April 28, 2009

Jewish Donors Urged To Aid Small Charities

As the recession and the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff force donors to Jewish causes to cut back their giving, they should support small, innovative charities that have been established in recent years, argue two grant makers.

On The Fundermentalist blog, Felicia Herman, executive director of the Natan Fund, in New York, and Dana Raucher, executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, in New York, write, “We’ve been hearing calls for greater consolidation and a return to the more centralized infrastructure of yesteryear. Drawing upon our experience in two foundations that have prioritized innovation in their grant making, we respectfully disagree with this view.”

A recent editorial in The Jerusalem Post, for example, called on Jewish donors to give priority to supporting efforts that help many people and suggested that the number of Jewish charities needed to be winnowed.

Natan and Bronfman, which paid for a recent study of Jewish groups that were started in the last decade, said such organizations play a key role in society.

“Far from being a fringe phenomenon for outliers, these organizations engage and integrate populations that existing Jewish organizations have struggled to reach as well as people who are highly connected to traditional Jewish communal life,” the foundation leaders write on the blog.

The final report on the study will be released this week. Read The Chronicle’s article about the initial findings.

What do you think? During the downturn should Jewish donors seek to support these new grass-roots organizations or focus their giving on more venerable efforts?