Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I had a lovely lunch with a colleague from a large Jewish federation the other day and the topic turned, inevitably, to what I think has become one of the major topics of federation conversations in the last few years: silos.

For the uninitiated, the silo effect is what happens when all you do is look up from your silo and see the sky above, but nothing around you,with no horizontal interaction. It’s been a common complaint in non-profits in general, and the more I travel around Jewish federations, the more I hear it too. Campaign doesn’t talk to Planning, CRC doesn’t talk to Campaign, Israel & Overseas have completely different messages from local agencies. Everyone’s working from a different playbook, and everyone’s playing a different game.

Silos really hurt our annual campaigns. They make us look inefficient, unwieldy, irrelevant. They make donors uneasy because they think (rightly) that we’re not coordinated and we don’t know what we’re talking about. And silos damage the core concept of what Jewish federations stand for – that only with a strong, coordinated, community-based response can we meet the challenges we face.

So what can we do about it? 
I have a couple of thoughts, which I’m happy to share below (and have raised in discussions with various colleagues). But I’d love to hear what you think too. Message me, tweet me, or, you know, pick up the phone and call me. Always a good thing.

We can overcome silos by:
*  Teaching Planning and Allocations teams to present donor-friendly presentations and tag along to Campaign solicitations as “content.”

*  Embedding Campaign solicitors in Allocations meetings.

Creating long-term rotation tracks for leadership and professionals that include different aspects of skill-set acquisition. 

*  Encouraging every Jewish communal professional to read a daily newspaper, the JTA feed, the Forward, and more, so we can have conversations on the basis of knowledge.

*  Building training and seminar days into the annual campaign structure on the Jewish world, Jewish values, thematics of our work. 

* Building mentorship programs across federation teams.

Most importantly (in my opinion, at least) … we need to continually think of ways to shake people out of their silos by reminding them of the passion, the commitment and the dedication that brought them in to this game. We build community. We save lives. We connect. 
There’s a reason we do what we do. 
And it’s worth reminding ourselves of this from time to time.

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