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 Leadership Briefing 
The Jewish Federations of North America - The Strength of a People. The Power of Community.
Federations’ Development Professionals Gather to Hone Skills in Changing Philanthropic Landscape 
March 4, 2013

Allyson Lestner does not often have a chance to meet and share best practices with people “who do exactly what I do.” As the director of Leadership Giving at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, she therefore made the effort to join her professional peers from around the country at the Development Professionals Institute organized by The Jewish Federations of North America. Breakout sessions for those dealing with major gifts were particularly productive for Lestner, she said. “I came home with a lot of ideas.”

Ninety senior staff from all streams of development at 40 Federations met in Palm Beach from Feb.13-15 to grapple with the challenges of a changing philanthropic landscape. Conference speakers and sessions focused on the new skill sets needed by effective resource development professionals in the face of new trends in giving.

The conference was one of a host of JFNA initiatives to help development professionals grow and strategize as they navigate in an increasingly complex and competitive field. Another is a new program called Fundraising University, which aims to provide senior professionals from all Federations with the tools and skills they need to strengthen their work. Underpinning these efforts is the knowledge that enhancing the effectiveness of these professionals will generate increased giving and expand the fundraising capacity of Federations.  

“The Institute reflects how high a priority JFNA assigns to supporting development professionals as the demands of their roles change,” said Jerry Silverman, JFNA president and CEO. “Our investment in them helps them to realize our collective goals.” One of the chief objectives of the Institute was to provide participants with the opportunity to build peer networks and learn from each other, Silverman added.  

“Our core theme was trying to identify the professional skill sets we must strengthen as we go forward in order to be excellent as individuals, as institutions and as a field,” said Andrew Echt, chief financial resource development officer at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and chair of the Institute. “We did not resolve everything but we challenged one another, elevated our consciousness and set the stage for future discussions.”

There were sessions on inspiring donors, building effective partnerships with private foundations, protecting the centrality of the Annual Campaign while broadening total resources, reaching out to unconnected affinity groups,  navigating philanthropic friendships and building a productive relationship with Federations’ global partners. Representatives from both The Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee led sessions.

There is a new art to being a resource development professional, said Echt. “We are no longer facilitators who execute strategies we are given, but we must have a vision and be strategists and change agents and have our lay leadership alongside us every step of the way.“

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