Where Goes the Collective?

an editorial from The Jewish Daily Forward The old way of collecting and disbursing money from American Jews to Israel and other communities overseas has finally collapsed under the weight of philanthropic trends and communal distrust. That historically beloved bureaucracies have lost their attractiveness to donors is not just a Jewish story - across the giving landscape, it is no longer enough to send contributions to a central clearinghouse and hope the money is used well. Donors, large and small, want transparency and results; many also crave the personal satisfaction of seeing their names and their imprints on their contributions. So it was inevitable that the historic formula used by Jewish federations to distribute non-domestic funds would go the way of the pushke and be replaced by a … [Read more...]

The Jewish Federations’ Big Gamble


As Israeli fundraisers go, Harry was a legend. His solicitation skills were well above average. He was the guiding force in establishing and raising money for a major new Jerusalem project. And when a prospective donor would ask Harry how their donation would be used, he would place his arm around the shoulders of the questioner, bring them close, and respond, “trust me”. There was a point in time when nothing more than "trust me" was necessary. But even before Harry's unexpected death a few years ago, the philanthropic world was changing, donors were requiring more information on how their gifts would be utilized and even Harry was slowly coming around. That the world has changed is apparently a lesson the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has failed to grasp. With the passage this … [Read more...]

The Struggle for Relevance: JFNA and Overseas Allocations

I have spent the last several weeks studying JFNA’s Select Core Priorities (SCP) and its desire to reach consensus in the regard to the “Global Planning Table” (GPT). Yesterday, JFNA released a “Leadership Briefing entitled Board Addresses Global Responsibility, Planning for the Future” (Dated May 23, 2011). I have read the available material on the Internet, spoken with volunteer leaders, and discussed it with professionals in the Federation field. During this time colleagues and I reached out to professionals at JFNA to engage them in a discussion and unfortunately we received less than a substantive response. It appears that JFNA’s recent Board Meetings created additional processes with fewer decisions leading to clearly defined preferred actions for the Federation system. I have been involved … [Read more...]