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Jewish National Fund´s donation page. (JNF)

Jewish National Fund´s donation page. (JNF)

NEW YORK, July 14 (JTA) — The dot-com industry´s death is grossly exaggerated. At least, that´s what two sectors of the Jewish philanthropic world are praying for. The Jewish Funders Network, an umbrella group of Jewish Family foundations, recently launched I-Fund, a kind of Web matchmaker for Jewish foundations and grant seekers. Meanwhile, the Jewish National Fund is mining for Internet gold with new online features expected to raise $1 million by year´s end. Three years after the Internet bubble popped, it seems many non-profits are finding that waiting out the Web´s early buzz is becoming profitable. "That sort of slow and steady approach seemed to pay off," says Stacy Palmer, editor in chief of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The Jewish Funders Network, which represents the burgeoning foundation sector of the Jewish philanthropic world, hopes I-Fund will help foundations sort through the thicket of grant proposals to find a project they want to support. With more than 8,000 Jewish family foundations in the United States, most of which lack professional staffs to sort through grant requests, finding a project that matches their mission "is next to impossible," JFN President Mark Charendoff said. Initially, I-Fund is posting requests for $1,000 or less for Jewish educational venues such as summer camps, day schools and Jewish community centers. "We´re just putting the ideas out there and letting the marketplace decide," Charendoff says. Already, I-Fund has connected four foundations and grant seekers. In one case, a $900 grant from a New Orleans funder will allow visiting Maccabi Games athletes to produce Judaica at a Tenafly, N.J. Jewish community center. That may not match the visibility of a multi-million-dollar project such as birthright israel, which sends young Jews to Israel for free, but "that´s not what Jewish education looks like" generally, Charendoff said. Should I-Fund succeed, the Web site could expand into other areas, such as social justice projects or women´s issues, he added. Dealing with far higher stakes is the JNF, the century-old philanthropy famous for Israeli forestation and water projects. The JNF has revamped its Web site, adding new functionality and robust new content, including an online store. The site, which raised $325,000 online in the 2001 calendar year — out of JNF´s total of $29 million raised in fiscal 2001 — ranked first among Jewish charities for online fund-raising in a June 2002 Chronicle of Philanthropy study. This year the philanthropy journal ranked 135 charities, including a handful of Jewish non-profits. The study found that only 12 percent of those surveyed raised 1 percent or more of their total revenue via the Web in 2002. Among them was JNF, which raised $31 million in total last fiscal year, including $663,000 online in calendar year 2002, a 104 percent online jump. The 124 charities that provided figures for the past two years showed that online fund-raising shot up to $123 million in 2002, from only $41 million a year earlier. The other Jewish charities in the Chronicle list were, in descending order: the Jewish Federation/Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, which raised $605,598 in 2002; the United Jewish Communities, $511,000; UJA-Federation of New York, $207,902; and the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, $13,435. Ken Markus, manager of Internet Business Technology at AOL-Time Warner and Internet chairman of JNF´s marketing committee, says the revamped site merged the organization´s online and off-line databases, allowing JNF to target specific donors with personalized newsletters in 22 regions and to more closely track donations. The site is averaging 56,000 hits a day since it launched in early February. It raised $450,000 in the first five months of the year, or between $3,000 and $4,000 daily, he added. That means the site is on track to raise $1 million by year´s end, out of an expected total of some $33 million, Markus said. That kind of online fund-raising as a percentage of overall donations "is quite good" compared to other charities, considering that only 12 of 135 charities raised more than 12 percent online last year, said Chronicle of Philanthropy reporter Nicole Wallace, who reported on this year´s online survey. However, the Jewish Funders Network´s Charendoff doubts that virtual philanthropy will ever fully replace the real kind, which he said is "relationship- driven." Still, I-Fund follows other models of Web community, such as the jobs site Monster.com and specialized dating sites such as Jdate.com. "I-Fund may not become the Monster.com of Jewish philanthropy, but it´s taking a strong, enduring area of the Web and using it," he said.I-Fund can be accessed at www.jfunders.org/ifund. JNF can be accessed at www.jnf.org.

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