Plan in the works to help nonprofits hurt by Madoff

NEW YORK (JTA) – The Jewish Funders Network is developing a comprehensive plan to help nonprofits hit hard by Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme that includes bridge funding.

JFN President Mark Charendoff told JTA of the plan after convening a meeting Tuesday in New York of 35 of the country’s largest Jewish foundations. By its estimates the JFN, which has some 900 members who are major funders of Jewish causes, counts some $2.5 billion in philanthropic funds as erased by Madoff’s scam, Charendoff told JTA’s philanthropy blog, the Fundermentalist.

The meeting started with an address by a professional from the Chais Family Foundation, a $170 million philanthropy that was forced to close after losing its assets through Madoff.

“On the one hand the meeting was very painful, and on the other hand there was a lot of anger in the room,” Charendoff said. “There are people who dedicated their lives to Jewish philanthropy, and this guy [Madoff] is posing as a Jewish philanthropist to gain access to individuals with money and to not-for-profits to exploit them.”

According to Charendoff, the foundations represented at the meeting came to a consensus to take action. They will create an information hub to include the financial commitments to nonprofits made by foundations that were hit by Madoff that can no longer meet their obligations, as well as a list of nonprofits that are in danger of closing and others that identify as candidates for merger.

The foundations involved with JFN will create a pro-bono human resources bank through which foundations and nonprofits can share costs for legal resources, accounting, grant writing and development needs. The foundations also decided to create a mechanism to create bridge financing for organizations directly hit by Madoff. That mechanism would provide a vehicle for emergency loans from philanthropists to nonprofits in trouble. The JFN has pledges for “millions” of dollars in loans, Charendoff said.

The group also has reached out to a handful of executives at Jewish federations to see how the private philanthropists can work with the federation system to help in the wake of Madoff’s damage.
 

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