With more than 40,000 registered charities in Israel, there is quite obviously a great void in society that must be filled. But, the desire to do good does not always mean that the method is the best.

By Chaim Katz

In our health conscious culture, it is not uncommon for the topic of diets to enter a discussion. There is no shortage of “fad” diets, with something to fit virtually every taste and culture. As well, even without the “diets of the stars” or food plans found in important journals found at supermarket checkouts, there are many medically approved diet plans truly designed for success. But, when one starts to do in-depth research, the numbers that bounce back are astounding. A brief comparison of statistics present failure rates between 40% to as much as 95%! The question is where does one place the blame, with the diet or the dieter?

The culture of Israel-designated philanthropy is changing. Long gone are the days of a ”blue box” in every Jewish home because…, well…, that’s what you did. Similarly, one donated money to causes in Israel because we were trained to do so. That’s how we were raised. But, time moves on and with it comes change. Change, of course, can be either positive or negative but different it is. The question for many charitable causes in Israel is whether they can change with the times and still maintain their mission.

Returning for a moment to the diets, numerous medical researchers believe that the failure factor belongs to the individual, not the diet. Putting aside the outlandish contenders, serious diets are designed to modify an individual’s intake while not harming the body itself. Most health care professionals insist on regular blood tests and monitoring to prevent any damage to oneself. And, interestingly, many diets, if properly followed, will achieve their goal. The failure comes during the maintenance after the formal diet ends, either due to a lack of willpower or non-adherence to the changes one has made.

In recent years, many Israeli charities have experienced shifts in foreign support. Charitable giving is affected by many factors and most are beyond the control or influence of the charities. However, weather the storm they must. More often than not, the course of action is to re-visit the budget and see where expenses can be reduced. Services are often reduced or eliminated; jobs are scaled back or lost altogether; future plans are changed – quite similar to a diet without supervision. After all, a person who has lost large amounts of weight should feel much healthier, if they proceed correctly and responsibly.

And here, it would seem, is the key word – responsible.

With more than 40,000 registered charities in Israel, there is quite obviously a great void in society that must be filled. But, the desire to do good does not always mean that the method is the best. Meaning no disrespect but the classic joke about the desert island with one Jew and two synagogues comes to mind. When questioned why he built two, he replies that he prays in one and he would never set foot in the other. How often is an organization established that replicates what another is already doing, but a group of truly well-meaning individuals felt that they could do better? How many new schools are opened because a group of educators or parents were unhappy with the existing schools or curricula? With the proliferation of various crowdfunding platforms and technological tools available, it has become much easier to solicit and raise the start-up funds for many new charitable ventures, perhaps even secure funding for the first few years. But, there is a finite limit to charitable giving. And, moreover, the availability of data and a growing desire for due diligence and accountability brings the workings of charities under the microscope. This is not to suggest that charities are misusing funds. But, and here we will return again to our diets for a moment, many people do not begin to diet until their physician points out the need. Even then, many tend to defer the suggestion until the situation is far more critical. So, too, with many charities. Only when the money flow is reduced do they decide that change, often drastic, is necessary.

One who lives a healthy lifestyle will be less likely to have to make drastic changes. And, even if change becomes necessary, sometimes for reasons beyond our control, the ability to manage and adapt to those changes will enable the individual to maintain a healthy life. Charities should take the time to do internal evaluation “while the going is good.” Rather than competing, sharing resources with others can help reduce overhead. Take the time to evaluate how systems can be streamlined, using technology available today. Sharing information and strategic thinking with “the competition” may prove to be beneficial for all parties. Being prepared for the changes that may come is the best way to be able to continue moving forward and remain position positive. Look out for the health of your charity before the diet becomes necessary.

Chaim Katz, is CEO of Ne’eman Foundation Canada and Ne’eman Foundation USA. The Foundations provide fiscal sponsorship and donor services in North America for 400 charities throughout Israel, as well as providing guidance and training to the charities.

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