A brave new philanthropic world

Why is the Jewish world not adopting some of the broad new trends?

charity 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
charity 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It's time to face facts. The world under globalization is becoming leaner and leaner - a process now exacerbated by the omnipresent financial crisis. This ever-increasing economic efficiency is mirrored by another important shift - the new relationship between government, corporations and private philanthropists. We at Yesod label this "the triangle of influence" - the three primary agents of social change. Corporations are the newest of the three agents, but are taking the lead in issues ranging from the global environment to AIDS in Africa and local economic empowerment. They bring a business mindset to the world of social change in terms of value for dollar spent, effective business models, and an institutional structure that is affecting the philanthropic world. Complimentary to this is an increased role for municipal governments, because the more global we become, the more local we become, as national governments fail in many social areas. Philanthropists and their new partner, corporations, are now pairing with local governments to effect the biggest change on the ground. Together, they are starting to think strategically about their dollars in terms of maximizing impact and even making a profit. Yet, why is the Jewish world not adopting some of these broad new trends? It remains frightened. And stuck. We continue to look at our basic institutions as if change spells their destruction instead of progress. This outlook is not logical, and greatly limits the effect of our own dollars and the strength of our own efforts at change. The following are models/methods that the greater global community uses today, and that can be considered for effective integration into the Jewish world. COOPETITION - Competition combined with cooperation. The idea that only through cooperation will costs be driven down and the magnitude of success enhanced is integral to the thinking of true business leaders. In today's world, even the greatest competitors are cooperating, looking at joint strategic interests and ways to attain them together. Cooperation allows for the leveraging of finite resources to reach higher levels of development. This concept can be critical to us in the Jewish world. UJC federations and foundations need to increase their communication and cooperation rather than feel at odds with one another. This is coming to fruition with the advancement of the Federation-Foundations task force created in the UJC General Assembly three years ago in Toronto. The forum should be empowered by Federation CEOs and Foundation presidents all around. Federation and Foundation resources should be leveraged against one another, with distinct roles for each, and we should make strategic use of the Jewish grassroots and Israeli small businesses. Let's dream big together. DOWNSIZING - The Jewish world seems to be the only realm in which huge establishments are considered sacred, and where downsizing of both manpower and responsibility is avoided. Why? OUTSOURCING - Major institutions are farming projects and services out to external firms that can produce them more cheaply and efficiently. The Jewish Agency (JAFI), one of the largest and most established institutions, still does everything "in house" - from building curricula to monitoring and evaluating programs. A greater impact could be achieved if JAFI outsourced some activities while streamlining its structure and maximizing each of its philanthropic dollars. NEW PHILANTHROPIC MODELS - New models of philanthropy are being created to encourage involvement in social change. The philanthropist/investor not only gets a return in the form of a personal gain, but this gain can be re-invested in further philanthropy. These models include community development venture capital funds, social responsibilty investment funds, leveraging with businesses (Jewish, Israeli and global), leveraging with municipalities (Partnership2000, for example, has done this very well), and matching efforts with businesses whose strategic interests relate to our needs. Yesod works with all these types of models to provide the three agents of change with the biggest bang for their philanthropic buck. We see these new models as important ways to relate to broad social change, all the more so as emphasized by today's financial crunch. These models are the wave of the future in Jewish and global philanthropy, and maximize both our dollars and our energies (business, social, financial, etc.) LEVERAGING - In finance, leveraging involves the borrowing of money to supplement existing funds for investment in such a way that the potential positive (or negative) outcome is enhanced. In philanthropy, it means that if your foundation or fund wants to help a grantee meet some need but requires extra funds to do so, it can recommend the grantee to others, share its contacts, or collaborate with other funders. Today, leveraging is a way to make sure your philanthropic dollar is matched against another major agent. The Pradler Foundation NGO Empowerment program, for example, has a mentoring branch designed to help organizations develop their own capacity building mechanisms and sustainability strategies, and teaches the smartest methods for financial development. Also, look to find a partner who will either match or put additional monies into your financial investment and social concern for a broader, more expansive effort. Leveraging will bring greater strength to your assets, allow you to think bigger in terms of philanthropic impact, and bring in different types of resources, relationships and tools to help push your vision and dollar forward. SERVICE PROVIDER - In this model, a company tailors specific, nuanced services to the needs of each customer. In the Jewish world, the UJC has the potential to become a service provider for the federations, encouraging their growth and independence. It can assist smaller federations with the staff and capacity they would be unable to achieve alone, and meet specific needs for larger federations. If the UJC can't meet a specific need efficiently, it should suggest the best outsourcing body that can. THE TRIANGLE of influence has proven itself to be a powerful force globally, each element learning from the other. We at Yesod suggest that in the Jewish world we do the same - learning from each of the three agents of change. It is our experience in advising all the components of the triangle of inluence on how to best interact to achieve meaningful social change, that the more efficient the method, the more impactful the change. From today's business world, we must learn how to become lean and effective, integrating its core practices and new methods. Because the point is the change. Let's ask ourselves how can we make the smartest, broadest change. Businesslike efficiency and new approaches should be encouraged, both during this financial crisis and beyond. The writer is founder and president of Yesod: Strategic Consulting Group and the Yesod-Masad Initiative, providing strategic support on social change to Jewish businesses, philanthropists and the Israeli government. yesodcenter@gmail.com