Success for Israeli NGO’s in the U.S.

Partnership and Trust = Success for Israeli NGO’s in the U.S.
by Avrum D. Lapin

Countless non-profits based in Israel seek funds in the US. Many have successfully entered into and navigated the increasingly complex and competitive US philanthropic marketplace.

  • Why do some succeed and others not?
  • What are some of the elements of a successful fundraising program, making it possible for Israel based NGO’s, small and large, to reach their goals and meet the expectations of leaders and donors in the US and in Israel.

Our experience tells us that it often boils down to a philosophical and “hands on” commitment to partnership between the teams in Israel and in the US.

The essential ingredient in the recipe for fundraising success for Israel based non-profits in the US today, partnership begins with the development of trust between US and Israeli teams and the an understanding of value and expertise that each brings to the process. Without trust, in an environment of transparency and open communication, opportunities are missed and expectations go unfulfilled.

Israeli leaders – professionals and Board members – must be full and active participants in the fund development process, beginning with designating or assigning staff, whether the chief executive or another senior professional, and to serve as partners in planning, leading and executing the program. Expectation of success from independent and disconnected activity in the US alone will be illusory.

A key element of the partnership and trust between American and Israeli colleagues is the sharing of critical data in BOTH directions, giving histories and current donor relationships as a platform for generating new prospects and future success. “Parallel tracks” are dysfunctional and wasteful of time and resources. And as US professionals are retained on a fee for service (we emphatically discourage any Israeli NGO from retaining US professionals on commissions due to questions of ethics and professionalism), there is an ongoing investment and shared interest in creating one integrated effort built upon common purpose and coordinated activity.

Partnership is also increasingly being measured today by the level of fundraising activity in Israel. Leaders and donors in the US frequently, and legitimately, raise questions about the extent of efforts and amount of money raised in Israel.

Americans are aware and proud of Israel’s economic advancement and growth. They are eager to see those successes translate into true partnership in resource development. And there have been strides forward in Israel in this area.

Professor Hillel Schmid and Avishag Rudich note in a recent article called “The Emerging Israeli Philanthropist,” that in 2007 almost 70% of Israeli adults over the age of 20 donated to non-profits. They further contend that Israelis are becoming more accustomed to giving; that economic growth and the privatization of the Israeli economy have grown the pool of donors and influenced the Israeli public’s philanthropic style – a growing generosity with an interest in measurable organizational outcomes. Schmid and Rudich continue, stating that this has particularly engaged the business community, which provides volunteers, knowledge and funding – now comprising 5% of total philanthropy in Israel’s philanthropic pie.

We have observed this progress and initiative with the Israel based non-profits that we work with, seeing greater collaboration and philanthropic support in Israel from individuals and businesses, and a growing commitment on the part of Israeli leaders to fundraising being a growing component of a non-profit’s revenue. This expanding activity builds partnership around the fundraising agenda and has generated results, though not yet at US levels. We applaud all of the Israeli non-profits that have shown vision, initiative and results, and we encourage them to continue.

In summary, Israel based non-profits need to recognize and to be guided by the spirit of partnership as key to fundraising success in the US:

  • Strong and “integrated” volunteer AND professional fundraising leadership teams in the US and in Israel are a priority for the present and future. Only through dedicated and collaborative leadership will shared goals be determined and achieved, especially in the slowly improving US economy now governed by the “new normal.”
  • In this age of high expectations, the open sharing of information is essential. “Parallel tracks” are a recipe for waste and inefficiency and do not benefit organizations or the people whom they serve.
  • Professional and volunteer leaders in Israel and the US are encouraged to see the respective activities in the US and in Israel as one and to use the knowledge and expertise of the integrated teams to break down “conventional” lines and generate innovative thinking that will yield better results.
  • Israeli non-profits must continue to develop and grow sources and opportunities for fundraising in Israel and see that activity as part of a comprehensive effort on behalf of the organization.

We believe that those Israel based organizations that are committed to these elements will see fundraising in the US advance. For those who remain stuck to the rules and conventions of the past, progress in today’s environment will present a much bigger challenge.

Avrum D. Lapin is the Principal and Director of The EHL Consulting Group, of suburban Philadelphia, and is a frequent contributor to EHL Consulting works with dozens of nonprofits on fundraising, strategic planning, and non-profit business practices. Become a fan of The EHL Consulting Group on Facebook.