The Committed to Give enterprise was founded by a group of social investors generously contributing from their personal capital towards a better Israeli society. The initiative was established to promote the culture of private philanthropy among the wealthy and improve the effectiveness of their endeavors.
The group was established by JFN Israel (Jewish Funders Network) and Sheatufim – the Israel Center for Civil Society, as a study group of active donors. After a period of collaboration, we decided to lead a long-term initiative to change the scope of private giving in Israel. The core consists of 18 founding members, all of whom are veteran and experienced philanthropists, and donate considerable sums each year on a regular and effective basis. The founders are: Shuki Ehrlich (chairman), Itsik Danziger, Ronny Douek, Amir Halevy, Meir Heth, Noam Lautman, Yael Lipman, Merav Mandelbaum, Shula Mozes, Avi Naor, Orni Petrushka, Irith Rappaport, Leon Recanati, Shira Ruderman, Yoav Schwalb, Raya Strauss, Eilon Tirosh and Yehudit Yovel Recanati.
The percentage of private philanthropy in Israel is dramatically lower in comparison to other nations. Less than 4% of financing for the ‘third sector’ is sourced from private donations of wealthy individuals. By our estimates, there are over ten thousand individuals who could donate NIS 100,000 or more a year, yet just one thousand choose to do so. The group was founded to change the culture of giving and increase the number of private donors in Israel. Members of the initiative concluded, while carrying out their own activities, that private philanthropy would bring about deep and significant impact in the space that the donor elects to function. As the state is unable to provide solutions for all the country’s social needs, it is imperative that people with means step up and take responsibility to support the society in which they live. Israeli society critically relies upon donations from Jewry world-wide instead of the state. But, with the steady decline of foreign donations, combined with the sizable increase in the number of wealthy in Israel, it is deemed essential to place the burden of philanthropy on Israelis.
We believe that significant private philanthropy can generate change. Our goal is to reinforce the culture of giving among the wealthy in Israel. To fortify the societies where charities and social ventures are involved, we set these following goals: • Increase the number of private donors • Motivate the donors to move from sporadic donations to contributions that make a difference • Promote private philanthropy as a strategic endeavor, managed by the donor and family with a long-term outlook and executing a multi-year plan to maximize effectiveness • Encourage cooperation between the individual private philanthropists, and between donors from different sectors, to leverage activities in the community.
Private philanthropy does not replace the state, rather it promotes social agendas that the public sector has difficulty dealing with. In our experience, private philanthropy sometimes serves as a catalyst to initiate social processes that later are adopted by the state. In other words, private philanthropy is similar to a start-up to accelerate social change and create social innovation.
We can testify from our experience that helping a child to achieve, a student to succeed, a patient to be rehabilitated, and in general to help our fellow man – brings a sensation of satisfaction and joy that outweighs any economic or business achievement. It feels good to do good. Many benefactors avoid the spotlight and media hubbub with their only award knowing that they engaged in something close to their heart. Most agree that they feel more on the ‘receiving’ end rather than the ‘giving’.
People of means that don’t currently contribute, or give much less than they could actually afford. We would like to encourage the donation of at least NIS 100,000 a year, to promote effective philanthropy.
We know that increasing the size of donation is a process, with everyone finding their own point on the scale. Our goal is to inspire people to move forward on this scale, and we hope to double the number of people reaching this level within a few years. If we want our donations to make a difference – NIS 100,000 is a substantial amount that should suffice any charity or project. In addition, this is the sum that the JFN organization has determined to be the threshold for significant private philanthropy and we chose to accept this criteria.
We address those who have been blessed with means: we believe that each of us has the privilege and the duty to act for social change, to influence a subject dear to their heart.
Philanthropy via a privately owned corporation (for tax purposes, etc.) in our eyes is a private donation. Company sponsored charity is immensely important, but is comprised mostly of public funds. Our position is that the stakeholders and highly paid top management level have an obligation to contribute out of their own pockets as well.
Private philanthropy reflects our personal and familial set of values, stemming from empathy and compassion. It articulates our desire to be decent caring people and to do good deeds. We believe that affluent individuals similar to ourselves and acting for the greater good, will impact the lives of many people.
Charity begins many times from emotion, from the gut, from a desire to help and donate to others. However, to really achieve meaningful change and influence, charity needs long-term planning and consistent delivery.
Effective philanthropy should be managed in a deliberate and rational manner. Will the plan achieve the desired change? Are goals being set and metrics monitored to ensure results? Defining explicit criteria and setting priorities for giving will make it easier to turn down unsolicited requests for donations.
Giving has always been a basic tenet of Judaism. Throughout history, Jews have expressed compassion and assistance to the needy, giving charity to community institutions, with this behavior normative and obvious. Despite this, in Israel the tradition of private philanthropy is near non-existent for various reasons:
• The socialist culture prevailing during the Yishuv and first years of statehood entrenched the expectation that the government was responsible for social issues
• Donations from Jewry around the globe flowed to Israel until we developed a dependency on external sources – they would pay for us to live here.
• Many believe that they do enough, that they have fulfilled their duty to the country through their army service and taxes
• Volunteerism – donation of one’s time – while well established in Israel, does not substitute for donating capital
• The multitude of charity events and fundraising drives in Israel, while providing oxygen and sustaining the various non-profits, also misleads the wealthy segment to feel that purchasing tickets is sufficient to realize their philanthropic efforts
• Although unfounded, many feel that they lack financial security, despite their considerable wealth in objective terms, and this fear keeps them from participating in philanthropic efforts
• Dearth of regulations providing tax incentives (albeit recent improvements)
• Cynicism and suspicion towards the financial elite. Despite this, some have made considerable donations, but quietly and under the radar, so they are not exposed as a member of the group.
Dame Stephanie Shirley, one of the preeminent philanthropists of Britain, tells that for years she concealed her donations and avoided speaking publicly about her philanthropy. However, recognizing that to encourage others she must speak out, she waived her privacy and revealed her activities. Similarly, we reached the conclusion that exposure was necessary to promote the concept by personal example and convince others to join the circle of giving.
We wish to inspire public discourse and bring philanthropy to the forefront of the social milieu of the Israeli financial elite. In addition, with the “third sector” being an indispensable part of the society and economy of Israel, it is vital that sources of funding remain transparent.