Thank You and Farewell to Giving Wisely

Giving Wisely, the first English directory of nonprofit organizations in Israel, is voluntarily closing up shop.

Launched in 2000 by Prof. Eliezer Jaffe of the School of Social Work at the Hebrew University and the Jaffe Welfare and Education Projects Fund, the goal of Giving Wisely was “to bring transparency, accountability, information and equal access to organizations in Israel’s nonprofit Sector. Most of all, it was born as an effort to encourage Israeli government Ministries (Finance, Interior and Justice) to take responsibility for providing the public in Israel and abroad with reliable website information on all registered Israeli nonprofit organizations.”

The Giving Wisely website traces it’s origins to Jaffe’s landmark book, Giving Wisely: The Israel Guide to Nonprofit and Volunteer Organizations (1982) – published at a time when there was no educational program, national data or field of research on Israel’s Third Sector. In fact, it was a non-subject in academia, and certainly not recognized as a major area for massive public involvement in civil society. The size of the sector at the time – 12,000 registered amutot (nonprofit organizations).

In 2010, many of the goals of Giving Wisely were reached with the launch of GuideStar Israel – a partnership between the Rothschild Foundation (Yad Hanadiv), JDC (Joint Distribution Committee-Israel) and the Israel Ministry of Justice which houses the Registrar of Nonprofit Associations. GuideStar Israel has a written agreement with the Israeli Ministry of Justice to provide annual information and financial reports for all registered Israeli nonprofit organizations. In addition to annual government data, additional information (self-reports) from all nonprofit organizations is actively solicited, which together constitute the organizational profiles posted on the GuideStar Israel site. The developers are committed to also posting profiles in English and Arabic for all (30,000) registered Israeli organizations.

In discussing the closure, Jaffe told eJP, “In view of the accomplishment of Giving Wisely’s original goal for the Israeli government to take responsibility for transparency and website posting of profiles of all nonprofit organizations, there is no longer a need for the Giving Wisely website.” He continued, “After 11 years of working independently and building a free, nonprofit public service model we paved the way for the GuideStar Israel website. This experience shows that individuals and citizen organizations can make a difference and promote important changes in the Israeli nonprofit and philanthropic sector.”

Much has changed in the Israeli nonprofit sector since 1982. Today, Israelis live in a society where government has pulled back drastically on social spending, often choosing to contract out to nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The issue of accountability, professional leadership, access to information and research is more relevant now than ever before. Today professional nonprofit professional leadership is a recognized area for university education, in-service training, policy and research at several Israeli academic institutions. In 1982, no-one imagined that a donor to the Hebrew University (L. Jacques Menard, of Montreal) would dedicate a Chair for the Study of Nonprofit Organizations, Volunteering and Philanthropy, and that Prof. Jaffe would be the first incumbent to that Chair.

And in 1982, no-one would have thought that almost thirty years later a group of dedicated nonprofit professionals would come together and formally establish the Israel Association of Professional Fundraisers – an umbrella organization providing professional and ethical backup to those in the field, providing counseling, education, training, certification and support.

Prof. Eliezer Jaffe, known to many as the “dean” of Israel’s nonprofit community, has been a major player in the growth and professionalization of Israel’s 3rd sector, yet there is still much for all to do. For those of us who have had the honor to learn from Jaffe, we – and the sector – are for the better. Kol HaKavod to him and all those who supported the work – including the donors, employees and volunteers – of Giving Wisely over the years.