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Misha Galperin gets down to business

Nobody likes to be late to the party, but Misha Galperin, the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s fundraising arm in the United States, concedes his organization earned that distinction when it comes to collecting direct donations.

That’s because for decades JAFI’s entire operating budget came from the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod and United Jewish Appeal. But when the federations made clear two years ago that they were going to end their exclusive arrangement, by which JAFI and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee received all the federations’ overseas funding along a 75/25 percent split, JAFI knew it had to get its own fundraising operation going — fast.

So JAFI created a development arm, hired Galperin as president and CEO of the newly created Jewish Agency International Development (JAID) at a reported salary of a $478,000, and began direct fundraising.

How are they doing so far?

Better than expected, Galperin told me in an interview in his New York office on Tuesday. Last year, he said, JAID raised more than $59 million, a 58 percent increase from the 2011, when it collected $33 million

"I expect to continue to grow," Galperin said. "I don’t know if we can replicate a 58 percent growth from this year to the next year, but I expect double-digit growth."

Things get a bit tricky when it comes to JAID’s target market for fundraising. Because its parent organization still gets a hefty sum from the Jewish Federations of North America every year — about $100 million — it doesn’t want to go after federation donors.

"If anybody says to me in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Washington that I am giving to the federations but I will take a piece of that gift and give it to you, I explicitly say I won’t take it," Galperin said.

However, Galperin said, federation donors are theoretically fair game if they come from cities that don’t give into the federations’ overseas pot that funds JAFI.

Galperin said JAID hasn’t gone after such donors yet, but it might.

"There are a lot of communities where that’s the case," he said, citing Boston as an example.

To entice donors, JAFI — an 84-year-old group whose raison d’etre used to be all about immigration to Israel — is touting programs they hope will resonate with American donors. Among them are the 10-month Masa Israel program; Onward Israel, which places young American Jewish interns at Israeli companies for a couple of months at a time; and bringing the last Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. 

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