By Avi Bieler
Last Wednesday, on this site, David Samson wrote a piece ostensibly about the need to form a united association of Israeli nonprofits funded by those same nonprofits. He expressed concern that existing umbrella groups have ulterior motives and criticized their lack of transparency. Within his article he loosely suggested that Jgive.com is one of these umbrella organizations and accused the nonprofit platform of being opaque with regards to its funding. We at Jgive would like to clear up a number of points for Mr. Samson and others who read his article.
Jgive, is a project of the Asor Fund, much of whose funding does indeed come from Harei Zahav as anyone can discover on our website’s staff page (first entry!) and Guidestar (along with all of our other financial documents). We at Jgive believe in the importance of transparency and use Guidestar’s system ourselves to provide transparency metrics for charities using our site. This information never required “discovery.” No matter, as we are a nonprofit, we operate at a loss and in no way monetarily support anything beyond our immediate work on the platform and on our charity’s campaigns such as that of the Alyn Wheels of Love Ride.
We would like to dissuade Mr. Samson of the idea that those who donate to the Asor Fund politically influence the mission of Jgive.com, which is to increase rates of giving both within Israel and worldwide to the Israeli third sector. If one wants proof, simply look at the organizations on our website. Projects by the left leaning “The Parents Circle – Families Forum” coexist next to those of the right leaning “Im Tirtzu.” “Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel” raises money alongside “Bnei Akiva.” One can also examine our Facebook page where we very carefully avoid promoting political charities in order to ensure that Jgive remains accessible to all.
Beyond political nonprofits, there are 600 other charities to choose from on Jgive with 19 different general missions ranging from supporting Holocaust survivors to improving road safety. The only requirement for using our platform is being an Israeli nonprofit holding article 46 certification (equivalent to a 501(C)(3)). All of this is openly communicated on our site.
Jgive is incredibly proud of our diversity. It is hard to think of many other initiatives that include such a great range of Israeli society. We do recognize that because we are a pluralist organization, most people can find something they do not approve of on the site. However, this is merely an unfortunate side effect of a virtuous plan and we are willing to live with the consequences. Our over 100,000 donors make us confident that most people agree.
Furthermore, we want to be clear that we would be delighted to accept donations covering our overhead from any well-meaning organization and have recently applied for a number of grants from many different types of foundations. To invalidate an entire project because it received money from a political figure or to claim that a project necessarily adopts the views of its donors seems a poor and unrealistic way of evaluating nonprofits.
Finally, with regards to Mr. Samson’s overall point about the need for an organization funded by Israeli nonprofits to advocate for Israeli nonprofits. It is amazing how much the Israeli third sector achieves on such slim margins. He is correct that competition for support is fierce, but it is hard to imagine what these nonprofits would gain equal to the expenditure required to fund a nonprofit advocacy group.
The most important thing a government can do (besides directly sponsoring nonprofits) is to provide tax incentives making donating more attractive. However, in Israel (as opposed to the United States) a whopping 80% of refund money goes unclaimed totaling over a billion Shekels. Therefore, more work needs to go in to educating Israelis about claiming their rights as opposed to advocating to the government about gaining more rights. That is why we arranged with the tax authorities to allow for Israelis to apply for tax refunds from their Jgive profile.
The best thing that we can do for the Israeli nonprofit sector is to encourage Israelis to take more responsibility for their civil society while allowing the global pro-Israel community to interact directly with the causes they support. We are proud to be doing our best to achieve these goals with no bias whatsoever towards political or corporate interests.
Avi Bieler is the Director of Overseas Communications and Fundraising at Jgive.com. He can be reached at [email protected]