews from among the 300 Network communities, was discharged and relegated to service as an "Advisory Committee;" and The Network's long-time Executive was fired (she would sue JFNA for wrongful termination). There would no longer be a Network Board to raise issues of representation or to raise issues with regard to the excessive costs being charged to The Network for JFNA overhead -- costs that far exceeded the direct costs incurred by JFNA for administering The Network. In fact, had The Network been a Federation, its charged costs would have exceeded those of most of the Large Cities (and still do). The Network now had that seat on the JFNA Executive, but at a terrible cost. Now The Network was silent; its indigenous leadership, who had contributed so much in terms of time and dollars, emasculated and alienated. And that's the way Manning and Silverman liked it.
What were the consequences? In the year prior to these unilateral and thoughtless actions (which were later presented to the JFNA Executive as if they were thoughtful and planful), The Network leaders raised and contributed $7,500,000 to the system; in the year after these Draconian acts ordered by Manning and Silverman defenestrated The Network, FRD dropped like the proverbial stone -- to $5,600,000. This represented a 25% drop in a single year. Nothing else could possibly speak more eloquently to the impacts of the Draconian changes to The Network than did the 25% reduction in FRD. And even that total may be grossly overstated inasmuch as the gross $5.6 million may have been pumped up by the inclusion of major gifts made directly by Network donors to Overseas agencies who solicited them across the Continent.
And, with The Network Board dismissed, that Advisory Board was now Chaired by the same Miami philanthropist who led the "study" that relegated The Network to nothing more than a minor Committee of JFNA. By my count, of the 13 Committee members, at most four are from Network communities and two are from Manning's own Small Federation -- the better, I guess, to keep the leash tight. And are these leaders out among the 156 independent communities that comprise The Network, raising money? Or are they merely...advising? The FRD results would suggest...neither. Certainly, the enthusiasm that once characterized The Network Board, whose members were predominantly from The Network Communities, was no more.
Perhaps I should have titled this Post THE NETWORK -- ANOTHER JFNA MESS because the following Comment, among others, confirmed:
Sure, let's reward he who is supposed to be managing, running JFNA with a new contract.
"There is no question that organizations are raising big money from designated giving from Network communities. This phenomenon began to occur about the time JFNA started "taking control" of the Network. There were communities that wanted to designate or have some say in where their funds were going and not have them used for JFNA overhead. Instead of embracing this and using it as a vehicle for raising more money those communities turned away from JFNA and started bypassing the system. One story I heard was that JFNA tried to take credit for the "designated" gift and they were blocked from doing so since the funds did not go thru their books. I also recently heard of another Network Community in the NE that is still raising over $100k that has turned over their fundraising to the local JCC because they can't get any support from JFNA to help them raise the funds. As they continue to raise the funds they will support their two local agencies and will designate 100% of their remaining funds to the overseas partners as they wish with none of the funds going to JFNA at all."
I remember so well when Marty Stein, z'l, a past UJA Nationla Chair and his professional partner at UJA, Russell Robinson, presented The Network concept to the United Jewish Appeal Board. I remember how their enthusiasm was quickly matched by ours. The income projections had not yet been met when Manning/Silverman determined to undermine all that was good about The Network. Of course, this is the model that JFNA presents to the world: Take something that's working and screw it up: the motto: "if it's not broken, break it." They did so with no plan and no interest in what the impacts of their decisions would be. Now, they somehow believe, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, that somehow the Global Planning Table's pursuit of the Holy Grail (forgive me) of "Signature Initiatives" will meet the ultimate goals not just of programmatic success but of tens of millions of dollars raised.