Skip to main content

Challenges Ahead

By February 23, 2024June 20th, 2024No Comments

Pressing issues, including a substantial financial shortfall in 2023
and the Israel-Palestine conflict, have the JACL off to a tremendously busy start to 2024.

By P.C. Staff

A full agenda welcomed the JACL National Board as it convened at the organization’s San Francisco headquarters building on Feb. 3 to discuss numerous business items demanding its attention, among them conversations concerning its position on the Israel-Palestine conflict and a $675,000 financial shortfall in 2023.

The JACL National Board met in San Francisco at its headquarters office on Feb. 3 to discuss several pressing issues, among them a large financial deficit. (Photo: Susan Yokoyama)

National President Larry Oda wasted no time in expressing the importance of the matters at hand, saying in a statement to the Pacific Citizen, “As we proceed into the first half of 2024, the National Board’s attention has been distracted by a substantial budget deficit from last year and the Nikkei 4 Palestine demand that we support Palestine and that we divest ourselves of any partnerships we have with Jewish American-based organizations like the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League. … Regarding the Israel/Palestine issue: JACL has a policy, adopted Sept. 4, 1954, against participating or intervening in any matters relating to the international relations of foreign governments. Our primary focus is on the improvements of race relations and civil rights within the United States. Although the demands from N4P are contrary to our policy, I have convened a subcommittee to assist them to achieve their goals. The committee has met with representatives of N4P in an initial listening session, and more sessions with other stakeholders are being planned.”

Oda also addressed the 2023 budget shortfall in his statement to the P.C. as follows: “It took less than six months of work by our new finance team of (JACL Director of Finance) Tom Fernandez and (National Secretary/Treasurer) Jon Okamoto to sort out our books and reveal our actual financial condition. The JACL finances are extremely complex because we are a nonprofit, where we have to rely on sponsorships, grants and membership dues to fund our operations. We don’t get our money all at once; sometimes we have to provide a product before we’re paid, and sometimes we have to wait for an extended period of time before we realize our revenues. Our expenses, like payroll, utilities, etc., are more predictable, so it becomes a balancing act to meet our expenses while we wait for lagging revenues. Tom and Jon have the experience in successfully juggling these competing needs, and I am confident that with their oversight, we will not get in this predicament again.”

In Fernandez’ report, causes of the shortfall resulted from overly aggressive budgeted revenue income ($130K shortfall), expense estimates that were too low ($170K shortfall) and unforeseen one-time costs such as the financial audit, temporary labor and the National Convention strike fallout ($375K shortfall).

To recover in 2024, Fernandez stated that the organization is awaiting $300,000 in potential grants but that it needs to “generate/save an additional $375K for a balanced net income for 2023.” Among the areas of potential savings in 2024: delaying staff hires, rent reduction at its Washington, D.C., office, contract to permanent staff savings and operational cost-cutting. Corrective actions would also be taken to build transparencies and accountability/efficiency across the board.

Okamoto, speaking during the meeting via Zoom, stated that “there is going to be a lot more accuracy for the 2025-26 budget based on what we learn about 2024.”

The Centennial Education Fund, which is being spearheaded by VP for Planning and Development Gary Nakamura and Program Director — Membership and Fund Development Phillip Ozaki, currently stands at $2,106,682 of its $3 million goal.

To see the campaign through to its projected 2024 end date, Nakamura and Ozaki stressed the importance of increasing communications, cultivating new major donors, revamping the organization’s planned giving program and growing volunteer-led fundraisers.

JACL’s Jack Shimabukuro, the Daniel K. Inouye fellow, and new Norman Y. Mineta fellow Ariel Imamoto (Photo: Susan Yokoyama)

Ozaki then joined VP of Membership Dominique Mashburn and Membership Manager Ashley Bucher to report that JACL gained 741 new members in 2023 — its goal in 2024 is 1,000 — and renewal rates remain high, with couple/family at 81.1 percent, regular/individual at 78.6 percent and student/youth at 53.7 percent. The org’s Otoshidama Campaign (Gift Membership) also generated $23,564 in revenue. A membership CBL proposal will also be resubmitted for the National Council to discuss at July’s upcoming National Convention in Philadelphia.

And in staffing news, Inoue reported that Pacific Citizen Business Manager Susan Yokoyama has been appointed to the temporary role of director of strategic planning and operations and “will be assisting with managing some of the human resources functions of the organization” to improve operating efficiencies within JACL.

JACL also welcomes Ariel Imamoto, the new Norman Y. Mineta fellow, and Brent Seto, the Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellow. Seto is working in Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) office through May, after which he will be joining JACL to assist with the National Convention.

Imamoto, in her second day in her new role, was present at the Feb. 3 meeting. In a statement to the P.C., Imamoto said, “As the Mineta Fellow, I am looking forward to hearing stories of those throughout the community and creating connections that will lead to great collaboration and coalition-building. Throughout the fellowship, my goal is to expand my advocacy skills to encompass a wider range of causes and allow me to gain real-world insight into how government and policy decisions impact communities.”