Developing the Israeli Third Sector: NP Tech Launches GuideStar Israel

In early August, NP Tech launched Guidestar Israel. It took almost five years to make GuideStar Israel a reality, and it is an incredible resource for Israeli nonprofit organization. The GuideStar project was established as an unique cooperative venture by the Ministry of Justice, JDC-Israel, and Yad Hanadiv with the objective of developing civil society in Israel.

NP Tech (established by JDC-Israel and Yad Hanadiv) is the operating organization behind GuideStar Israel. It provides services and activities designed to help social organizations make information and communications technology (ICT) more accessible to social organizations to reach their goals. NP Tech wants to create a “socio-technological market” in which different providers offer their products for social activity advancement, internet sites encourage social action and social organizations use these products in accordance to their needs.

I had the opportunity to ask Royi Biller, CEO of NP Tech, about why it was so important to bring GuideStar to Israel, how it could change the Israeli third sector, and upcoming NP Tech initiatives.

da: What are the technology needs of Israeli nonprofit organizations?

rb: Our analysis and market research indicates that nonprofit organizations (at large) make use of the relatively simple tools the IT industry offers, especially with regards to organizational information systems. However, most nonprofit managers reported that they lack knowledge about the opportunities available to them, as well as available funding sources for such purposes. The role of CIO or CTO usually does not exist in most nonprofits, and  Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is commonly not budgeted or planned ahead routinely.

Another phenomenon identified is typical to the Israeli market – the language barrier; there are far less tools and applications available in Hebrew then there are in English, and when it comes to specific applications for nonprofit needs there may be zero solutions available in Hebrew. Nonprofit managers have expressed a need for support from a trusted partner to help decision making and adoption processes of ICT tools in their organizations.

How do these needs compare with worldwide trends?

Most of the findings are quite similar to the common challenges nonprofits face when trying to adopt technologies into their organizations. The only unique pattern was the language barrier and market size that are the main reasons for the shortage of Hebrew software tailored for nonprofit needs.

What is GuideStar Israel?

GuideStar Israel is intended to be the main information website resource about nonprofit organizations in Israel. The website currently features mostly official information regarding all NPOs in Israel from the Registrar of NPOs. It is gradually being updated with additional richer and more “colorful” information provided by the NPOs themselves. This combination creates the most comprehensive and qualitative database of civil social organizations in Israel.

Why is it important to have a GuideStar Israel and offer this database of nonprofits?

The goal in building this database is foremost to create public transparency regarding the conduct of nonprofit organizations in Israel. Anyone who has any interest in nonprofit organizations – donors, volunteers, suppliers and customers – may surf and find official information reported to the Registrar of NPOs regarding the conduct of each non-profit organization operating in Israel.

GuideStar itself operates from within and for the benefit of the third sector, out of the belief that public transparency is an important means for the development of this sector. We see great importance in providing “as is” information, without any judgment. We focus on providing surfers with maximum updated information, in a digital, accessible and convenient format for searching information about all active nonprofit organizations in Israel.

Just as important is the internet exposure offered to all nonprofit organizations operating in Israel, even to the smallest NPOs which have, thus far, not been able to exploit this medium. This exposure will encourage donors and volunteers, as well as cooperation between non-profit organizations with a view to reinforcing the third sector in Israel and making it more accessible for everyone.

How do you think GuideStar Israel will change nonprofit operations, organizations, or the way that Israelis (and others) perceive Israeli nonprofit organizations?

We expect that the readily available information provided by GuideStar will help nonprofit organizations become more effective by making data-driven decisions, comparative analysis and sharing knowledge. We believe the public perception of the Israeli third sector will become more positive once each and every user will be able to easily determine whether an organization is being run properly, and that the “rotten apples” would be easier to distinguish from the legitimate majority. We expect to see more fact-based discussions taking place regarding nonprofit activities.

I know that NP Tech is a TechSoup Global partner. What does that mean for Israeli NPOs?

We are in final stages of preparations for the launch of the software donation program in collaboration with TechSoup Global, which will enable eligible nonprofits to acquire state of the art software for a fraction of the cost. We intend to launch the program during the last quarter of 2010.

Royi Biller is the CEO of NP Tech. Royi initiated the establishment of NPTech during his work as a Program Officer for Technology and Knowledge at Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild Foundation). Royi is well versed in technology project management, relying on vast experience from his military service as an intelligence officer, his work as a Decision Support Systems engineer in Intel and his position in Yad Hanadiv.

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at communityorganizer20.com and regularly provides advice and commentary to our eJewish Philanthropy community.

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