The Challenges of Fundraising in the UK

by Natan Golan

As someone who has professionally engaged with the British Jewish community for well over 25 years, I can safely say that on the issue of fundraising in the UK Jewish community, there is a mixture of good news and bad news. With a new mind-set on this key issue, most of it will be good – looking to the future.

To begin with, it’s important to clarify the current status of the UK Jewish Community. There are less than 300,000 Jews currently residing in Britain and of them around 17% (and growing) belong to any one of the many Haredi sects. The majority of the ‘traditional’ and ‘secular’ Jews live in the northern neighborhoods and suburbs of London with the second-largest community residing in Manchester. There are additional Jewish communities in Leeds, Birmingham and Glasgow that are struggling to maintain their numbers as the majority of younger members of these communities are migrating south to London or even beyond the borders of the UK, during or after their graduation from University.

Raising funds for Israel in the UK Jewish community has become far more challenging in recent memory and for the following primary reasons:

  1. The current economic climate and forecast for the future is very depressing.
  2. In the age-old Jewish tradition of “The poor in your city take come first”, a larger share of the funds raised are diverted to cope with the steady growth of poverty among segments of the community due to the economic downturn.
  3. The younger generation of UK Jews is less-inclined to give “blindly” to any and all Israel-related causes as their parents did. Unlike the previous generations, they are an age group that are asking more incisive questions about the perceived needs in Israel and given the current political and economic situation in Israel they demand more sophisticated responses to their issues in order to appreciate the value of their charitable giving to Israel.

Another factor that cannot be ignored is the dramatic increase of fund raisers from Israeli “amutot” who use London as their pit-stop en route to a fund raising expedition in the US. A friend of mine living in London confirmed this theory: “I have been swamped by more requests for money by countless Israeli charities, large and small – many of them I’d never even heard of – during these past three years, than I have in the last twenty years that I have been actively supporting Israel!” It’s a sign of the times and a new, “what do we have to lose” strategy employed by so many of the thousands of Israeli “amutot” scrambling across the globe to raise funds in order to keep their organizations afloat.

No organization has been excluded from taking a hit. Even those who represent the established “national institutions” – the UJIA, Keren Hayesod, JNF etc. so used to working closely over the decades with a steadfast group of committed donors, are now struggling to maintain their UK campaigns and are seeking new, creative ways in which to re-ignite the younger generation of donors to “return home” to the classic agencies serving Israel’s “national interests”. This is no easy undertaking, but one that I believe is very possible for a number of reasons, including one outstanding advantage:

British Jews are very traditional by nature. It’s ingrained in their communal DNA. As such, they have very deep roots of commitment to Israel than most other Jewish communities. This is a community that has always cared deeply about Israel. A high percentage of this community have family and friends living in Israel and the business of buying a second home in Herzliya, Netanya or Jerusalem is a booming trade – even during this depressing economy. Many believe that the future of the British Jewish community is entwined with its connection to the State of Israel. The hope is that the younger generation of Jews in the community will appreciate this correlation and take more steps to demonstrate this commitment through their charitable allocations to Israeli causes. There are signs that this is beginning to happen and that change is forthcoming. A number of grass-roots initiatives in the community are paving the way such as “My Israel”, a new charity that has already allocated over 1 million pounds to a variety of projects in Israel and “UK Toremet”, a new on-line donation capacity ( based on the US ‘Israel Gives’ model) to donor-designated projects in Israel, enabling smaller Israeli “amutot” to provide tax recognition for their UK donors. These, and other new initiatives, are the seeds of change that will surely turn the tide on the stalled flow of donations to Israel from the UK.

As someone who grew up in the UK Jewish community, I very much hope that the community will re-generate itself through its assortment of connections and encounters with Israeli society, so that the UK Jewish community will continue to thrive. In order to achieve this, there is a need for bold leadership in that community, coupled with a new spirit of appreciating Israel’s formidable role in the continued growth and nurturing of the UK Jewish community. Choices have to be made and decisions taken to make the paradigm shift. The sooner the better -there’s simply too much at stake. What’s certain is that everyone has everything to gain with a fresh approach ion Jewish UK-Israel relations, with very little to lose.

Natan Golan is a Senior Partner in Golan & Kaye – Leading Philanthropy in Israel and a Founder of the Israel Academy of Philanthropy (TM).