Why Jewish Organizations Should Take a Stronger Stand Against Commission-Based Fundraising

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With commission-based fundraising: charitable mission can become secondary to self-gain; donor trust can be unalterably damaged; there is incentive for self-dealing to prevail over donors’ best interests. By Robert Evans The tone of the potential donor’s email was skeptical and a little accusatory. Why, the individual wrote, should he or she support the congregation’s multi-million dollar capital campaign when a certain percentage of the funds raised will “pay” the fundraising consultant? The questioning donor had a mistaken impression that his or her own synagogue would engage in the ethically problematic practice of commission-based fundraising. How, and why, would the member have gotten such an ill-formed impression? The answer impacts impressions donors may have, especially based on … [Read more...]

More Than Money: A Covenant of Federation Philanthropic Effectiveness

Federations in the 21st century will be as much about meaning as money, as concerned with results as much as with resources, and be held to higher standards of both efficiency and effectiveness similar to what they have imposed on their beneficiary agencies. By Chip Edelsberg, Ph.D. [The following piece is an abridged version of an article I wrote nearly ten years ago for the Journal of Jewish Communal Service.  At the time, I was Vice President of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland. Amid the current rancorous conversation about federations, I recalled this article.  I submit it here to eJP in an effort to advance conversation about substantive matters of organizational performance.  My interest is to offer actionable items intended to assist federations (and foundations) to … [Read more...]

Lessons for a Lifetime of Judaism

By Dafna Laskin [This is the final article in a four-part series about the long-term impact of Jewish teen philanthropy. Jewish teen foundations have successfully engaged a new generation of philanthropists, with thousands of teens giving away millions of grant dollars to nonprofit organizations while learning Jewish values. As part of this series, the Jewish Teen Funders Network releases “Jewish Teen Philanthropy: What is the Long-Term Impact?” a report that features program data and alumni testimonials highlighting the powerful results of participating in Jewish teen philanthropy programs. This report follows the release of “Where Did the Money Go?” JTFN’s biennial survey of Jewish teen foundations’ grantmaking activities. As part of our mission to create, connect, and support Jewish teen … [Read more...]

Baltimore Funding Dilemma: The Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation of Baltimore


By Elinor Kotzen Spokes On April 25, Baltimore became the focus of the nation when violence and riots broke out throughout the city in response to the death of 25 year old Freddie Gray during an arrest by Baltimore City police. For those of us living in and around Baltimore, a palpable and pervasive sense of sadness and despair set in as we watched news coverage of our beloved city burn and shatter. The violence of that day and the days which followed revealed societal issues and systemic problems plaguing many American cities and urban centers not unique to Baltimore: poverty, joblessness, lack of quality education and hopelessness. Local charities, foundations, organizations, government agencies and others heeded the call for help and rallied to provide at least short-term assistance for … [Read more...]

What Will Your Legacy Be?


By Chuck Cohen What are your passions? What are the causes that you support? Do you want your support to continue beyond your lifetime? Those are the questions I ask myself when making philanthropic decisions, and that I encourage my clients to ask themselves in their estate planning. I posed those same questions to Jewish community members when, in 1998, I was asked to chair a legacy campaign with my local Federation. The goal was to obtain $100 million in funds and commitments by 2005, our Federation’s centennial year. We are a community of about 11,000 Jews but we exceeded our goal. Philanthropy comes naturally to me as a Jewish value. Growing up, I was taught not only the importance of supporting causes in the local community, but also the need to encourage other people to support them. … [Read more...]

Fulfilling a Mission to the Very End

By Cass Gottlieb and Jonathan Woocher The JESNA Board held its final meeting a few days ago in New York, and voted to distribute its remaining endowment funds, totaling around three-quarters of a million dollars, to a variety of organizations doing cutting-edge work in Jewish education. This, together with steps to preserve and make available to scholars and educators the intellectual property JESNA created over the years, will be the last steps the agency takes before its dissolution. “The JESNA Board?” you say. “I thought they went out of existence a couple of years ago.” Well, yes. JESNA did make the decision to cease its program operations in 2013, a victim of a changing Jewish educational landscape and greatly diminished federation financial support. But, the leadership of the agency … [Read more...]

Why Endow the Annual Campaign? Or “How Did they Do That?”


Little else besides federation missions seems to produce a desire by the next generation to give in great numbers to an umbrella campaign supporting local, national and international agencies. By Joseph C. Imberman "We hold these truths to be self evident" ... just as one of the great speeches of our nation makes its truths clear to the listener, those of us who have been insiders in the world of Jewish federation philanthropy see the need to continue the role and the strength of our annual campaign as our most important objective. There is only one problem with this statement. The campaign has relied for its strength on larger and larger gifts from a smaller and diminishing group of aging and committed donors over a long period. Despite our greatest efforts to involve next gen donors and … [Read more...]

Empowerment and Impact: SF Federation’s Jewish Women’s Fund

By Julie Levine The gap between San Francisco's wealthy residents and its poor ones is growing faster than in any other city in the nation, according to a Brookings Institution 2014 study. *** My Jewish values have always guided me throughout my life - taking care of others, giving help to those in need, tzedakah, social justice, and a commitment to Jewish tradition, study and engagement. I strive to raise my kids with an understanding and deep connection to these Jewish values. I want them to make the world a better place not because it’s a good thing to do but rather because it’s their responsibility. I want them to treat people fairly, honestly, and as equals. But, it’s become increasingly challenging for me to teach my kids about empathy, compassion, and equality when the gap between … [Read more...]