Back a few years, I think it was 2003, when I chaired JAFI North America, I visited one of the largest federations. When I walked in the door of the then CEO's office, he confronted me, in a nice way: "Richard, why can't JAFI get its act together? No sooner does one JAFI pro come here to solicit for his or her department; then another walks in soliciting for his/hers. You have to get this straightened out." David Sarnat, then the CEO of JAFI NA, who led us from out of a superb federation professional leadership background, and I traveled to Jerusalem where we met with the entire JAFI senior professional leadership, and, after hours of meetings, reached an agreement there would be "one JAFI" where funding priorities would be clear and JAFI NA would lead the approach to federations coordinating with the Agency departments.
No sooner had we left the Sachnut for Ben Gurion, then that agreement fell apart. It continued to be every Department, every silo, for itself. I have guessed that over the years this fragmented approach has cost the Jewish Agency tens of millions. Hopefully, under a better led JAFI NA and, perhaps, a more responsive JAFI Jerusalem leadership, the concept of "one JAFI" has been implemented. (BTW, the "agreement" we had reached was doomed from the start inasmuch as Alan Hoffman, then the Director General of the Zionist Education Department had told me: "Richard, if you guarantee me that JAFI NA will raise the funds to meet my budget, we're in; if not...." Of course, shortly thereafter, Alan rose to the professional head of "one JAFI.")
And today, that lack of focus, purpose and prioritization haunts JFNA. We have written before about the multiple "asks" emanating from 25 Broadway to the federations. While it is abundantly clear that JFNA cares, above all else, that your Dues be paid in full every year, it is equally clear that JFNA spews forth "ask" after "ask" without any thought to how these are perceived by the federation recipients or how and when the "asks" will be "answered." Think about them (and I'm certain that this list is missing one or two or three or more):
- Aid to Holocaust Survivors -- driven by the need to qualify for a federal "match," JFNA formed an impressive lay fund raising Task Force co-chaired by MetroWest's Mark Wilf and L.A.'s Todd Morgan, and staffed by Consultant Max Kleinman. The FRD results to date have been impressive albeit short of the goal but, unusual for a JFNA effort, in reach;
- Multiple "Mail Boxes," each established to deal with disaster relief or other emergencies. JFNA pops open a Mailbox, collects whatever funds come in and then distributes those funds. Strangely, JFNA counts those collections on its 990s as if it actually raised the money;
- A "secret campaign" -- I don't know what else to call it inasmuch as I find nowhere in Minutes any approval whatsoever -- in support of the Ethiopian National Project to the tune of $18 million. How JFNA determined to proceed with this large fund raising effort and for what purposes are unknown. It seems abundantly clear that whomever "agreed" to this "campaign" had no idea that additional fundraising for the ENP had been attempted before, and failed abysmally*;
- Allocations advocacy -- under the aegis of the Israel-Overseas Department, community "envoys" have been deployed to work with assigned communities in an efforts to increase the woeful allocations to the core budgets of JAFI, JDC and WorldORT. An excellent idea, reminiscent in some ways to the UJA advocacy efforts of decades past, especially so in light of the reality that never have allocations to the overseas partners ever been lower -- they are shameful actually -- having reached what appears to be a level of less than 12% (and, maybe, less than 10%) of aggregate annual campaigns, but the JFNA effort is de minimis and embryonic and may be -- just may be -- nothing more than lipstick on that proverbial pig having reached only 5 communities to date.
It's clear that inasmuch as JFNA has no priorities itself, flitting from flower to flower, task to task, without plan or purpose, so it is with the financial requests of federations. JFNA just leaves it to the individual federations to determine to which, if any, of these needs the federations will respond. Thus, not a single JFNA FRD effort has been successful; unsuccessful to such an extent that JFNA no longer establishes goals and never, ever, seeks anything beyond "best efforts." Nothing is binding; nothing is required. So no one, certainly not JFNA, is ever responsible for success or failure -- in fact, we never know what "success" of "failure" even means.
Where there are no priorities, everything becomes a priority. This is a sure prescription for chaos.
No one is responsible or accountable -- JFNA's operating credo.
* I would be pleased to discuss at any time.
* I would be pleased to discuss at any time.