After seeing the value of its endowment plunge in the economic downturn and losing $90 million entrusted to disgraced Wall Street money manager Bernard Madoff, Hadassah is turning to its donors for help.
“We want to continue to cultivate the million-dollar donors, but the grassroots supporters will get us through this,” said Nancy Falchuk, Hadassah’s national president, in an interview on Monday.
The organization, with more than 270,000 American members, mounted a 100-day campaign to raise money from 100,000 individuals and Falchuk said that halfway through the drive the group has raised at least $2.7 million through the Internet and phone calls. She said that figure does not include money raised by chapters, or money raised in Israel or other countries. In addition, she said two donors contributed a total of $6 million.
Despite this campaign, Falchuk, a 64-year-old nurse by profession with four decades of volunteer service to Hadassah, said the organization has had to reduce the amount of money it is sending to Israel this year. It had been sending an average of $91 million in each of the last five years.
Now, instead of contributing $40 million for Hadassah Hospital’s operating budget, it will donate about $20 million. Last year’s $6 million to Hadassah’s college in Jerusalem will be reduced to $4.5 million, and the $2 million allocation sent to its youth aliyah villages in 2008 will be halved. Additional money will be sent for special projects.
Hadassah is continuing to raise $318 million for a 14-story state-of-the-art hospital building to replace the current medical center in Ein Kerem that opened in 1961.
“It has a 105 percent occupancy rate and five in a room,” Falchuk said, adding that the new medical center, the largest building project in Jerusalem, will have two in a room and some private rooms.
Falchuk said that when she was elected president two years ago, she embarked on a restructuring project that involved, in part, eliminating programs that were not part of Hadassah’s core mission. Outside consultants were also brought in to help the organization cut expenses. The plan was to make changes over an 18 to 24 month period, but the economic crisis forced Hadassah to achieve its goals immediately. That included cutting 80 of its 320 staff positions, many of them held by administrative assistants working with the organization’s highly motivated volunteers.
Falchuk insisted that despite the cuts, “we protected the core mission.”
Regarding Madoff, who was to plead guilty on Thursday and face a likely life sentence, Hadassah previously acknowledged that it had invested $40 million with him beginning in 1988, and over 20 years received an additional $180 million. It reinvested $50 million of that and spent the other $130 million on its projects in Israel.