July 7, 2005

Donors raise up to $4m. for Israel

By URIEL HEILMAN
NEW YORK

A French Jewish charity and an American Jewish consulting outfit are teaming up to raise up to $4 million for Israeli non-profit organizations.

The Sacta-Rashi Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network launched a new matching grants program this week designed to encourage gifts to Israel by Americans who have never before made donations to Israeli causes. Under the program, first-time donors making gifts of between $25,000 to $50,000 to causes in Israel will have their dollars doubled by the France-based Sacta-Rashi Foundation. The foundation has set aside $2 million for the program.

"The objective of the foundation has always been to attract as much funding to Israel as possible, not only by doing it ourselves but by bringing in other partners," Hubert Leven, chairman of the board of the Sacta-Rashi Foundation, told the Jerusalem Post by telephone from France.

"We're mainly interested in motivating them by matching these grants to show them the way to Israel," said Leven, whose family fortune comes in large part from the Perrier bottled-water company, which it owned for about half a century. "Hopefully, once they've done this first step they'll take further steps in Israel."

The idea for the program emerged out of discussions with the New York-based Jewish Funders Network, which launched a similar program last fall for gifts to Jewish education. That initiative, sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation, was so successful that it shot past its $1 million, one-year goal in the first few weeks of the program, reaching $3.5 million in its first two months and yielding $7 million in matching funds.

"The demand that we unearthed was far greater than either of us had anticipated," said Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, the nonprofit consulting outfit for Jewish charities that helped run the program with Avi Chai.

Charendoff said both the Avi Chai and Sacta-Rashi matching-grants programs are aimed at a younger generation of philanthropists for whom Jewish gifts are not necessarily a high priority. Studies show that giving to Jewish causes declines as one moves down the age spectrum of Jewish philanthropists from older to younger, suggesting that Jewish causes have not stoked the interest or passion of the younger generation of Jewish philanthropists. This program aims to introduce them to causes they might not otherwise consider by offering to double their first-time donations, hopefully opening the door for further giving to Israeli causes.

"This lack of money flowing to more traditional Jewish causes, especially among younger philanthropists, is a serious problem," Charendoff said. "If even a fraction of these people continue giving at this level or at a higher level, the actual dollar impact over the long term of these givers will, I think, dwarf the millions that we've already raised or generated."

Israeli organizations involved in bridging social gaps, health care, environmental education, and coexistence programs are all eligible under this new initiative.

Though these are not the types of projects typically funded by Sacta-Rashi, which focuses on education and is one of the biggest foundation givers to Israel, foundation officials said they took this unusual step to reach out to a broader base of donors.

"We wanted to attract donors that normally would not be funding in Israel," said David Gappell, vice president of social and health affairs at the Sacta-Rashi Foundation. "We basically accepted the argument of the Jewish Funders Network that we had to make this attractive to different donors, to younger donors."

Donors interested in applying for matching funds can do so online.

"The best way of leveraging your dollars is to inspire others to give to the causes you're passionate about," Charendoff said. "Hopefully, we're creating a new generation of philanthropists who are interested in Israel."