(photo credit: Courtesy)
The first United Way Europe and Middle East Regional Conference to be held in Israel kicked off on Tuesday in Tel Aviv. Hosted by United Way Israel, or MATAN, the conference aims to strengthen and develop international partnerships between charity initiatives and business corporations.
“UW is a charitable organization which brings together private sector, government institutions and individuals in order to address the most pressing social needs in communities around the world,” Jose Pedro Ferrao, executive vice-president of United Way Worldwide, told The Jerusalem Post.
Founded nearly 130 years ago in Colorado, United Way is one of the world’s longest running charitable organizations, working with a coalition of over 1,200 local charitable organizations to pool efforts in fund-raising and support.
Forbes magazine ranked it as the largest in the US.
It’s main mission, according to Ferrao, is to create “local partnerships which know best how to address local issues.”
The charity’s annual conference is held in a different country each year. “This year we asked MATAN whether they would consider hosting the conference and they kindly agreed,” he said.
“Israel is one of the most mature United Way partners in Europe and the Middle East, it is also one that has very innovative practices,” Ferrao said. “Thus, this conference effectively does two things: it can bring these practices to the rest of our global network and spread the relationships between Israeli and international members meeting here today.”
Today, the majority of companies in Israel donate to charity, and even encourage employees to volunteer in charitable projects, according to MATAN Board Member Jason Arison. Among the multinational corporations involved with MATAN in Israel are Lenovo, Microsoft and HP, relationships which were made through United Way.
MATAN was founded in 1999 by Shari Arison.
“Before we were established, the whole world of business-community relations was in its diapers,” MATAN CEO Ahuva Yanai said.
“Bank Hapoalim and Applied Materials were the first to join our very first campaign, and whose employees were the first to volunteer through us.”
One of MATAN’s unique tools is its digitized database to which local charity groups and aid organizations can apply. After being vetted and approved by MATAN, individual donors, charity funds and corporations wishing to contribute, can find the cause they wish to support and the way they wish to support it.
“Businesses in Israel know that we are the address for making a positive change in the community, and come to us because they know we will facilitate their own desired way of making a contribution,” Yanai explained.
Last year MATAN turned over 10 million dollars. This year, Yanai expects that number to be over 12 million. In addition to contributions of money, MATAN estimates it has invested hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours in more than 1,000 social organizations and projects.
“There are small acts of kindness happening all over,” Ferrao said.
“We try to leverage our corporate connections to bring all these acts of kindness together to create global scale for the change we are trying to create.”