Philanthropy in a time of uncertainty

Israeli institutions must develop a stronger local donor base and fundraising presence.

lots of money 88 (photo credit: )
lots of money 88
(photo credit: )
As investors around the world are reassessing their positions in light of the crisis in world markets, Israel's over 25,000 non-profit organizations and associations are anticipating a steep downturn in income from overseas donations. The expected decline in overseas gifts is expected to result in a postponement of vital programs and the consequent reduction of program staff throughout Israel's third sector. In the end, the ultimate victim of decreased contributions from overseas will be the quality of life in our cities and towns that has been enriched over the years by our wide range of not-for-profit national and local institutions, associations and organizations. The new economic reality will require that non-profits learn to do more with less, and initiate greater efficiencies in their operations. In a leaner and increasingly competitive fundraising environment, organizations will need to become even more strategic and focused in their activities, with maximum openness and accountability to donors and the public. Institutions will also need to demonstrate to donors that their operating costs are reasonable and controlled. Smaller and medium-sized non-profits that partner with other like-minded institutions and approach donors with joint projects will also have an advantage in securing grants and support. The new economic reality will also undoubtedly move donors to be more focused in their philanthropy, supporting only those institutions and charities that can demonstrate added value to Israeli society as well as provide full accountability. Such a careful approach will ultimately benefit the donor, the recipient institution and civil society. While the pressures inflicted by sharply lower donations will be painful and damaging to many organizations, the situation does provide an opportunity for non-profit organizations to emerge better managed with clearly defined missions, goals and creative work plans. THERE IS concern that the economic downturn will move some overseas donors to cut back on their giving to Israel and focus more on local community institutions at home. In this respect, Israeli institutions must emphasize that we live in one Jewish world with responsibility one for the other. So while it is important that local institutions thrive and are strongly supported, it is equally important and in the best strategic interests of world Jewry that Israel's institutions also remain strong and vital. The new situation will also require Israeli institutions to develop an even stronger local donor base and fundraising presence. Studies demonstrate that Israelis are increasingly generous in both giving of money and volunteer time, and the Israeli economy appears to be in a relatively strong position to weather the current economic storm. As private and corporate wealth grows, non-profit associations can look first to our private sector - individuals, foundations and corporations - as a primary source of philanthropic gifts. Leadership in corporate Israel must not only be defined in terms of profit and results but also in terms of companies' contribution to society and its institutions. While the new reality poses real hardship for many institutions and organizations, it can also create opportunity for better management, redefined purpose and creative new directions for Israel's growing and vibrant third sector. The writer is Director of Public Affairs and Resource Development, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.