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Try to Make Every Donated Dollar Count

December 10, 2009 By:
Robert I. Evans and Avrum D. Lapin
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With the celebration of Chanukah -- a Jewish festival built on rededication, survival and giving -- we prepare to say goodbye to 2009. For many, it will be a relief to put the past 12 months behind us and start 2010 with a sense of renewal.

For some, this period reminds us of crashing stocks and the Bernie Madoff mess. It generates feelings of uncertainty about our future, our families, our businesses -- and our charities.

Historically, donating to charitable causes has been one of the last things to improve in a turnaround economy.

The Giving Institute and Giving USA recently published a report suggesting that "recovery" of charitable giving should happen within three or four years. However, a number of factors lead us to believe that the recovery period in the nonprofit community may be quicker.

The report shows that historically, factors that lead to greater giving include higher income per capita and higher education.

The report also suggests that secular causes have been more sophisticated than other causes in targeting prospects, research and donor recognition. At the same time, we are seeing an increased recognition by Jewish organizations that these are critical factors designed to give donors greater appreciation for vision.

For charitable organizations, like the retail sector, the fourth quarter often dictates a nonprofit's year. Many Jewish organizations are deeply dependent on the volume of gifts and income that come during these important post-Thanksgiving weeks.

With the economy still in limbo for many, what do we, as Jews, do about setting new priorities for philanthropy in the Jewish community?

Now is the time to step forward, and give thoughtfully and generously. As the economy begins to show signs of improvement, some Jewish nonprofits are struggling to regain strength. They cannot rebound without immediate infusion of dollars from within our community. Strong year-end giving will help reinvigorate Jewish organizations, and ultimately, will help sustain the vibrancy of the Jewish community.

For those who support Jewish causes, it is important to determine how to allocate the remainder of your charitable funds for 2009. We stress the importance of contributing to organizations that further the goals of the Jewish people. If we are not supportive of our own resources, who else will be?

We suggest that you identify causes you would like to see improved or expanded in 2010. Also, think about services you have found impactful and could be helpful in serving the community going forward. Most importantly, determine where the strongest needs are within the Jewish community and who most needs the help.

Make sure that you've selected organizations that are not only compelling, but transparent -- ones that have developed strategic and thoughtful plans for 2010.

Do your research using Guidestar (guidestar.org) and follow the easily accessible Fundermentalist blog at JTA (jta.org) and at eJewishphilanthropy.com. Nonprofits will be vying for your attention in this competitive arena; you should take this as a chance to explore your options and become an even smarter donor.

Gifts of all sizes this Chanukah season can make an impact on the community. As you are prioritizing your contributions, do not underestimate the positive effects your gift can have. Every charitable donation has the ability to enhance and transform Jewish life.

If ever there was a Jewish community call to action, it is now. While other causes are clearly worthwhile and important, we must respond strongly to Jewish needs. Your Jewish contributions today will ensure a stronger Jewish community in 2010 -- and beyond.

Robert Evans and Avrum Lapin are the principals of the EHL Consulting Group in Willow Grove. EHL Consulting (www.ehlconsulting.com) works with nonprofits, especially in the Jewish sector, on fundraising, strategic planning and volunteer leadership issues. 

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