A Jewish Philanthropic Plan for our Lifetime’s Greatest Crises
4 Bold Actions All Donors Should Consider

By Joseph Hyman

In the midst of the German Blitz, Winston Churchill rallied Britain in the face of its greatest existential threat. Thousands died. London was destroyed and entire cities were quarantined for over a year. In the midst of the greatest crisis of his generation, Churchill declared, “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is a time to dare and endure.”

While there will come a time when normalcy will return for many of us, for those who are sick, newly unemployed, or who have lost loved ones, or friends this crisis is a tragedy beyond comprehension. Earlier today, I heard a medical expert say there will come a time when everyone will know someone who has died.

Taking into account and recognizing the enormous generosity of so many philanthropists, foundations and regular donors, who do so much for so many, I want to propose for all of our consideration and discussion the following four actions.

The 2% Campaign

If we accept the reality the virus is a once in a hundred-year crisis, we are presently underestimating the amount of suffering that’s taking place and the enormous philanthropic investment that is needed. The situation is greatly compounded by the stock market’s crash and the economic crisis.

I would like to humbly propose that we should all consider taking 2% out of our personal capital or foundation’s endowment and contributing it for one-time, emergency needs that are the result of the crisis.

Whether one has $40 million in one’s foundation’s corpus, or $100,000 in assets, allocating 2% will potentially help provide over $1 billion in additional support for the Jewish community and Israel. This will transform the landscape of what we can do for so many who are suffering so greatly.

Will the foundation that is reduced to $39.2 million, or the family whose assets are now $98,000 be greatly affected, or will the billion dollars provided change the trajectory of suffering, even if the funds are used to make up for allocation cuts the crisis would have otherwise dictated?

Dramatically Increase our Commitment to Vulnerable Jewish Populations

For the first time in a generation, we must completely refocus our efforts for the coming months to provide for the dramatic, additional needs of the elderly, poor, children at risk, those who are abused in their homes, the newly unemployed and of course those who are ill. Failure to do so would be to completely underestimate the size and scope of the present tragedy.

I would go as far to suggest that some organizations might consider curtailing fundraising for a few months (if they are strong enough) and encourage their donors to support peer organizations who are in the “eye of the storm.”

Earlier this week, my CEJP colleagues and I were humbled by an organization CEO who asked in front of over a hundred peers on our crisis training call if his organization should stop fundraising because “they don’t need the money?” It was a profound moment that none of us will soon forget.

We must support Israeli NGO’s

In normal times, Israel’s Government and Ministries run months behind in funding NGO’s, but with the year-long process to form a government the situation has become dire, especially for those whose service demands have skyrocketed due to the virus. Many organizations are functioning on 50-70% of their ordinary budgets and are laying off critical staff at the absolute worst time.

The irony is ordinarily Israel is at the forefront of crisis funding, which often emanates from wars and terrorism, but today so much of the need is local. Federations are doing an extraordinary job supporting unprecedented local demands, but are challenged to also provide enough funding for Israel. It’s a sign of something we could never imagine just a short time ago.

It’s critical that funders support Israeli NGOs in a meaningful way that takes into account these unprecedented times.

We must make decisions based on Programmatic and Budgetary Analysis

If we’re going to maximize our response to the upcoming avalanche of needs, there are going to be some very tough decisions for each of us as donors, advisors and leaders of organizations.

We must require that organizations and their boards do a complete programmatic assessment, taking into account what programs have been lost and for many service providers what demands are increasing dramatically, or exponentially?

Similarly, organizations must revise their budgets line by line, comparing their original 2020 budgets to what they project for the full year, taking into account the crisis. I would even go further and strongly recommend they develop a third budget, accounting for the worst-case scenario.

Without such concrete analysis how will organizations properly manage the crisis and how will donors identify the most impactful and needed use of their resources?

At the height of the Blitz Churchill surmised, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the Courage to continue that counts.”

World War II did end. London returned to being an international center of power and influence. And life did eventually return to normal.

May we have the courage to act strategically and boldly. May we understand and accept the size and depth of this tragedy. May we all be safe and able to help all those who need us more than ever.

Joseph Hyman is the President of the Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy, a nonprofit organization which is developing a new model of giving with the goal of facilitating substantial new Jewish and Israel based support. CEJP services include: personal advising, incubating new ideas and programs, hosting donor Summits and facilitating giving consortiums.