Give or take: Should char­ity start at home?


IN HIS re­cent res­ig­na­tion let­ter, Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil Chair­man, Sir Mick Davis called the cur­rent com­mu­nal ar­chi­tec­ture not fit for pur­pose, with too many char­i­ties com­pet­ing for fund­ing. Sir Mick’s cri­tique is not new; many of us have been aware of the prob­lem for decades. How­ever, I had thought a key ob­jec­tive of the JLC was the devel­op­ment of a global com­mu­nal strat­egy.

At the level of in­di­vid­ual or­gan­i­sa­tions, there are some shin­ing ex­am­ples of fu­ture plan­ning al­ready un­der way, but, at the macro level — plan­ning the fu­ture of Anglo Jewry plc — noth­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to New Phi­lan­thropy Cap­i­tal, the Jewish char­ity sec­tor has a to­tal an­nual in­come of £1bn. For a com­mu­nity of just over 250,000 peo­ple, we can take great pride in this but have you ever heard of a com­pany with an an­nual in­come of a bil­lion pounds with­out a strate­gic plan for sus­tain­ing its po­si­tion?

In a lit­tle over a decade, it is es­ti­mated that more than half of Jewish chil­dren in the UK will be born to Charedi fam­i­lies. At best, the main­stream com­mu­nity will stag­nate; at worst, it will de­cline. By 2030, the rel­a­tively smaller main­stream com­mu­nity will have to sup­port a larger Jewish com­mu­nity. So Sir Mick’s clar­ion call is ap­po­site but why should any­one lis­ten now if they haven’t for decades?

Over the years, I have of­ten heard men­tion of the c-word — con­sol­i­da­tion — but there has been no will to im­ple­ment it. When the Jewish Blind So­ci­ety and the Jewish Wel­fare Board merged to cre­ate Jewish Care 25 years ago, Nor­wood Child­care (as it was then known) was in­vited to join but Nor­wood’s lay lead­ers de­clined. This kind of ret­i­cence is of­ten eu­phemisti­cally re­ferred to as “vested in­ter­ests” get­ting in the way. Surely the only vested in­ter­est should be sup­port for those whom th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions were set up to pro­vide?

Sev­eral forces now make the move to con­sol­i­da­tion more likely than ever. First, those char­i­ties en­gaged in so­cial care are se­ri­ously chal­lenged by the re­duc­tions in statu­tory fund­ing. The need for their ser­vices is ris­ing just as the tra­di­tional pro­vi­sion of pub­lic fund­ing is de­clin­ing. This forces us to re­view our pri­or­i­ties for com­mu­nal fund­ing and calls for more fundrais­ing where it is most needed: so­cial care.

Sec­ond, a new gen­er­a­tion of donors wants to see more ef­fi­ciency in the or­gan­i­sa­tions that ben­e­fit from their

No busi­ness would op­er­ate with no strat­egy

char­i­ta­ble sup­port. For decades, our com­mu­nity has en­joyed the ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eros­ity of a small group of fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als who have pro­vided most of the funds needed by the char­i­ties. This is known as the 90:10 prin­ci­ple; 10 per cent of the donors have pro­vided 90 per cent of the money needed, though in some cases it is even more pro­nounced at 95:5. Most of this has been based on peer-to-peer net­work­ing: “I’m giv­ing to your cause, so you’re giv­ing to mine”.

For today’s gen­er­a­tion of donors, though, phi­lan­thropy op­er­ates on very dif­fer­ent terms. The lan­guage has changed to one of so­cial in­vest­ment and the mea­sure­ment of im­pact. It’s not sur­pris­ing, be­cause the real money today sits largely with those who work in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor. Th­ese donors also take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to the en­gage­ment with char­i­ties. They have no time for com­mit­tees, are dis­in­clined to net­work their peers, pre­fer­ring to write one big cheque, and re­ally don’t want to go to fifty char­ity din­ners but would rather have a per­sonal pre­sen­ta­tion once a year. In ad­di­tion, many of today’s Jewish donors are giv­ing be­yond the com­mu­nity, so the com­pe­ti­tion for their sup­port is even greater.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the vi­a­bil­ity of our com­mu­nal struc­ture is chal­lenged by two more fac­tors. First, the con­ti­nu­ity story is far from over. Great sums have been in­vested in the devel­op­ment of Jewish sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in the be­lief that

this will se­cure the fu­ture in­volve­ment of our chil­dren but it is by no means a guar­an­tee.

The in­flu­ences and op­por­tu­ni­ties that our teenagers ex­pe­ri­ence today are rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from those en­joyed in the past. With the ar­rival of the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia, the youth move­ments of our child­hood are se­ri­ously com­pro­mised.

In­deed, the Jewish world is way be­hind the dig­i­tal curve. We sim­ply can’t as­sume that a place at day school, punc­tu­ated by the high­lights of bar/bat­mitzah pro­grammes, sum­mer tour and — if we’re lucky — a gap year will do the job.

Time on cam­pus has al­ways been im­por­tant but it is now of fun­da­men­tal sig­nif­i­cance. Lose them at univer­sity and it will be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to re­con­nect with them later.

We need a ma­jor fo­cus on pre­vent­ing dis­en­gage­ment be­cause a lack of in­volve­ment in Jewish life and its in­sti­tu­tions will be a di­rect chal­lenge to fu­ture fund­ing. A much broader and ex­per­i­men­tal menu than cur­rently on of­fer is needed, all the way from the age of 12 to prob­a­bly 32.

Nat­u­rally, this greater range of reg­u­lar Jewish fixes and highs will re­quire far more in­vest­ment, which brings me to the sec­ond fac­tor: our re­la­tion­ship with Is­rael.

Dur­ing a trade mis­sion to China last month, Is­rael’s Econ­omy and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Eli Co­hen spoke of his coun­try’s am­bi­tion to be­come the 15th largest econ­omy by 2025. In less than 80 years, the pioneer na­tion will have be­come a great eco­nomic power but we still be­lieve Is­rael needs our char­ity.

I’m not sug­gest­ing that there aren’t many so­cial is­sues in Is­rael that need char­i­ta­ble fund­ing but should this nec­es­sar­ily con­tinue to come from our com­mu­nity? Are we will­ing to raise our game to the level re­quired? In my re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence, the an­swer is a re­sound­ing “no”. In­deed, among a younger gen­er­a­tion of donors who see Is­rael in a dif­fer­ent light to their par­ents and grand­par­ents, their fo­cus is on se­cur­ing the fu­ture for their chil­dren here in the UK. We need to con­nect with this if we are to sus­tain their fi­nan­cial sup­port and in turn, their chil­dren’s fu­ture in­volve­ment in our com­mu­nity.

So, this is the mo­ment to be­gin the in­tel­li­gent de­bate on how to con­sol­i­date our com­mu­nal struc­ture. Note that I’ve avoided us­ing the f-word —fed­er­a­tion — be­cause I am not con­vinced the North Amer­i­can com­mu­nal fundrais­ing model would work here. But regardless of the endgame, calm plan­ning must be­gin now if we are to avoid a pan­icked response later.

Lionel Salama is co-founder of HOPE, a brand con­sul­tancy for or­gan­i­sa­tions which make a so­cial im­pact


Our char­i­ties fund so­cial care, Is­rael and ed­u­ca­tion

Sir Mick Davis: too many char­i­ties

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