Non-transparent ESFNA! By LJD, Senior Consultant

December 15th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

“Correction does much, but encouragement does more,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. There is unhealthy fundamental problem with the Ethiopian Sport Federation in North America (ESFNA) Executive Committee: the lack of transparency. To the surprise of nearly everyone, the Executive Committee is not defending its reputation, although it is intensely engulfed with rumors and critics. For instance, it has not yet attempted to invalidate media reports of embezzlement against some of its members. It also has not yet disclosed its members’ biographies to nullify the accusation that it is infiltrated by the puppets and thugs of Sheikh Al Amoudi. Consequently, sorting rumors from facts has been impracticable to its staunchest supporters. Moreover, the Executive Committee justification for reversing the invitation of Judge Birtukan is due to its concern about losing its section 501 (c) (3) status does not stand public scrutiny. In other words, the ESFNA astonishing stance against sharing information about itself fully and completely — such as publishing its Executive Committee bios, posting its tax returns on its website, revealing funds its member teams raise, etc. — is stirring fierce discussion, wild speculation, juicy gossip, and suspicion among the Ethiopian communities that there is a likelihood of embezzlement and infiltration triggered by a lack of simple preventative controls built into its operations.

Being concerned regarding the plight of hearsay and censure against the ESFNA, and out of a sense of duty to demonstrate how similar organizations as the ESFNA conducts business transparently, accountably, and effectively, and a genuine, heartfelt wish to strengthen it, I analyzed the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA), one of the best section 501 (c) (3) organizations in the United States, and benchmarked the analysis against the ESFNA. Note that since the aim of benchmarking is to have ideas that can be utilized to enhance current practices of organizations, using the JFNA as the benchmark is not like sizing up David against Goliath.


According to, “benchmarking is the process of identifying “best practice” in relation to both products (including) and the processes by which those products are created and delivered. The search for “best practice” can take place both inside a particular industry, and also in other industries (for example – are there lessons to be learned from other industries?)”

Furthermore, “The objective of benchmarking is to understand and evaluate the current position of a business or organization in relation to “best practice” and to identify areas and means of performance improvement. Benchmarking involves looking outward (outside a particular business, organization, industry, region or country) to examine how others achieve their performance levels and to understand the processes they use. In this way benchmarking helps explain the processes behind excellent performance. When the lessons learned from a benchmarking exercise are applied appropriately, they facilitate improved performance in critical functions within an organization or in key areas of the business environment.”

Based on published information of both organizations, I carried out the benchmark. To set standards for the benchmark, I first analyzed JFNA’s mission statement, market positioning for the future, financial resource development, and leadership. Next, I then compared the standards with ESFNA’s mission statement, market positioning for the future, financial resource development, and leadership. Finally, I pinpointed areas where the ESFNA needs to enhance its controls — transparency, accountability, and effectiveness.

Contrast between JFNA and ESFNA

Even though both the JFNA and the ESFNA are both section 501 (c) (3) organizations they are strikingly different in many ways. For instance, in recent years, Forbes ranked the JFNA among the top section 501 (c) (3) organizations in the USA, whereas the ESFNA has never been ranked. The size of the organizations is also different. The JFNA represents “157 Jewish Federations and 400 Network communities, which raises and distributes more than $3 billion annually for social welfare, social services and educational needs.” On the other hand, the ESFNA represents 27 soccer teams. It earns most of its revenue during its annual event. It donated about $155K for famine relieve, scholarship, and so on in the last 28+ years.
Another difference is “protecting and enhancing the well-being of Jews and Jewish communities in North America, Israel, and around the world” is one of the main objectives of the JFNA. In contrast, the ESFNA’s objectives are “Bringing Ethiopians together to network, supporting the business community, empowering the young by providing scholarships and mentoring programs, primarily using soccer tournaments, and cultural events as a vehicle.” Furthermore, the ESFNA has never disclosed its future market positioning such as its plan for financial resource development except for its anticipation of adding three more teams on its roster. Whereas, the JFNA has stated its future market positioning that it “is looking toward the future with a new positioning for the Federation movement and a special focus on donor mobility.”

Transparency awareness of both organizations also differs considerably. The JFNA leadership appears well versed about the importance of running a business transparently because it publishes a detailed annual report, including leadership biographies. To the contrary, the ESFNA leadership seems unaware about the importance of running a business transparently because it does not have an annual report. The bios of the leadership have never been disclosed. Only those involved with their local soccer team can obtain copies of financial statements upon request via their local soccer team. It does not post its tax returns on its website, although the tax returns are already public information to those who know where to locate them (on, for example).

Observations about ESFNA

1. Mission Statement: Its mission statement is focused and well stated; however, it is ineffective. For example, it has not issued statements about the murder of a young Ethiopian, Ali Ahmed Mohammed, in WASHINGTON – D.C.

2. Scholarship: Although providing scholarship as a form of financial aid is one its objectives, it only awarded $25K in last 28+ years. To put it differently, in the last twenty-eight plus years the average annual scholarship it awarded was $925.

