As federation drops ‘UJA’ moniker, it moves in new strategic directions
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As federation drops ‘UJA’ moniker, it moves in new strategic directions

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Federation interim executive David Gad-Harf at a strategic planning implementation committee meeting. courtesy UJA-NNJ

It’s not your parents’ federation.

That’s how Amy Glazer sums up the radical change under way at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.

Glazer served on the committee charged with implementing the strategic plan the federation adopted a year ago that outlined the transformation.

“It was a thought-provoking, very in-depth process we went through,” she said. “There was a lot of prioritizing, a lot of examining the issues, in deciding the direction federation should go in.”

Not directly linked to the new directions, the federation will be receiving a new name at its annual meeting Tuesday night, becoming the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. Dropping the UJA name is a response to a branding recommendation from the Jewish Federations of North America, the national organization that stopped using the United Jewish Appeal name more than a decade ago. The annual meeting will also provide an opportunity for the federation to present its new executive vice president, Jason Shames, who will start work next month, and it will bring in a new lay leader, as David Goodman takes over the federation’s presidency from Alan Scharfstein.

What: The annual meeting of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, which will change its name to Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey

Where: Federation offices, 50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus

When: Tuesday, June 14, 7:30 p.m.

“We’ve been trying to change the focus of federation, because we recognize that the world around us is changing dramatically,” said Scharfstein, who assumed the presidency in 2008, shortly before the financial crisis and the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, two events that had a severe impact on the federation’s campaign.

The result will be a federation different in more than name, say those involved in the planning process.

“All of the credits for the idea of beginning to look at the community differently goes to Alan,” said Goodman, who headed the strategic plan implementation committee.

David Gad-Harf, who has been serving as federation’s interim executive officer and will soon resume his position as the organization’s chief operating officer, explained that the traditional federation model is being stood on its head.

“The traditional model is that we will be supporting a very wide range of Jewish agencies [and] we will be providing funding to those agencies in an unrestricted manner; we will call upon people to donate to us merely because we represent the Jewish community and because their donation can be spread throughout he community. The traditional federation creates value almost exclusively in the funding they transfer to other organizations and not in other ways,” he said.

No more.

In its next allocation cycle, next spring, the federation will begin funding programs, rather than agencies.

It will encourage Jewish organizations to collaborate with each other even as they compete as to who can best advance the federation’s priorities.

The federation’s three core strategies
1. Identifying and funding key communal priorities that respond to critical unmet needs locally and abroad

2. Strengthening local Jewish institutions so that they can better serve the community’s current and emerging needs

3. Engaging more people in Jewish philanthropy to increase both the human and financial resources the northern New Jersey Jewish community can leverage to grow even stronger than it is today.

Source: The federation’s strategic plan

And in another major shift from business as usual, overseas and local agencies will no longer be the domains of separate allocations committees.

Instead, three committees will each focus on one program priority: Jewish education and culture; providing a safety net; and strengthening the connection to Israel.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s domestic or overseas, it’s where our needs are greatest,” said Goodman.

“We no longer define our community as just North Jersey,” he added. “When we refer to community, we include Israel and around the world. It’s so much easier in today’s world to feel like you’re so close to the people of Israel and the other Jews of the world who are in need.”

“As part of every allocation we will want to understand what the measurables are going to be, what the goals are,” said Scharfstein.

“The value added to the community will be tracked and measured and monitored and compared to the goals set when the allocation was made, so we understand the value our dollars are creating.”

Better measurement reflects a more business-like approach to philanthropy, said Scharfstein.

It also reflects the demands of the younger generation of philanthropists the federation needs to woo.

“Younger donors believe in following their money, they want a seat at the table, and we need to create avenues for them to do that,” said Goodman.

It will make for easier campaign soliciting, federation leaders believe.

“We will be able to cite specific examples of programs that are being funded by federation through their contributions. That’s not something we can do now with any specificity,” said Gad-Harf.

Federation leaders say the new model also provides a better bang for the buck – a serious concern if the federation is to compete with other philanthropies.

The federation’s four communal priorities
1. Promoting and expanding the sense of Jewish identity and belonging in northern New Jersey

2. Enhancing the affordability and accessibility of Jewish cultural and learning experiences

3. Providing for the basic needs of Jews locally and around the world

4. Strengthening the connection of the northern New Jersey Jewish community with Israel

Source: The federation’s strategic plan

“In the past,” said Goodman, “people might say they’re giving $100 to federation, and x percent goes to pay overhead, and the discounted dollar goes to provide benefits and services overseas or locally.

“We don’t want to discount your dollars. We want your $100 to be worth $125 in the community,” he said.

Recent federation innovations are making that a reality, he said.

There’s the Kehillah Cooperative, which consolidates purchasing for 80 Jewish organizations, including synagogues and schools.

“We’ve been able to lower electric bills because we’re purchasing as a larger group. We’re doing that with health benefits, office supplies, and many other things. The community has saved over $650,000 because of federation’s investment in a purchasing agent. How’s that for putting in $100 and getting $125 out?” said Goodman.

Another such multiplying effect will come as the federation helps agencies transition to the new funding process, which will require agencies to write grant proposals for specific programs.

“How many agencies know how to write grants? So we have a grant writer who teaches our agencies how to write grants so they can request funding from federation. But once they’ve learned how to write grants, they can write grant proposals for foundations outside the community, they can write grant proposals for government funding. There’s a value-added scenario for you.”

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This logo will be presented to the community Tuesday night.
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