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EHL Consulting: Jewish charities should stop crying poverty

A plethora of Jewish charities that do much of their work in Israel and overseas but collect most of their money in the United States have been quite public about the financial trouble the weak dollar has put them in, using their budgetary problems as a cry for help.

(See Birthright, the Reform Movement, JAFI, JDC and more.)

But one team of philanthropy advisers says that’s exactly the wrong way to go about fund raising in this tough economic climate.

“Survival is not a selling point to donors,” said Avrum Lapin, of the EHL Consulting Group, which counts among its clients eight Israeli groups that raise funds in the U.S. “They obviously did not consult us,” he said with a smile of two of the largest Jewish organizations to use such tactics.

Lapin and Bob Evans, the principals at EHL, sat down with the Fundermentalist on Tuesday to discuss a number of issues, among them raising money for Israeli groups.

Evans, who sits on the editorial board of GivingUSA, said that despite the economy, he expects to see a 1 to 2 percent increase in philanthropic dollars in 2008, to about $330 billion.

Much of that increase will come from Warren Buffet’s starting to transfer funds into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this year – part of a five-year plan to transfer the majority of his wealth to the foundation – and the granting of most of Leona Helmsley’s estate, valued at between $5 billion and $8 billion, to charity.

While the philanthropic landscape is moving away from the long-held rule that 80 percent of all philanthropic dollars come from 20 percent of donors toward a landscape where 90 percent of dollars coming from 10 percent of donors, Evans says that the state of philanthropy is OK for now as long as the total dollars keep going up.

Philanthropy, just like the economy, needs to instill consumer confidence, he said.

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