Good News Bad News for Smaller Non-Profits

by Jeannie Gerzon

Most small non-profits don’t have the luxury of an endowment. The good news is they also don’t have to worry about having invested in a Madoff feeder fund or lost 50% of the value of the endowment. However, the worse news is their ongoing sources of funding have dried up or diminished and now they must explore new strategies to stay afloat.

The financial crisis existed before Madoff and will continue for a long time to come. So what’s a non-profit to do? Focus on niche-fundraising. An excellent example of an organization that has embraced this philosophy is the American Friends of the Yitzhak Rabin Center.

When The Yitzhak Rabin Center in Israel, the presidential library and official memorial for the slain prime minister, started fundraising in the U.S. they faced the common dilemma of finding their niche in an already crowded market. With many organizations claiming the Yitzhak Rabin name, the goal of the fundraising in the United States became finding potential untapped niches where there was an affinity group. Zeroing in on Yitzhak Rabin’s roots in the Labor Movement and the Histadrut, the labor union movement was identified. It was about maintaining a focus on attributes of the Center with interests of the targeted individuals and groups. Using the resources of an outside consultancy firm, the Center was able to build a base of support from the greater community (mostly non-Jewish) to aid the Jewish state through identity with common values and purpose.

The strategy proved successful. The American Friends of the Yitzhak Rabin Center has raised over double in the past 4 years of what was raised in the previous 9 years including the years following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 – theoretically, the more likely “giving-motivated” years. The Center has benefited the State of Israel as well as providing the labor movement with a direct and viable means to support the Jewish state.

Jeannie Gerzon is a founding partner at WeinerGerzon,  a NYC based strategic consulting firm for non-profit fundraising organizations in the United States, working extensively in the New York and Washington, DC areas.  She specializes in board development, fundraising strategies, budget control and turnkey services. To continue dialogue, email