The Jewish Agency implements structural changes

This is one of the reasons the GA is great for philanthropy reporters.

This is a pretty important story for which we never saw a press release.

Moshe Vigdor, the director general of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said that the organization implemented a series of serious structural changes Nov. 1.

Vigdor, speaking at a GA workshop about  streamlining Jewish communities, described some of the attempts of the Jewish Agency to cut its budget over the past several years as it attempts to transform into a better-run organization.

“We decided to take the financial crisis as an opportunity,” Vigdor said. “We had a 25 percent shortfall [last year] and other definciencies. We had a problem with the shrinking dollar and other cuts, and we  wanted to ensure that we worked as one unified entity.”

The changes were also due to mounting pressure from the federation system, to which he alluded.

“We believe in the collective system, and we had to prove to the collective system that we are using the dollars correctly,” Vigdor said. “There was no outside consultation, just meeting every other day or three days and talking about what we need to do to have a unified entity.”

Among the changes the Agency has implemented:

  • The Agency created one financial center, where it used to have several.
  • It centralized its Financial Resource Development. Instead of having different parts of the Agency going to federations looking for money, the Agency will go to the federations now as one entity.
  • The group consolidated its marketing operations and now has one marketing center.
  • The Agency has resized its the staff, cutting it down by 25 percent. It has also turned most of its staff into are project workers, neither of which was easy to do with unions in Israel Europe and Latin America, Vigdor said.
  • The Agency has attempted to downsize by taking some of its branches and turning them into separate yet wholly owned subsidiaries. Small operations are much more attractive to donors who seek economical optimization, he said. (This idea came from Jewish Agency board member Eitan Wertheimer, a close ally of Warren Buffet. The idea was to take this large entity and break it down into a bunch of smaller groups that answer to a central office or Agency.)
  • Beyond that, the Agency defined its employees’ roles and job descriptions. 
  • It has made employees sign service level agreements.
  • And it has merged its alliyah and education departments.
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