3. Famine Relieve: It pledged $100K to famine relief efforts in Ethiopia. Then, it presented the first installment of the pledge $50K to Catholic Relief Services. But the donation details and status of the remaining pledge are undisclosed.

4. HIV/AIDS: It disclosed in 2004, its HIV/AIDS program collected $10K in Seattle, Washington. Though, based on the information available on its website, it appears it is still looking for an organization that can best use the funds since 2004.

5. Flood Donations: It donated $20K for flood victims of the Omo region of Ethiopia. However, details of the donation, including address, and date are undisclosed.

In conclusion, given the above facts, the ESFNA is long overdue for taking a revolutionary stance against its lack of effectiveness and transparency. To boost its effectiveness, it should consider finding ways to protect Ethiopians in North America and around the world as does the JFNA “protecting and enhancing the well-being of Jews in North America and around the world.” It should also commence allocating more funds for scholarships. To evolve its consciousness of transparency, it must realize a lack of transparency and accountability increases risk factors of rumor and misappropriation. Mitigating the risk factors is easy if the ESFNA board wants to run its organization transparently. For instance, promptly disclosing and publishing financial statements, details of fund raising, status of unused funds, biographies of Executive Committee, and selection of leadership based on competitive process can mitigate the risk factors. Consequently, I believe encouraging the ESFNA to start taking actions to enhance its controls is reasonable. I also think, seeking the disclosure of its future profit and loss distribution among its leadership team is sensible. However, whether the net profits the ESFNA has generated for the last 28+years were material, large enough to matter, the call for an audit, questioning where the money is, is trivial, I argue. I also argue, without considering the time the ESFNA member teams spent to get ready for the tournament, they may be struggling to cover their costs of managing their team with the donations they receive from their community, and the money they receive from the ESFNA. To illustrate, the ESFNA Tax Returns which I obtained from indicate its net profit (loss) for year ended 2006, 2007, and 2008 were $(65K), $(50K), and $99K respectively. Assuming the ESFNA averages its profit (loss) among its Board to help it pursue its goals; each Board’s three years average profit (loss) share was $(592). (Oh, by the way, I have data which I might use to prove that most ESFNA vendors lose money.)

Lastly, instead of calling for an audit and reporting the ESFNA to governmental agencies, I suggest we should consider strengthening our local team by getting involved in its activities and donating our fair share. Then, we should press for change and encourage the ESFNA to implement the advice of this article via our local team. Will the local teams be able to persuade their Executive Committee to radically take a stance against transparency?

The writer can be reached at
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  1. Tulu Oda
    | #1

    This an excellent eye-opener to unpatriotic stance of ESFNA and shameful lies of some members of its Executive Committe that have surely infiltrated the Association.

  2. What?
    | #2

    I am totaly lost. I no speak English.

  3. Seleshi
    | #3

    This whole wonderfully written article is only based from the point view of disagreement. The author would have been better off to offer some meaningful suggestions how we can become one people despite all our differences. What don’t we trust them and take their justification at its face value. I’m pretty sure if the same people would have voted to disinvite Meles or any of his party members by applying the same principles and standards, believe it you me, we would had celebrated them as if there is no tomorrow. They would have been the heir apparent of Birtukan after the previous attempts to crown the likes of Pro. Mesfin, Hailu Shawel, Birhanu Nega, Teddy Afro and now Birtukan fizzled. So, all this talk is about presenting ones held belief. But to make it sound such grandiose happening by quoting Wolfgang von Goethe or pretending to be worried about transparency – all of a sudden – is at best disingenuous and at worst a fatal act of intellectual malpractice. I know we can do better than this by focusing on the bigger issue what’s holding us back than questioning peoples’ motives who happen to hold different view than ours. Let me finish by quoting Will Durant: “The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority”. That, I’m afraid, is what we have become. And this article contributes greatly toward that sentiment.

  4. Alex
    | #4

    Alex it is the best way to tackle this problem from the grass root and the writer put it all so the next move to do is just talk to our local team and in power them then we will be on the wright direction

  5. LJD
    | #5

    @Tulu Oda
    Tulu Oda,
    Thank you very much for reading the article; I appreciate your kind feedback.

  6. LJD
    | #6

    I am sorry for not writing it in the language you read. But, if you were reading English you may appreciate the piece.

  7. LJD
    | #7

    Thank you for taking your time reading the piece. Also, thanks for liberally sharing your thoughts.

  8. LJD
    | #8

    You have stated one of the essences of the article better than I did. I thank you for that. I also thank you for the time you spent reading the article. I appreciate it.

  9. No Name
    | #9

    The US IRS would require 501c(3) registered exempt organization to disclose and provide upon request their form 990 tax return filed with the IRS. It is clear that ESFNA is not responding request to reveal their Form 990 neither it avails the report to the public. A compliant to the IRS about the lack of disclosure will result in penality or suspension.

