By Michael Yadov
Recently, I found myself in a heartfelt conversation with a friend about our mutual affinity for Israel. My friend lamented her lack of involvement with pro-Israel causes due to competing priorities. She was firm in her desire to contribute but noted that the involvement would need to be minimal. At this point, I suggested she make her contribution monetarily. She nodded in agreement, but what followed was a barrage of questions. As I answered one question after another, I realized that there may be other silent Zionists who could also benefit from similar guidance.
To begin, donations are an incredibly important way to make a difference, as they empower those who are positioned to contribute time and skill to maintain and expand their operations and engage in new and farther-reaching projects. A donation may be viewed as a purchase, and like any significant purchase it should be treated with care. Here, you are providing your proxy with the power to act. Hence, it is essential to ascertain that the fortunate recipient of your contribution will use the funds just as you would have used them yourself if you had the means to act individually.
The process described in this missive is simpler than it may appear, and most of the work is a front-loaded investment. Also, you will be far more certain and aware of the good that you are doing, and, consequently, you will get tremendous satisfaction from being a valuable contributor to something great. Please note that the following review is agnostic to the tax write-off eligibility of certain recipients versus others.
Please note that donations to neighborhood Jewish community and religious institutions should generally not be conflated with donations to Israel, as raison d’etre of such organizations is primarily locally communal.
Say, you are ready to donate and must now select from hundreds of organizations. To narrow the list, consider your past experiences – perhaps you already know specific organizations that contribute to the Israeli cause. Also, talk to your friends and mentors, particularly those who share your views. Lastly, research online.
Having identified a few nonprofits, perform due diligence by reading their mission statements to confirm alignment with your views. Check what the organizations and their leaders say and support by looking up their op-eds or public statements. Please take care to not become overly focused on the names of organizations. Thus, the mere presence of words “Israel” or “Jewish” in the charity’s name should not be considered an indication of purpose – objectives may change with the times. Former leaders retire, and there is always a chance that the organization you identified with in the past no longer represents you.
Now, let’s consider the efficiency and transparency of your finalists. Review charity overhead expenditures, as you may wish to bypass a nonprofit that is wasteful. However, be mindful that quality management and operation cost money, hence a charity that spends uncharacteristically little on its employees may have an inexperienced management and may undergo an elevated staff turnover. In specific cases, you may find that a low overhead is due to people working and volunteering for a given cause for strong ideological reasons.
Obviously, it is highly preferable to donate to transparent charities with clear records of how the money is being spent. Regardless of how noble the mission statement of an organization, we do not want to put money into a black box. This point may seem obvious, however it is so paramount that it needs to be emphasized.
Some useful resources that will allow you to gather information quickly are www.CharityNavigator.org and Best Business Bureau’s give.org. For charities that are available via these resources most of the leg work is already done for you. Of course, the further away you go from mainstream causes, the more research you will need to do yourself.
Next, let’s check whether your employer offers donation matching or whether your charity is on the employer’s approved charity list. If you aren’t sure, you could consult your firm’s human resources department. Along the way, confirm the minimum and maximum donation amounts in your employer’s matching policy. Also, ascertain whether the benefit is offered year-round, as there may be a calendar cutoff.
Be mindful that employers generally match donations to the most established charities. If you have done your homework and are certain about contributing to a less mainstream nonprofit, by all means, do it!
In addition to the big-ticket causes, you may also want to consider grassroots actors, such as particularly effective bloggers whose work resonates with you. For these actors, even a smaller contribution is greatly appreciated and may be promptly reflected in the output.
Remember that “sharing is caring!” Tell your family and friends about the causes that you support. They may choose to join you!
Michael Yadov is a Director at the American Forum for Israel and a teaching staff member at ZOA’s Fuel For Truth.