The Establishment of a New Old Profession in Israel

by David Maeir-Epstein

“You are doing something historic and very ambitious, no less than the establishment of the Profession of Resource Development in Israel,” so opined Prof. Eliezer Jaffe in his moving summary of the day long discussions on the creation of the Israel Association of Professional Fundraisers.

Jaffe should know for he is one of those whose efforts beginning in the 1960’s led to the establishment of the Social Work profession in Israel as we know it today.

Over the past 30 years there have been sporadic efforts to convene those involved in resource development for nonprofits in Israel, but now, for the first time, a formal organization has been registered, nearly 400 people have completed the initial survey and indicated willingness to join, and 55 traveled from all over the country to take part in the initial working session held last month at the Kibbutz Seminar Center in Tel Aviv.

As one of the founders and co-chair of the committee shaping the objectives and work plan for the IAPF, I am very optimistic. There is indeed a thirst and a need for such a development. The thirst is tangible among colleagues working in several thousand nonprofits in Israel who feel the need for collegial support and guidance amidst the enormous pressures upon them to produce in a profession where the bottom line looms like an ever-present specter.

And there is a need for the nonprofits and the public to understand and trust that resource development is a profession, not a cold business, that must be approached with a set of principles based upon the highest ethical standards worthy of the dedicated efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers for the welfare, education, culture, health and human relations. We are not merely raising funds, we are building communities that strengthen Israel’s democratic and social foundations.

We face difficult issues when dealing with professional certification – what training should be minimally required for recognition? What experience should qualify in lieu of formal degrees? What ethical standards cross over all religious and ethnic traditions? What form of oversight and implementation can be instituted to ensure high professional standards?

The IAPF will play an important role in issues of employment, availability of professional resources, and identifying training needs not currently being met by the academic, nonprofit and private organizations offering continuing professional education.

A large founding national conference is being planned for early 2011. A small group of activist colleagues have taken the imitative. It is now time for the senior members of our profession, the heads of development of our major institutions and larger consulting firms and our foundation funding colleagues to step forward and invest some of their resources and pro-bono time in helping the Israel Association of Professional Fundraisers, fulfill Prof. Jaffe’s challenge and create a new profession in Israel.

I urge all resource development professionals in Israel who have not yet done so to complete the survey and join the mailing list.

The Hebrew summary of the proceedings of the working session are available.

David Maeir-Epstein is the CEO of a Jerusalem based consulting firm specializing in resource development for nonprofit organizations in Israel.