Israeli NGO’s - in need now more than ever

If the COVID-19 tragedy has achieved anything, it has caused us to look more inwardly into our family and community.

People wear face masks to protect them from the coronavirus as they buy matzot, unleavened bread traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Passover, at a supermarket in Jerusalem. March 31, 2020. (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
People wear face masks to protect them from the coronavirus as they buy matzot, unleavened bread traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Passover, at a supermarket in Jerusalem. March 31, 2020.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
The relevance of the third sector is widely recognized as an important element in society.
Its role is to assist the State (and often partially funded by the State) in providing needed services to vulnerable populations across a variety of dimensions, all in need of support and assistance. 
The gap between the financial needs of the NGOs (called amutot in Hebrew) and State funding is traditionally filled by fees for services and philanthropy - donors from both overseas and in Israel. The role of philanthropy is crucial primarily to enable the amutah to perform its much needed work but it also has a secondary role. For donors overseas this often means strengthening their links and ties with Israel. For Israeli donors (a growing area of philanthropy for NGOs in Israel), it enables them to be part of a greater collective and of building a stronger, more equitable society by affecting specific populations on a grass roots level. 
Today, there are tens of thousands of amutot in Israel, many of which deal with welfare. The populations they serve rely on them for their wellbeing, their moral, physical and psychological nourishment, and in many cases their physical existence.
The disproportionate financial strain on the government to deal with the defense budget requirements and now with the COVID-19 pandemic only highlight the need for external sources to enable these amutot to function. 
It is generally acknowledged that uncertainty is not good for business. It tends to stagnate growth and business activity as investors pause and reflect rather than move forward. 
While an environment of uncertainty may be bad for business, it can be an existential threat to amutot and the populations they serve, many of whom - even during economic stability and prosperity - are working on small budgets faced with growing needs. Philanthropists, given their levels of uncertainty, are not always as willing to give as in the past. 
The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus is not simply an environment of uncertainty. It is a global financial disaster unprecedented in history which will clearly have an impact on philanthropic gifts.
The irony is that it is precisely at these times of crisis that needy population groups have increased needs. Anxiety and dependency increase as do many other factors of need. The family unit nucleus is weakened and the needs are therefore even greater. Vulnerable groups are even more vulnerable than ever before and this is where the amutot must increase their levels of activity and service rather than decrease them due to reduced donations.
If the COVID-19 tragedy has achieved anything, it has caused us to look more inwardly into our family and community, and to focus on what is really important in life - how lucky most of us actually are and what more we can and should be doing over and above the amazing initiatives of many individuals and organizations we have witnessed in recent weeks. 
As we sit around the seder table this year, whether it be physically or virtually - with food, wine, prayer and song - let us all reflect on what we can do to better help those who rely on us. And as we open the door for Elijah the Prophet, let us spend a moment to think about what our more needy, more dependent members of society see when they open the doors to their world.

The writer is the principal of GMC Consulting for Amutot in Israel. He was CEO for Keren Hayesod for the past 15 years.