Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Attack of the Super-Sunday Droids

Posted by Oyster on November 20, 2006

Super Sunday SFJCF

Are Federations using subterfuge tactics to trick people into donations, or is this mere incompetence?

Now, I understand and value the importance of Jewish Federations. They are the ‘United Way’ for local Jewish communities. Instead of being harassed by a gazillion different Jewish schools, synagogues, and charitable organizations, you are just harassed by one (at least, in theory). :-p So, since yesterday was ‘Super-Sunday’ for the San Francisco Jewish Federation (my friend from Stanford Hillel went there to volunteer), it wasn’t surprising when I got the following call last night.


Federation Droid: “Hi, this is [nice Jewish woman], calling from the Federation, and we wanted to thank you for your pledge this past year. And we were hoping that you might renew your pledge for this year.”



Oyster: “Hi, uh. Which Federation is this?”



Federation Droid: “The Jewish Federation.”



Oyster: “Yes, but which one?”



Federation Droid: “The one in Palo Alto.”



Oyster: “Hmmm… that’s a bit confusing because two Federations have a border there. Are you the San Francisco Federation or the Silicon Valley Federation?”


Federation Droid: “We’re the Jewish Community Federation.”


Oyster: “Yes, but there are four different Jewish Federations operating in the Bay Area. Which one are you calling for?”


Federation Droid: “… we’re in this Jewish school in Palo Alto… “


Oyster: “Could you ask your manager if you’re the San Francisco or Silicon Valley Federation? I live in San Jose, so I usually give to the Silicon Valley Federation.”


Federation Droid: “We’re in Silicon Valley. How much did you pledge last year?”


Oyster: “Wait, are you working for the Jewish Federation that covers, San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin counties? Or are you the Silicon Valley one?”


Federation Droid: “We’re both in SF and Silicon Valley. How much did you pledge last year?”

And so on and so forth.

So my question is: does the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco purposefully use these confusing tactics to get people in other Federations’ territories to give their annual donation to them instead? Or is this merely an example of a confused volunteer?

[UPDATE: Mon Nov 20 11:34:28 2006 PST] Joyful Al33za forwarded me an email she received a few weeks ago from the Silicon Valley Federation, which has an explicit warning about this:

There are three Federations in the bay area; yours (Silicon Valley), San Francisco and East Bay. Having this many Federations is often confusing to donors. Our territories’ borders are often blurred and funds are allocated to some of the same organizations on the Peninsula.

In order to honor our obligation to our beneficiary agencies, the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley is holding its Super Sunday telethon on FEBRUARY 11, 2007. On November 19th, the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation is holding its own telethon.



3 Responses to “Attack of the Super-Sunday Droids”

  1. Oyster said

    A little bird informed me that the SVJF has a donation budjet of ~$1 mil, whereas the SFJCF has a donation budget of ~$80 mil!! Talk about your David and Goliath! Feed the beast!

  2. Dina said

    Hey now. First of all, you should investigate your facts… Our fund-raising goal this year is $26.5 million, not $80. We do have a very impressive Endowment Fund that provides grants for numerous Jewish organizations, but that is separate from the annual campaign. Secondly, of course we do not use confusing tactics to “steal” any donations. All Super Sunday volunteers are regular people, just like you, and they may not know all the details of the Federation. Thirdly, the Jewish Community Federation represents San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties. It is often refered to as the SF Federation because the full title is quite a mouth-full, however that is not entirely accurate. There are Federation offices in SF, but also in Sonoma, Marin, Foster City and Palo Alto. Silicon Valley Federation does not represent Palo Alto, it’s borders end at approximately Mountain View.

    Tomer, I’ve known you for a long time, and I know you have great integrity. JCF, my place of work (and so much more) is neither a Goliath, nor a crook. This entry implies both and it dissapoints me.

  3. Oyster said

    First off, I want to thank you Dina for replying to this post.

    I’ll concede that my “little bird” might have been talking about the JCF’s endowment versus their current-year fund-raising goals. Also, that “little bird” was a martini and a kosher glass of wine up that Shabbos when I heard it. 🙂 I am still fairly new to the non-profit world / Federation lingo.

    As to my criticisms of the JCF’s telethon operations, I stand by them. I had a negative user experience with my call this year, and I think it is valid to voice my displeasure. I do not fault the volunteer (who I did not disparage, and even acknowledged that it was a “nice Jewish woman” calling), but I feel that when I raised a legitimate point of confusion with her, and I requested to speak to her manager (or a more senior Super-Sunday volunteer), she consistently refused by side-stepping my question. I think that was not professional. Whether that was some sort of rhetorical training to keep the potential-donor (me) focused, or just incompetence (and I mean that in the most literal sense of the term), I’ll never know. But it did rub me the wrong way in any case, and I think it is legitimate to voice my concerns.

    As for the borders of the two Federations, I hear that they are very much in dispute. There is a turf battle going on between JCF and SVJF, mainly because demographic studies indicate that the future center of Bay Area Jewish life will be the South Bay (including Palo Alto), not San Francisco. I think that is why the SVJF felt it necessary to email out to everyone that caveat that I quote at the end of the post.

    On a personal note, I am sorry if my wording here was abraisive or offensive. Neither were my intentions. I don’t feel that the JCF is a crook. I really respect the down-in-the-trenches work that you do for the Federation. People who work full-time for the Jewish people have my utmost respect, and I generally feel are not given their full due in honors. I could never claim that over you (or my numerous other friends who are Jewish professionals), as I am just a humble part-time free-lance amateur j-blogger. You are the ones who put your money where you mouth is. Me? I just write from the sidelines…

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