Stop Adding Insult to Injury, and Let’s Get Together to Make it Better

by Jonny Cline

The social entrepreneur knows two things for certain:

  1. No-one, not even the government, thought that it was important enough to do what they are doing, and
  2. No-one will give any discounts or guarantees to ensure financial survival – quite the opposite, there are no loans or overdrafts available without their own personal guarantee.

In any case, the decision to initiate was taken.

Supportive friends were enlisted, activities were started, early successes were made, and yet there was still no support or encouragement from “The Man” – no certificate of proper management “Nihul Takin” (there is the temporary one, but that is no use without the history of activity), there are no tax breaks for donors on their gifts (the process for receiving eligibility for Article 46 takes at least 5 years), but in spite of all this, the requirements for registration were met and the feat of opening a bank account and setting up the basics of organisational infrastructure were accomplished.

Wait a second. We set up this amuta in order to answer a need, not an obscure one but one that truly affects  a very significant population. We understand that there are battles concerning prioritisation and budgeting within “The Institution”, the very bodies that ought to be offering this service to the population, so we chose to take the initiative, for which those affected are very grateful, and to get it done… so why is it so difficult?

Let me rephrase that please – we expected difficulty, but why are they making it so difficult?

  • suppliers do not consider us a sustainable customer. “You might just disappear”, they say, “then who is going to pay?”, or, “Eh, all of you amutot just want discounts and donations – I have to put food on the table, too, you know!”
  • the banks are not exactly friendly. “… and we will just need for you to provide personal guarantees from three people before we can open this account… of course there will be no overdraft approved… and please do feel free to come and talk to us about discounted fees once we can ascertain your turnover.”
  • the donors are nice, encouraging, understanding… but of course most of them already have their chosen causes, their pet projects, either that or they are just reconsidering their philanthropic impact, but “let’s keep in touch”.
  • and the government? What about the government?

I find it particularly hard to come to terms with the way that the lawmakers treat social innovation and the 3rd sector.

Why does it need to be like this?

  • In the UK, when you register a charity you do so through one dedicated government authority. Once your registration has been approved, your charity receives all of the tools of the trade, including tax relief for donors on their donations. So why does it need to be like it is?
  • In the US the social innovator and the nonprofit are seen and treated as a partner of the government, and the business sector, in the service of the people. So why does it need to be like it is?
  • A small business owner in Israel, for all that can and needs to be done to improve their lot, has access to frameworks for training, mentoring and financing. So why does it need to be like it is?

Perhaps it is because…

  • “we would like to avoid abuse of the public’s trust” – Do me a favour! Yes, there are con men that set out to pull a fast one on the public, but there are far fewer instances in the nonprofit field than exist in the other spheres of employment.
  • “tax returns on donations are essentially government funding of activities” – Insulting! Tax rebates on donations “cost” the governmental coffers less than half a percent of all tax income. The outcomes of 3rd sector activities not only save the state much more than that, they create wealth through employment.
  • “we do not believe that the inflated salaries in the charitable sector are ethical” – That is already slanderous!

Did you know?

One of the last acts of the Minister of Finance, Yuval Shteinitz, before the recent elections was to rush through legislation that, amongst other things, capped nonprofit salaries at 40,000 shekels, gross, per month.

At first glance, this seems like a perfectly reasonable law, no? Of course we would not want funds given as donations out of the goodness of people’s hearts to end up in the pockets of overpaid CEOs, driving around in their luxury cars, right?

No? Not right?

This law is not merely superfluous, it is damaging to the good names of thousands of amutot and their employees. I will give here just two reasons:

  1. Passing a law is an extreme step. The very existence of legislation, and the process of passing such a law, may lead any reasonable person to the conclusion that there exists a phenomenon so serious that it demands such a fundamental step to be take in order to eradicate it. I am pleased to say that this is not the case. This law, the very passing of which cost the taxpayer over 5 million shekels, (according to figures published by The Marker) restricted the salaries of exactly 5 people. 5 people! Is that not infuriating?
  2. Who do the government think they are, pushing their collective nose into issues that do not concern them? Do they underwrite amutot? Do they in any way encourage or support the activities of the 3rd sector? The linking of 3rd sector salaries to those of clerks in governmental companies would be justified only if the government were to guarantee and budget for the financial needs of amutot from their inception and until their disbanding, especially through the hard times – if they are not willing to do so, they should mind their own business!

Please feel free to add additional reasons as comments to this article. Let’s start to stand up for ourselves, especially as what we do is also for their benefit.

Do not get me wrong, I do not feel abused, nor am I about to lose myself in self pity due to the injustice of it all, but I would like to create a new format of cooperation and partnership. I truly believe that it can be different.

At Amuta21C, the annual summit for the third sector, we believe that it can be done differently. We believe that we have the ability, as colleagues, to come together to create a professional community. We believe that by acting as a sector we can ensure that the public sector, “The Man”, can be brought to change its handling of us; we believe that together with the institutions of the public sector we can reach a level of understanding and cooperation that will facilitate the renewal of the interface between the two sectors – from the registering of new initiatives and to the support of the institution through the tough times.

Until then – let us cry foul together!

See you next Monday, March 4th, 9:30 – 16:45, at the ZOA building in Tel Aviv.

More details and registration at Amuta21C.com