For nonprofits seeking professional advice or consulting, a firm established by two former JCC executive directors is now open for business. Founded by Jay Roth and Ken Light, L/R Strategies specializes in helping nonprofits develop their resources, including their most valuable one: people.
“It’s like developing a bullpen,” Roth explained. “One of the ways of helping retain and recruit staff is to invest in them by giving them skills that will allow them to grow.”
Roth’s and Light’s advice is gleaned from their decades of experience. They focus on helping nonprofits maximize their resources and cope with the rapidly changing and highly competitive environment. They offer coaching and professional training for executives, boards and other staff, in addition to other functions, everything from full organizational assessments to more focused work on specific areas of concern such as staffing structure or fundraising.
“L/R Strategies has a lot of years of collective experience,” Light said. “We can look at an organization and, in conjunction with the volunteers and staff, hone in on an action plan that will lead to the goals that the organization ultimately wants to achieve.”
Roth has been involved professionally with Jewish community life since 1970, starting with an entry-level position at the Mosholu Montefiore Jewish Community Center in New York. While Roth worked his way up the leadership ladder, he helped develop and implement programing, especially for youth and seniors.
In 1978, Roth took his first executive position in Little Neck, New York, with what was then known as the Samuel Field Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association. He served there until taking on the executive director position with the Milwaukee JCC in 1984. He enjoyed the role his new JCC played in the local Jewish community.
“In New York, there are so many Jewish institutions providing so much service,” Roth explained. “In Milwaukee, as in New Haven or Minneapolis and or, to some extent, in Phoenix, the JCC is the only one. It gives the center the opportunity to provide a full scope of service.”
He spent the next 25 years serving there, until retiring and relocating to the Valley.
“I came here in 2008 thinking I would retire and start a small business,” Roth said.
Like Roth, Light professionally entered the Jewish nonprofit world not too long after graduating from college. While on a road trip and visiting family in St. Paul, Minnesota, Light applied for a position at the local JCC that he said he was “woefully under qualified for.” He ended up receiving a different position more in keeping with his experience level. He worked there for six years before moving back to Colorado and taking a job as the director of sports and fitness for the JCC Denver, eventually being promoted to assistant executive director. In 1986, he relocated to Tucson, where he became the president and chief executive for the Tucson JCC, a position he maintained until retiring in the summer of 2013.
Though neither Roth nor Light remembers exactly when or where they first met; they said it was approximately 30 years ago and likely occurred at one of the annual meetings for Jewish nonprofit professionals.
“We kept seeing each other year after year, and after a while began to talk more,” Light recalled. “We said, ‘We’ve got between us probably 80 years of combined experience in the not-for-profit Jewish world, and maybe we can help others as they seek to develop their skills by sharing some of our experiences and expertise.’”
However, their plans were somewhat delayed when a consulting job Roth had taken to help the Miami Beach JCC open its own building led Roth to relocate there. The building was opened in 2012 and Roth retired, for the second time, in 2016, again relocating to the Valley.
“When I came back, we met and L/R Strategies was the result,” Roth said.
Though much about the way nonprofits and the Jewish community itself function have transformed considerably during the pair’s decades-long careers, their nearly eight decades of collective experience continue to be relevant and useful.
“If you look at nonprofits today — and it’s probably been true for decades — it’s a tough go,” Roth said. “You always want to do more and the money is always less than you need and I think, in fairness, it’s not so easy to recruit and train staff because there’s so much competition for Jewish young people today.
“There are so many more career opportunities than when I was growing up. What you have is a need for agencies, and we’re serving not just Jewish groups, we’re open to serving any other organizations in a range of areas to help them grow, because today you have to not only sustain what you have, you also have to grow.” JN