Jewish Journal


January 27, 2005

Nonprofits Refocus 2005 Funding Efforts



At the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, executive director Roz Rothstein can look back wistfully on a seemingly more innocent time when fundraising was less convoluted for the four-year-old group.

"Life was simple when we had one brochure, one Web site and two or three people on staff," Rothstein said. "Now, we have five Web sites, multiple speakers, brochures in multiple languages, over 10 people on staff, a shipping department and we are looking at opening up a New York office, as well as chapters around the country. We have a healthy budget and strong community support. The biggest challenge is always development."

Development is the nonprofit's world polite term for money. Jewish non-profits are scrambling for every dollar and for those big-fish $10,000 donors, competing not only with each other but with a larger, equally competitive group of secular charities. The money chase can exhaust both partners in the donor dance.

"I cannot neglect my actual work and commitments, so the time I spend on development forces me to work nights and weekends," Rothstein said. "There are many groups approaching the same people for donations; even the best of them get weary."

Jewish charities also must respond to government moves. As president of the Jewish anti-hunger group MAZON, H. Eric Schockman is concerned this year about both donor fatigue and 2005's expected social service cuts at both the state and federal level.

"Basically, we're looking at not enough revenue ultimately to sustain the major entitlement programs that the federal government is involved in," Schockman said. "Foster care, Medicare, you go down the list. So we have to assist donors in sort of understanding the implications of what will come out of the federal budget debate come next September or October, and at the state level it gets even more convoluted. I think in the sort of long term sustainability, it's going to be a difficult year."

Money to fund fights against anti-Israel sentiments and long-term hunger is coming as Jewish groups expand their traditional philanthropy focus. At the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Pacific Southwest regional offices, development director Barbara Racklin has been working for the past two years on creating an expanded ADL endowment culture of getting donors to think beyond the year-to-year annual fundraising.

"The Holocaust generation understood the mission and embraced it," said Racklin, who was a Pasadena-based fundraiser for the American Red Cross before joining the ADL. "I'm focusing on trying to endow gifts so that we have a future that we can count on, rather than just about day-to-day. For the ADL it's been year-to-year for a long time. The endowment legacy is fairly new. The ADL often in the past was not necessarily seen as a fundraising organization; people supported it but I don't think they thought that as an organization it needed to raise money."

For Racklin, this change in ADL thinking has meant scaling back, combining or consolidating some of the annual fundraising events. Also, she said, it means working to, "personalize the mission" for long-term endowment donors and uniting the ADL's previously separate offices for legacy/endowment and planned-giving donors.

"Everybody wants to secure the future of their nonprofit charity," Racklin said. "The beauty of planned giving is that you're talking to the people that support you already."

At the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, president John Fishel is trying to address the generational changes in wealth, from L.A.'s post-Holocaust community-building funders to the younger generation of community sustainers. That means more explaining to donors where their dollars go in Southern California.

"Israel remains very, very key," Fishel said. "But I think that if you look below the surface with younger people, their primary interest seems to be moving toward supporting local people more in their own communities. We have tried to create programs that support those things that we think motivate our donors to give direct dollars to as opposed to what I might refer to as a block grant."

World events also affect donors, including the Asian tsunami and the continuing frequent attacks on Israeli citizens coupled with rising anti-Semitism. At StandWithUs, Rothstein said, "By now, everyone understands that we need to pay far more attention to educating our youth about Israel and Jewish history, about what Zionism means, in order to prepare them properly for possible challenges on their colleges campuses."

The tsunami also has expanded MAZON's poverty work abroad, but without hurting the group's U.S. emphasis.

"I don't see that trade-off happening; it's an amazing sort of testimonial to the understanding that disasters and emergencies and wars of genocide take priority along with sustained issues that Jews understand must be tended to," Schockman said. "I've only seen an enhancement of philanthropic goodness and giving along with concerns in southern Asia."

For Rachel Jagoda, director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, southern Asia in 2005 is of less immediate concern than southern Poland in 1945. She is seeing her old survivor funding base die off and it must be replaced with a less Jewish, more eclectic donor culture equally committed to preserving Shoah remembrance.

"We have had to look outside of ourselves," Jagoda said. "The majority of our funding has been coming from small private foundations that are not necessarily Jewish. There was this idea at one time that there's 20 Jews [in Los Angeles] with money and we're all in competition with each other. I think we're better served appealing to, and working together with, other institutions."


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