Adapting to the recession: Yemin Orde

Yemin Orde, the 70-acre youth village in Israel founded 56 years ago to house orphans of the Holocaust, faces the same problems that most Israeli nonprofits are up against these days: Even before the recession went full blown last fall, the shortage of U.S. donations for overseas and Israeli organizations had become a pressing issue.

The first warning signs that we had that things were going to turn sour came in November 2007, when the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and others like the American Jewish World Service started facing overseas budget deficits as the dollar began to fall against foreign currencies, devaluing the money that these organizations had already collected and leaving them with huge budget gaps.

This situation has become only harder since then, as U.S. pockets here have become lighter and domestic needs are starting to outstrip foreign needs in the eyes of many donors. As far back as last summer, The Jerusalem Post was reporting that the recession had cost Israeli organizations more than $100 million.

But for Chaim Peri, the executive director of Yemin Orde, now a youth village for multitudes of Israeli orphans from all over the world, the fund-raising effort simply cannot stop. The key, says Peri, who recently returned to Israel from a six-week fund-raising mission in the United States, is sticking to your mission and continuing to tell your story to those who you know care and can support you.

“I enjoy very long relations with friends who believe in our endeavors and our mission,” Peri told The Fundermentalist in a recent phone conversation. “We rely on their partnerships.”

Yemin Orde’s main campus has more than 500 youth residents now, and it is up to him to convince donors that despite their own financial woes, their support is still very much needed by Israeli children.

“These children are already orphans,” he said. “They cannot end up in welfare institutions in Israel.”

During his trip to the United States, Peri met primarily with benefactors who were longtime supporters of Yemin Orde. Not surprisingly, he said, he found that as long as those he met with were still financially capable, they they offered their support.

“Even though there is a new [economic] climate, it does not change things," he said. "I still feel people are still committed and share the same sense of love for the organization."

But he also realized that he had to show donors that he was being financially responsible.

“I understand there are less resources,” he said. “We are cutting every edge that we could do without.”

The youth village has cut its enrichment activities, suspended one-on-one music training, cut salaries between 5 and 10 percent and reduced the budget by 10 percent, he said.

Peri said he was still able to garner support, including a significant matching grant from the Bernie Marcus Foundation.

“We found that people, if they dint get hurt with Madoff, would dig deeper into their pockets. Some could and some did not. Others told me, ‘We have to rearrange our priorities, but we will do what we can do,’” he said. “We have to work harder for that. In terms of the American support and British support, we have to show that we are trimming everything we can.”

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