Israeli intelligence services for nonprofits

intelligence-gathering in the 21st century is one of the largest sectors creating wealth in global markets. Arguably, all of the world’s fastest growing companies are building the future with it

Shlomi Turgeman, CEO of Atlas (photo credit: ATLAS)
Shlomi Turgeman, CEO of Atlas
(photo credit: ATLAS)
According to IDF Captain (ret.) Eyal Biram, “It is a matter of intelligence.” With a former career in Israel’s Elite Special Forces, Biram knows that accurate information and the ability to act on it are often matters of life or death.
Today he is the founder and CEO of Israel-is, a nonprofit organization that promotes Israel advocacy by thousands of IDF soldiers who, upon completion of their service, typically travel abroad. 
Israel-is trains them to engage young people in countries where they go. Their mission: communicate to upcoming generations the truth about civil life in the Jewish state.
But this is not the area of intelligence to which Biram was referring. His topic was funding. Finding where it is, knowing how to approach it, and actually getting it, he argues, is a classic intelligence operation.
Alon Brami agrees. “Our biggest challenge is knowing where and how to fish.” Brami heads up Resource Management for an Israeli nonprofit called Otot. Translated “Good Signs” in English, Otot works with young people in Israel who, for various reasons, are at-risk and in trouble.
The problem is not finding those who needs Otot’s help. There is almost no need to “fish” for them. The challenge is finding funding from foundations, trusts and corporations who share Otot’s vision and passion. The challenge is finding them, then making an appeal that wins underwriting.
In fact, intelligence-gathering in the 21st century is one of the largest sectors creating wealth in global markets. Arguably, all of the world’s fastest growing companies are building the future with it. It is the underlying creator of wealth for companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
Literally every industry depends on it, including nonprofit organizations. 
Scientia potentia est was the first expression of the matter, a Latin phrase that means, “knowledge is power.” Articulated by Sir Francis Bacon in the late 16th century, the concept was embraced by him as the centerpiece of his intellectual, professional and personal life.
Today the prosaic label is IT, an acronym for Information Technology. Usually associated with computers, it is easy to associate IT only with its second word, technology.
In fact, its essence is information.
As the growth of global information approaches a point where it doubles in a matter of hours, managing that data and making it applicable to everyday life becomes an almost overwhelming challenge. Computer technology, driving the increase, is also the necessary tool for managing it. Metaphorically, the trick is harvesting specific information, separating wheat from chaff, and making it into bread, into something practical for sustaining life.
Israel identifies the challenge as a matter of intelligence. Nations need it for self-defense, businesses need it for customers, consumers need it for pricing, investors need it for portfolios.
And nonprofit organizations need it for donors.
“It was personal involvement in Israeli philanthropic work that opened my eyes to the need for information about funding sources that actively give to Israeli causes,” says Rabbi Or Ben Shoshan, founder of Atlas, a Beersheva-based business that opened its doors in 2017. “The job of nonprofit resource developers was overwhelming. Almost all their time was being spent on locating, filtering and sorting through mountains of information. It left almost no time for making professional appeals.”
Shlomi Turgeman, CEO of Atlas, explains: “No one else was addressing this need. There were international databases for donors but none of them focused on sources that specifically support Israeli social issues. Finding them required manual searches that could take hundreds of hours. Our nonprofits needed intelligence about foundations and other organizations that actively underwrite Israeli NGOs.”
NGO is an acronym for “nongovernmental organization,” a moniker that includes nonprofits.
There are 42,000 of them registered in Israel. About half have Nihul Takin, official certification by Israel’s Rasham Ha’amutot, the country’s registrar of nonprofit organizations. Roughly half of these have status under Paragraph 46 of the tax code which grants a tax credit to Israeli contributors.
All of these need funding to survive. Shoshan’s solution? A database of foundations, companies and governmental entities that have an express interest in underwriting efforts to address the entire range of Israeli social issues.
Called Fundbase and available in both Hebrew and English, it has become Atlas’s centerpiece.
In it, subscribers have access to a tool that identifies donation sources, and much more. Charitable underwriters can be filtered according to 46 different areas of giving interest; their location both by country and by city; and the amounts of grants each one has made. Key people and their contact information are also included. Fundbase users can bookmark sources that fit their objectives and create to-do lists relative to each one. As relationships are developed, they can also keep personal records of records of calls, visits and proposal submissions.
If, for example, an Israeli NGO decides to look for prospective donors in Canada, one result is Jim Pattison Foundation. Fundbase includes a brief biography of Pattison, a Christian Zionist billionaire. The foundation, funded by profits from Pattison’s various businesses, users learn, has estimated assets of 10 million in Canadian dollars and gives away approximately 6.5 million in that same currency every year.
Its interests? According to Fundbase, “most of [the foundation’s] contributions are focused on the right wing of the political spectrum in order to support Zionism and Israel.” In this context, it has a history of underwriting in the areas of education, higher education, Israel advocacy, Jewish identity and medicine.
It is a known supporter of the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, Mibereshit, Birthright Israel, Masa Israel, Dead Sea Scrolls, One Family, The Haifa Foundation, and the Jewish National Fund.
The foundation’s geographical foci are Canada, the US and Israel. Users are also provided with key contact information, including email addresses and phone numbers.
And this is just one example from a whole database of other donor sources like it.
“For us, the tool has been a literal lifesaver,” says Debbie Goldman Golan. Golan is the enthusiastic president and co-founder of Atid Bamidbar (“Future in the Desert”), a Negev-based community organization dedicated to connecting diverse Israeli “tribes” with each other, including Bedouins. “Finding qualified donors with an interest in what we do was like searching for needles in haystacks,” she explains. “Using Fundbase, we have not only identified underwriters, we have actually had critical data to prepare relevant proposals and time to build relationships with them.”
David Maeir-Epstein, whose company IsraelGrants was merged into Atlas two years ago, is intimately familiar with the other international search engines. “There is no question that for Israeli nonprofits, Fundbase is an essential tool for their resource development efforts.”
For many NGOs, the accessibility of good intelligence reveals the related challenge of how to act upon it. What is the best way to approach a prospective funding source? What does it want — and not want — to see and hear? What is a “Letter Of Intent”? How long should it be? And in what language? 
“It is not uncommon for NGOs to know a lot more about their social outreach programs than business management and the lingo of finance,” says Turgeman.
Atlas offers several courses yearly for resource development professionals and those interested in entering the field. Nonprofits who need additional assistance can get professional training for their development personnel, one-on-one consultation and business infrastructure advice.
“Many Israelis, like myself, speak English but do so with an Israeli accent that can make it difficult for native English speakers to understand,” says Turgeman. “The same dynamic comes into play when writing in English. Foundations, companies and governmental entities are much more likely to respond in a positive way to fluent English when it is needed. Things like bad grammar, typos and poor construction can really hurt the response to a badly written proposal.”
“Because of this, a big part of our consultation services include editing or even composing grant proposals.”
When speaking with Biram about these things, he quickly interrupts. “Yes, yes, yes. It is because of all these things that Israel-is exists today. Just like any military operation, success depends upon intelligence. It is exactly what we needed, and still need. Intelligence, including communications and strategy, are vital for nonprofit life.”