    Penality, tax liability will be imposed on those non-profit and on their officials who inure (do not benefit the public but their officials lavishly pay or waste their money). If you have any information on inure lavish payment or waste by its officials, report to IRS.

    See the link below on how to reporting fraud, abuse, and the like to the Government.,,id=217087,00.html
    IRS web page for detail:

  10. LJD
    | #10

    @No Name

    Thanks for reading the article and sharing the information, although not interested in reporting to governmental agencies.

  11. Getachew
    | #11


    Thank you for worrying about the ESFNA and its operation. We all think that transparency is best practice in all businesses and especially so in non-profit organizations.

    I have an axe to grind with the timing of your “help” though.

    Presently, some in the diaspora seem to have been emasculated by the EPRDF. Their infighting and their inability to see virtue in another persons views was also another factor that made it easy for the EPRDF to attain the position it holds vis-a-vis the Diaspora.

    Using the rejection of Birtukan as a speaker as a cause celebre, these same people are wont to try anything to bring ESFNA to its knees. Apparently any success is better than none….even if it destroys an organization far from perfect but at least is trying to accomplish some of its mission statement…

    While I appreciate your writing and analysis, I hope you are not part of the braying hyeanas at the ESFNA door

  12. LJD
    | #12


    I appreciate and thank you for reading the article, for giving me your feedback regarding my writing and analysis, and for sharing your concern about the timing of my article. I am very glad that you saw value in the contents of the article. And I hope you will use it to persuade your local team so that it would sway its leaders to change their stance against the issues I brought up.

    I totally agree with your statement “Presently, some in the diaspora seem to have been emasculated by the EPRDF. Their infighting and their inability to see virtue in another persons views…” I would even go further than you that I strongly believe some in the Diaspora are CASTRATED by the EPRDF.

    Your assertion might be right that “Using the rejection of Birtukan as a speaker as a cause celebre, these same people are wont to try anything to bring ESFNA to its knees.” But I think instated playing the blame game you should take responsibility as I did to neutralize the castrated Diaspora that is working hard to bring the ESFNA to its knees by contributing your fair share to strengthen it.

    Regarding the timing of my unsolicited help — writing this article — I am very glad you are questioning about it; I think your question is reasonable. However,I have stated in the first two paragraphs of this article the reasons those incited me to put pen to paper about the ESFNA at this precise moment. To explain it differently, or to add more on what I have already stated, the ESFNA Executive Committee silence especially the quietness of its president, Mekonnen Demisiew, that he has not come forth to challenge the credibility of the alleged embezzlements and infiltrations charges against the organization he is leading caught me by great surprise because of that I analyzed the ESFNA and then shared my analysis with my beloved Ethiopians.

    I did not like your manifestation of a human being as a braying hyena. I think your expression is inappropriate, unsophisticated, and unhelpful. However, since you are wondering whether I am a braying hyena at the doors of the ESFNA, I ain’t a braying hyena at the doors of the ESFNA.

    But I wish that the ESFNA was strong enough to make me feel like whooping, howling, or roaring at its doors steps to compete selling my expertise. Unfortunately, according to those rumors which prompted me to write this article, which you are wondering about its exact timing, the ESFNA is left with nothing but skin-n-bones!!!

  13. Getachew
    | #13


    I am sorry you took umbrage at my metaphor. My intention was not to call you a braying hyeana. If you construed my statement as such, I am sorry again.

    I was trying to show the activity of those who now demanding
    everything from the ESFNA at this particular time. Where has everybody been ’til now? Should the rejection of Birtukan put everybody in such a tizzy?

    Admitted, I am a rube,but, when an organization is faced by what seems to be a deluge of bad publicity it has a couple of ways to handle the problem.

    1-Try to answer all the questions thrown its way,
    2-Attempt to answer the questions it deems germane,
    3-Wait till the deluge subsides and then attempt to answer the questions or
    4-Stonewall until they hope everybody forgets everything.

    Since I have never been associated with the ESFNA and do not know but one person in the organization, I am not privy to what they are going to do.
    My hope is that they answer the questions to the satisfaction of their stakeholders. It is also my hope that we restrain ourselves from calling people puppets and thugs because they don’t see eye to eye with us.

    Isn’t this the same contributing factor that is wreaking havoc in our society.

  14. LJD
    | #14

    That is Okay!!!

    Since you let me know that you are an unsophisticated country person, in the future I will not make an issue of it.

    By the way, I have the rube in me too which at times shows off strongly. My story goes like this, once upon a time, I developed the highest regard for the hick because it saved me. I got me the bumpkin in me when I lived the peasant life to save me.

    As a matter of fact, your metaphor reminded me one of the Ethiopian’s Folktales, “The Dog and the Donkey”, which I have read numerous time.

    Overall, I enjoyed our discussion. And I think we are on a same page regarding the issues the ESFNA is faced, and we have similar expectation and hope about the possible outcome, although I strongly believe they will restrain from rebuffing since they don’t know any better.

    It was nice chatting with you,

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