Philanthropists partnering up to match new donations to Jewish day schools in the United States, and social service and educational causes in Israel, are producing millions of new dollars in contributions for both areas.
The Jewish Funders Network (jfunders.org) (a New York-based network of Jewish family foundations, public philanthropies and individual funders) paired up with the Paris-based Sacta-Rashi Foundation to offer dollar-for-dollar matching funds for new gifts of $25,000-$50,000 to assist Israeli groups working in the areas of bridging social gaps, health care, environmental education and education for Israel-Palestinian co-existence.
Requests for matching funds were accepted by the funders network from July through October. And while the organization’s execs won’t say how many applications they received, JFN President Mark Charendoff says that the new gifts total more than $2 million, and up to another $2 million is available for the matching funds.
Decisions about which new gifts will be awarded matches won’t be final for several weeks, according to Jo-Ann Mort, JFN’s vice president for strategic communications.
Another matching grant project involving JFN, along with the Avi Chai Foundation, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) and several other philanthropists is now underway. Called Day School Match, it has its own Web site, dayschoolmatch.org, and is currently taking applications from people who are making new contributions of $25,000-$100,000 to North American Jewish day schools for just about any need but capital projects. The deadline for matching funds applications is Jan. 13. The Match coalition is providing up to $5 million in matching funds at 50 cents for each approved dollar donated by a philanthropist. Gifts have to be made by JFN members, but philanthropists who give away at least $25,000 a year to Jewish or other causes can apply for membership at the same time they apply for the day school match. Gifts that are at least five times as large as earlier donations will also be considered for matching funds, if someone has made a previous contribution to a particular day school and now wants to increase it.
Other partners in the project are the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Alan B. Slifka Foundation and Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert.
The new project builds on a day school matching grants program that Avi Chai and JFN ran with great success last year. Avi Chai board members initially pledged to match up to $1 million in new gifts to day schools but found that so many people applied that they more than tripled the pool, to $3.4 million, in dollar-for-dollar matches. The end result was $6.8 million in new donations to day schools.
"We’re in the business of growing philanthropists and growing philanthropy, and we believe that matching-grants initiatives do both," Mort said.
A new credit card was launched last week with a unique philanthropic twist: for each purchase, money is donated by the credit card issuer to the Israeli charity of the cardholder’s choice. However, the card’s promoters are refusing to disclose exactly what percentage of purchases will be donated. The Visa platinum card, called the Heritage Affinity Services Advantage Card, is being issued as an affinity card in conjunction with U.S. Bank. Two longtime friends, Menachem Landau and Zev Dobuler, came up with the idea three years ago, when both were living in Israel. Each had made aliyah with his family, and, when both were 14, they met at a youth group for new immigrant teens. Through high school and the army they stayed friends, and while both were working in Israel’s high-tech industry, helping companies there break into North American markets, they came up with this idea.
"We’ve always wanted to do something to get the American public more involved with Israel on a daily basis," said Dobuler. "Since credit cards are so heavily used it was the natural choice."
People interested in applying can go to the card’s Web site, HASAdvantage.com, for more information. Cardholders select between one and five different Israeli nonprofits to benefit from their spending. Right now the card has 13 groups signed up, including the Jewish National Fund; the Aleh Foundation, which aids disabled children; A Time, which supports infertile couples; two hospitals and Just One Life, which provides financial assistance to pregnant women considering abortion so that they continue with the pregnancy.
Boards of directors for more than two dozen other Israeli nonprofits, including museums and universities, are in the process of approving their relationship with Heritage, says Dobuler.
Although the pair declined to disclose what percentage of cardholder purchases is donated to the Israeli organizations, saying that affinity credit card industry practice prevents them from doing so, Landau said they expect the Israeli nonprofit sector to reap $100 million over the next seven years from the program.
But credit card industry analyst Lawrence Berlin, with First Analysis Securities of Chicago, says that industry practice is not only to disclose what the partners receive, but to tout it in marketing.
"It makes me wonder about this card, if they aren’t giving you information that is very basic," Berlin said.
Other credit card issuers do. MBNA, for example, is one of the country’s largest issuers of affinity credit cards and its Web site states, when a visitor looks at information about a card benefiting The Humane Society, that 50 cents is donated to the organization for each $100 spent by the cardholder.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Bank says that because they have a different amount negotiated with each recipient organization in Israel, they don’t disclose the amounts or even the range. "Each company does it differently and we just choose not to disclose the amount," said Teri Charest of U.S. Bank.
The other aspect of the new card is a rewards program enabling cardholders to exchange points earned for El Al airline tickets as well as discounts on Israeli hotel rooms and rental cars.
The friends are back in the U.S. to launch the card (both are now 27, both live in Far Rockaway, both married Americans and each has one daughter) but have opened an Israel office and hope to be back there once the company is more established.
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