Direct Discussion: The Only Way to Enhance the Relationship between Members of Knesset and the Global Jewish Community


By Stephen G. Donshik The latest Israel-Diaspora religious crisis was caused by the Religious Services Minister of Israel, David Azoulay from the Shas Party, when he said during a recent radio interview that he could not refer to Reform Jews as Jews. As in the past, when these kinds of statements were made by Israeli leaders, this comment sparked a flood of phone calls and emails to Jewish leaders in communities in North America and other places. Their tone was a mixture of criticism and hurt. How could it be after all of these years and the ongoing support that Israel receives from Jews from all the streams of Judaism that there are still Israeli politicians who make such outrageous statements? At the 1998 meeting of the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations (now the Jewish … [Read more...]

Appreciating Volunteers: A Skill Some Nonprofits Have Not Developed

Many nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers for a variety of functions, and the tasks they perform are not only meaningful to the volunteers themselves but also make a valuable contribution to the organization. In some cases volunteers save their nonprofits hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, each year. It is essential that nonprofits express their appreciation in appropriate ways for the services provided by volunteers. There are many fitting ways to recognize the contributions made by volunteers. For example, many nonprofits sponsor one or more events for the volunteers so they can socialize with each other and the staff members. Other agencies provide an annual gift around the holidays celebrated in the country where they work. Some sponsor an outing or trip for volunteers. … [Read more...]

I Am Not Retiring Until I Have Found a Replacement


There are very few things more inappropriate than for a professional in a nonprofit organization to say, “I am not retiring until I have found a replacement for myself.” Yet this statement is made too often precisely because CEOs and senior management staff are very committed and invested in the mission and purposes of their organization. Often they work very long hours, are reluctant to use up their allotted vacation time, and feel a strong sense of ownership of the services they provide to members and clients. During a recent conversation with a group of colleagues, one person asked another who was approaching his seventieth birthday when he planned to retire. In response his colleague said that he was planning on retiring in five months, but he had not yet been able to find a replacement for … [Read more...]

CEOs Can Create Their Own Problems


Chief executive officers (CEO) of nonprofit organizations are sometimes their own worst enemies. When they are reluctant to make difficult decisions and instead defer to others in the organization, whether staff members or members of the board of directors, they can find themselves in a very uncomfortable place because a wrong decision was made and it comes back to haunt them. Recently, the director of the All for Children (AFC) nonprofit found herself faced with having to undo and redo staff assignments because she was unwilling to demonstrate real leadership several years ago. The AFC provides a range of services to troubled children from infancy through 18 years of age and to their parents. Since Israel is a multi-language country, its services are offered in Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic, … [Read more...]

When You Do Not Understand the Strategic Planning Process, You Are Planning for Failure

Before beginning to plan for the future, it is critical to take a step back and review what the agency stands for and how it envisions its future role before planning for those years. By Stephen G. Donshik Several weeks ago I received a phone call from a colleague of mine who works for All for the Children (AFC), an agency focused on the treatment of abused and neglected children and their families. He told me that its director had recently initiated a strategic planning process for the organization. When making this announcement, the director acknowledged that in the agency’s more than thirty years of existence it had never made any attempt to plan for the development and future provision of its services to the community. Decisions seemed to be made from one month or year to the next. Neither … [Read more...]

The Thank You Letter as a Fundraising Tool

As a matter of course, Jewish nonprofit organizations send out thank you letters or e-mails to donors in response to their contributions. However, agencies may do so without always understanding the importance that an expression of appreciation has for donors. The real significance of sending a note, a letter, or even an e-mail message is often lost on many of us who work in the nonprofit sector and are constantly handling one crisis after another. It would behoove us to take a step back and think about what an expression of acknowledgment and appreciation means to donors. Recently this issue was brought to my attention by one of my graduate students in an MA program for nonprofit management. She shared with the class that her supervisor had asked her to send out an e-mail blast numbering more … [Read more...]

Israel’s First Jewish City: Developing Community and Jewish Identity

Courtesy Kedem Auctions

Last week I had the opportunity to spend two days in Tel Aviv and I witnessed firsthand the community redevelopment effort in the southern part of the city - all while searching for a minyan in which to say Kaddish. When I went looking for a minyan that would be davening mincha (afternoon) and maariv (evening), I was told that there are two synagogues very close to the hotel where I was staying. They are both about 80 years old; one is Eadot HaMizrach (Sephardic) and the other is HaGra (Askenazic). I decided to try the Askenazic shul first. It turned out I had been there almost 20 years ago when it looked as if it had just survived a war. The ceilings, walls, and windows were in terrible shape, and everything inside was either cracked or broken. This time, as I entered the building I … [Read more...]

Israeli Nonprofits and Diaspora Funders and Donors: Is An Authentic Partnership Possible?


It is the rare Israel nonprofit that develops a model of partnership in which the donor participates in making the decisions that have an impact on the planning and implementation of the supported programs. By Stephen G. Donshik Jewish professionals and volunteer leaders have learned that people give to people and not organizations. This means that if a nonprofit wants to receive support for its organization and programs, there have to be a personal connection and relationship built between its professional and/or volunteer leaders and the people they seek to attract and cultivate to support the organization. One of the issues that plague the relationship between Israel nonprofits and their funders, donors, supporters, and contributors around the world is developing a real sense of … [Read more...]