The “New Normal” Impacts Israel-Based NPO’s: Vision, Leadership and Partnership Are Key

by Avrum D. Lapin

The number of Israel-based Non-Profit Organizations (NPO’s) seeking to ride the expected “wave” of expanded giving in the US philanthropic marketplace continues to grow. As organizations consider next steps we caution them that many of the pre-2008 rules no longer apply.

A few decades ago, the driving force behind successful Israel-based organizations was a commitment to Israel, a core belief in the mission of the organization and effective donor recognition. Donors committed to Israel tended to readily open up “rolodexes,” enabling giving to proceed by word of mouth and through personal connection.

Today, the importance of personal connection remains paramount, but the needs and expectations of lead and major donors has shifted. This is a much more competitive environment, the global economic mess notwithstanding, and requires new strategic approaches for charitable success.

Today’s emerging major donors age 35-50 are much different from their parents’ generation. They seek an inspiring, easily understood “selling proposition;” demonstrable impact of the funds on the lives of the “end users;” and a sound business plan that governs the oversight and uses of their funds, including assurances that monies will be used for intended purposes.

Further, geography today matters … but less so. The fact that the NPO is in Israel is important and retains value in the decision-making equation of the donor, but the metric by which the prospective donor measures his/her inclination to give has shifted. Over the past decade, and punctuated in the past few years, we have seen the rise of three key elements motivating major donors: VisionLeadershipPartnership.

One cannot underestimate the value of Vision to the strength of an organization’s fundraising capability. A donor today will give very little for what has already been accomplished and a relative token for what is being done today. What truly drives giving is an ambitious expression of Vision – where the organization wants to be and its path for growth and success in serving its constituents in the coming 5-10 years.

Without Vision, organizations live in an incremental world. They appeal to a limited pool of small to moderate donors who understand the value of the organization but without the possibility of connecting to a broad notion of the organization’s potential.

Looking back once again to the “good old days,” Israeli NPO’s raising funds in the US tended to rely on charismatic and engaging representatives – professionals and volunteers – who traveled to America multiple times annually, establishing personal connections and fundraising relationships with philanthropists. Leading American contributors treasured those relationships, which offered them access to interesting and important circles in Israel and a true sense of satisfaction of the connection to an important undertaking and to making a difference.

With communication and competition what they are today, successful Israeli NPO’s must move beyond only the personal connections between organizational leaders and donors – which remain critically important – and focus on sustainability. The key to competitive positioning in today’s re-emerging US philanthropic arena is the creation of a strong Leadership Team comprised of dedicated men and women committed to “leading by example:”

a. supporting the work of the Israeli NPO financially at a level of personal capacity
b. working with the organization’s professional team in the US and in Israel to achieve the fund and organizational development goals in America
c. positioning the organization’s mission and “products” among peers and others in the United States
d. interacting as colleagues, albeit with separate organizational responsibilities, with  counterparts on the Board of the Amutah (NPO) in Israel

American donors today are barraged with information 24/7. Therefore, without a lasting and capable presence in the US today, visits – including connections with even the most dynamic representatives – will be fleeting and will quickly drop among the priorities of the donor.

Last, and fundamental to fundraising success, Israel-based Non Profits must seek Partnerships, through and with US affiliates, to bolster their sustainable US presence and more effectively “message” the extent and value of their work product to current and prospective American stakeholders. For instance, that means that:

  • educational institutions, especially increasingly entrepreneurial Institutes and Colleges, must pursue opportunities for Israelis and Americas to learn together and to create linkages with similar entities in the US;
  • hospitals must communicate their areas of world class expertise and emphasize their impact beyond Israel’s borders; and
  • human and social service providers must showcase the innovations which have implications beyond the Israeli market, using them to seek out opportunities to build collaborative relationships with collegial organizations and professional peers internationally.

As we look ahead into the “new normal” that the fundraising world is experiencing, and as we are dedicated to building the capacity and effectiveness of worthy Israeli NPO’s, we contend that Vision, Leadership and Partnership will remain critically important to success going forward and must be strategically integrated into the NPO’s US charitable program.

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.