Jewish Journal

Accountability -The Next Big Jewish Idea

by Pini Herman

July 19, 2011 | 12:03 am

Is This Labor That Is Valued?

The Federation reported to the JTA that TNBJI cost $40K and I claimed that it cost $2 million.  We’re really not that far apart.

The Federation says that apart from staffing costs…....it spent only $40K.

I said that when you calculate staffing and labor costs and the cost of submitting a proposal…...it comes to $2 million.

The major divergence is in accounting.  I count the staffing, labor and opportunity costs of all who were engaged with the TNBJI contest and the Federation does not.

Several journalists asked me how I came up with my estimate of $2 million

Jewish Communal Cost=306 Ideas submitted X 1.5 persons per idea X 60 hours to develop proposal X $60 @hr grant development = $1,652,400.00

Federation Costs=306 Ideas submitted X 16 hrs staff time X $80 @hr= $391,680

[Estimated Community Costs] $1,652,400 + $391,680 [Estimated Federation Cost] = $2,044,080 [Estimated Total]

The contest ran for 143 days.  The federation reports that it “engaged 100,000 people in conversation to say what they thought.”  The federation stated budget put the cost of each person engaged at 40 cents.  If Federation staff cost (of a modest $80 per hour) are considered cost per contest engaged person is $4. If estimated community costs are included, the cost per engaged person is $20.

An argument may be made that Federation staff gets paid anyhow, no matter what they do, and the staff costs can’t be accounted, attributed or allocated to a specific project such as TNBJI.  Such lack of accountability is afforded to few organizations.

Conversely, if the work of contest invitees is valued by the Federation at $0, and it assumes that there is no cost to others, only free crowd-sourced labor.  No consideration is given to hundreds of talented Jewish persons lost opportunities to seek other funding,  for housework, childcare, elder-care and volunteer work and other ways to occupying submitters time such as paid labor or leisure. 

The outcome value claimed by the federation, is in what it describes as “engagement” and the presentation of ideas. TNBJI contest costs were described by the federation as: “in addition to the $100,000 prize and staff time, the contest cost the organization about $40,000, including online advertising, videos and printed materials.”

Aside from staff time and the $100,000 prize, the federation represents the cost of each engaged person at forty cents. A strong case can be made that a truer cost of an “engaged person” in the context of this contest was $20.  That’s what I like to thing my time is worth.

Whether it was forty cents or fifty times as much, it ultimately comes out of the Jewish community’s limited resources that might be allocated in a wiser manner.

Pini Herman is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) pini00003@gmail.com

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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