Imagine a world in which small nonprofits don't have to take the risk of hosting large fundraising events, where they can get exposure to new potential donors, and participate in an economy of scale. This may be an idealistic picture, but it could be real.
It is often said that the Jewish nonprofit world is very competitive. Why are we overly concerned that another organization is going to poach our donors? The Torah tells us to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). Rabbi Akiva explained that this is a major tenet in the Torah. Shouldn’t we apply this core principle to our fellow organizations?
To answer these questions, we first need to explore what motivates the nonprofit sector. Dan Pallotta, in the introduction to his book Uncharitable writes, ”It was the Puritans’ religious belief that human beings are evil, that we are obnoxious in the eyes of God, and that the self is depraved. Logically, this meant that the self had to be negated. Charity became the monument to this belief, a compensation for human depravity.”
By contrast, Judaism believes that humans are good and we possess the potential for greatness. Charity, in the Jewish tradition, is about being righteous; it is about being a steward of the gifts that God has given us. We are empowered with the choice of what to do with these gifts. Do we accumulate wealth for ourselves, or do we do righteousness with it and hopefully make the world a better place? The Jewish tradition of giving has been the source of debate and discussion throughout the ages. You don’t have to look further than Maimonides' “Eight Levels of Charity”: from the lowest level - a person who gives charity unwittingly - to the greatest level “above which there is no greater… to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others.”
These core Jewish values need to be brought into the Jewish nonprofit sector. We need to embrace collaboration and help each other become more self-sustaining. We are on the cusp of tremendous and exciting innovations in philanthropy. These new trends will change the way we look at funding our organizations.
We must embrace innovations such as “impact investment”, bringing funds from the for-profit portfolios into the the world of social good; social entrepreneurs creating models of sustainable and profitable ventures that make a difference in our communities; and finally, though it may sound like a gimmick, nonprofit IPOs that give investors shares in the good that an organization produces. If we as a community can join together and not only explore, but also help each other to test and model these exciting new tools, we will be able to change the face of the Jewish nonprofit sector for the next generation.
As a 2014 PresenTenseLA social entrepreneurial fellow, I have become focused on these and other new trends and mindsets. The goal of my venture, the NonProfit Exchange, is to encourage Jewish small nonprofits to explore these innovative funding sources and help them create and facilitate collaborative fundraising events to pool their resources and leverage their reach to raise more funds. By collaborating and working together we all become stronger.
Join me in creating a collaborative fundraising ecosystem of team players to revolutionize the way we fund Jewish nonprofits in Los Angeles and the world beyond. Take part in the conversation today by using the twitter hashtag #CollabFund.