The Limits of Philanthropy

As a follow-up to the post we had on Sunday, Gaydamak Backtracks on Philanthropy, Haaretz has published this particularly insightful article:

“The story with Gaydamak illustrates the limits of philanthropy,” says Prof. Benjamin Gidron, director of the Israeli Center for Third Sector Research (ICTR) at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “It also shows why it is forbidden to rely on philanthropy for underlying projects in the areas of education, health, welfare and social affairs. There is a consensus that when it comes to anything relating to core issues, the responsibility for outlining policy, financing and supervising such projects is the government’s.”

“No one defines what are the core services that a government should provide,” says Galit Sagi, executive director of the volunteer division at Elka, a partnership between the Joint Distribution Committee-Israel and the government, which trains managers to work in the public sector and in the third sector. “There’s a lot of ambivalence with regard to the sector and to the philanthropy. The government wants to encourage philanthropy, but is afraid that the people with the money will want to set the policy priorities.”

“But we are lagging behind in data, legislation and addressing the sector and philanthropy because of the sense that we got into this against our will,” says Sagi. “Unlike the United States, where people are proud of the strong civil society in organizations and in donating to organizations, here there is an apology for setting up an organization and thereby freeing the government from social responsibility. We still haven’t decided where we want to be.”

Read more from today’s Haaretz, A handout for the handers out.