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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Dr. Benji Levy

Coronavirus Provides Philanthropists With the Chance to Give More

Updated: Apr 4, 2021

Written by Benji Levy and Michael Bloch

Israel has one of the highest numbers of nonprofits per capita in the world, active in every sphere of society. However, the landscape in this sector has changed dramatically in recent times. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a multitude of social and economic challenges, created new ones and left the future feeling more uncertain for so many.

Just one year ago, Leket, an Israeli food collection and redistribution organization, fed 175,000 Israelis per week. Since the onset of the pandemic, that number has skyrocketed to 246,000 people per week, with thousands who have never stood in line to receive handouts forced to turn to soup kitchens in order to feed their families. Latet, another important organization, has seen a similar surge in demand in line with its recent Alternative Poverty Report, which revealed that 268,000 more households in Israel are now living beneath the poverty line than before the onset of COVID. The pressure to deliver on these essentials is acute, highlighting the need for them to rethink and rescale their strategy and operations accordingly.

Many philanthropists are particularly conscious of these shifts and have stepped up to help, with donations increasing dramatically, with many even coming unsolicited. However, the philanthropic world has also experienced fundamental permutations in recent years. One of these is the growing focus on transparency and agency. Now more than ever, donors are keen to understand exactly where their dollars are going on a granular level and ensure that their donations are making what they perceive as a real impact on the causes they care deeply about.

While philanthropists want to give and organizations want to strive, it is the business world that by and large generates the most efficient and effective processes for maximum gains. This got us thinking: How can we ensure that philanthropic investments can help scale up nonprofits to increase their impact and social return in the same way that financial investments do? After using our expertise to advise philanthropists and nonprofits, we saw this opportunity first-hand and realized that there was a great need to build bridges to allow both sides to learn from one another. It was in the context of these pressing challenges and potential development opportunities that we founded Israel Impact Partners.

One of us began in Europe and brings over two decades of experience working at McKinsey & Company (one of the top global management consulting firms), advising senior executives and boards of large corporations. The other came from Australia with experience of leading large Jewish organizations, such as Moriah College (one of the largest Jewish schools in the world) and Mosaic United (a historic partnership between the State of Israel and global philanthropists), and we converged in Israel. Our complementary experience allows us to help link these worlds, partnering with leaders and bold thinkers to optimize and grow the initiatives that matter most to them. There is no reason in our minds why more nonprofits shouldn’t develop best-practice approaches to strategy, growth, financial models, business processes, fundraising, social media and the many other needs of any great organization today.

Israel’s nonprofit sector has much to gain from looking at the example of how hi-tech start-ups that began with a big idea but little means, succeeded in growing into international powerhouses in their respective fields. We believe that with the support of philanthropists, many more of Israel’s nonprofits can continue to improve, reaching their potential and enabling Israel to develop a leading model of social innovation for the rest of the world.

It is no secret that successful businesses make considerable investments in the strategies and people required to produce their profit margins, revenues and client satisfaction that differentiate between success and failure. Applying this mindset to the partnership between philanthropists and nonprofits is instrumental in breeding the same success. The stakes, however, are arguably higher. The gap between success and failure goes beyond the balance sheet. It can mean the difference between a family having food on the table or not, a young couple taking or losing control of their financial destiny, and a disadvantaged child getting or missing out on a world-class education. Israel Impact Partners is working to build bridges and forge a new path to allow more donors and lay leaders the opportunity to support a stronger and more sustainable society for Israel and beyond.

Rabbi Dr. Benji Levy was the previous CEO of Mosaic United. Michael Bloch is a former senior partner at McKinsey & Company. Together they founded Israel Impact Partners:

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