• by Pamela Deutsch

    “I don’t know about you or your organization, but you just sent me a greeting card and you look interesting.”

    If you are at all like me, over the last few weeks you likely received numerous digital New Year’s greetings from all kinds of Israeli non-profit organizations.  Some organizations are simply wishing a Happy New Year and using New Years greeting as an opportunity to raise awareness of their existence and the good work that they do.  However, other organizations are very plainly hitching a ride on the longstanding custom of making charitable contributions around the Jewish holidays, and are unabashedly seeking money.  How do you decide who is a worthy cause for your donation?

    Personally and professionally, I always first check to see if the organization is legitimate.  This has become much easier to do thanks to Guidestar Israel (http://www.guidestar.org.il/en).   This website combines information from the Ministry of Justice with information provided by the organizations themselves. The information includes when the organization was established and whether or not it is an authorized organization, as well as whether the organization has a “Confirmation of Proper Management” that is up-to-date.  But, that is not all, the site also draws upon information filed with the Ministry of Justice including financial reports and governmental support.  Some of the organizations, but definitely not all, have added to the site additional information in English about their organization and its programs.

    Once you know that an organization is indeed legitimate, how do you decide which of the legitimate organizations is worthy of your donation?  Today, Israel has more than 30,000 active non-profits.  Some organizations are very small and serve a specific purpose in a specific geographic area.  Conversely, others are national organizations with tens of thousands of clients.  Some organizations have enormous budgets and pay their executives huge salaries.  But many others survive on a shoestring.  To make things more complicated, the statistics about nonprofits in Israel also cover health maintenance organizations serving millions of people, universities and more.  The inclusion of statistics about such diverse organizations can make it very difficult to compare among smaller organizations in the fields of educational and welfare, for example.

    There is also significant duplication and competition among the numerous nonprofit organizations. Many organizations provide similar services to similar populations, making it even more complicated to choose.  Unfortunately, some organizations make claims regarding their services that are not always 100% true.

    Before donating your hard-earned money, it might be worthwhile spending a little time trying to investigate the organizations you are considering.  Obviously, the internet is a readily accessible resource.  Check out if the organization to which you are considering making a contribution has its own website.  One good place to start is by looking into who are some of the big supporters, if they are listed.    Consider if the organization is also supported by a foundation that has ideals with which you identify.  This can be particularly helpful, for example, because some foundations have strict reporting and evaluation requirements.  Note however that the absence of foundation support does not in any way imply that the organization lacks legitimacy.  In fact, some organizations that are mostly funded by private donors and staffed by volunteers are providing much needed services to specific populations.  Research the web for stories about the organization, as well, and its work.

    When I worked as a fundraiser, I learned that what often motivates people to give is rooted in their own personal story.  People with a particular illness in the family often contribute to medical research in that area; people with elderly parents are often interested in services for the elderly, etc.  Sometimes,  simply contributing to a legitimate organization that does work in an area which speaks to you personally can be a source of significant satisfaction.

    Finally, do not overlook old-fashioned networking.  If you do not know about an organization, chances are someone around you might know about it.  Ask around.  For example, I always find it very interesting to ask my children where they are currently volunteering and what they’re doing in their volunteer activities.  I often learn from them about great programs that were previously unknown to me.

    Finally yet importantly, if you are considering making a large contribution, consider checking with a professional.  Due diligence services are available in Israel and might be worth the investment.

    Shanah Tova and G’mar Chatimah Tova!

     

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