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Charendoff calls for change in philanthropic giving

Speaking at a lunch meeting Monday at his organization’s annual conference, the president of the Jewish Funders Network, Mark Charendoff, called for a change in the way the community gives money.

Charendoff, adressing about 220 members of the organization — all of whom give at least $25,000 per year to Jewish philanthropy — said that in response to the economic downturn and a tightening of philanthropic dollars, the funding community should focus its spending on three categories.

One third of philanthropic dollars should be spent on Jewish literacy projects, one third on projects that advance Jewish peoplehood, and one third on Jewish service, he said.

“Ignorance of Jewish text and tradition is just not an option,” Charendoff said, later explaining that fighting anti-Semitism, investing in Israel’s growing nonprofit world and fighting anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses should all be included within spending on peoplehood.

According to studies, foundations have lost on average 30 percent of their money during the recession and family foundations could end up cutting their grants by up to 60 percent, Charendoff said.

The philanthropic community should also spend a larger portion of its dollars on the operating expenses and general budgets of the nonprofits they fund.

“If nonprofits are going to weather the storm,” he said, “We have to get out of the way and let them work.”

He also called for more cooperation and collaboration among funders and said that funders should reward “the good behavior” of organizations that are fiscally responsible.

And, he said, with a dearth of money to go around, “cash is not the only and best way to give help,” and that philanthropists could become more involved in a hands-on-way in organizations.

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