I have a former professional colleague who used to cynically joke that his idea of horse-trading was “first, you give me your horse.” The moral of his tongue-in-cheek business humor is that entering into a collaboration sounds like a good idea at first but, often, it just doesn’t work out so well.

Such seems to be the case for Randi and Alan Jablin.  Randi’s commentary (“Senior rides: Damage had been done,” Jewish News, May 11) reveals the reasons that the Jablins terminated their two-month relationship with the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix for support of rides for Jewish seniors. I know and admire the Jablins well enough to understand that when it comes to situations like this, they are motivated by just one thing: to use their financial resources to improve the lives of others. 

It seems clear that their hope of leveraging their support through a collaboration with the federation was one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments that, sadly, did not turn out so well.

When philanthropists seek to address unmet community needs and, in doing so, have an unsatisfactory experience with a partnering nonprofit organization, it understandably leaves donors with a very unpleasant taste in their mouths.

I hope that time will heal this bad experience for the Jablins, who deserve the community’s grateful appreciation and respect for their support of this program and all of the selfless and important good deeds they do. 

Perhaps, this will be a teachable moment for others who may consider partnering with an organization to achieve their own philanthropic goals. The lesson for donors is to choose very, very carefully. Or as the old saying goes, measure twice and cut once.

But there is also a critically important lesson to be learned by professional and volunteer nonprofit leaders.

One of the highest standards by which any charitable organization can be measured is the way it meets and honors the spirit of excellence in stewardship. This is a term that is often used by fundraisers, but rarely is it fully understood. The Association of Donor Relations Professionals has developed a superb tool (tinyurl.com/hx5x373) that defines stewardship and provides important guidance in ways to create and foster excellent donor relationships. 

Professional and volunteer leaders in the nonprofit field should take time to read this white paper and use it to test their own organization’s commitment to and achievement in the area of stewardship.  The document can be summed up in these few words: “to ensure that donors experience high-quality interactions with the organization that foster long-term engagement and investment.” Donors, too, may also benefit from this tool so that they can better measure the performance of the charities they support.

Based on the Jablins’ experience, it seems that the local Jewish Federation would do well to make this document required reading for all of its staff and leadership who interact with donors. While this document is highly prescriptive, sometimes you have to accept the reality that there are times when you need to take the right medicine to cure what ails you.

Stu Turgel is a nonprofit professional who provides advisory services to charitable organizations. He can be reached at sturgel@cox.net.

 

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