Guest Post: Lessons from Starting, then Closing, My Non-Profit within 4 Months

" Revolving Door Exposure" by verminincChana Mason was born in Colombia and grew up in South Florida. She has a degree in Theatrical Directing and Engineering from Dartmouth College. She has worked in management consulting, high school education, and high-tech. Since moving to Israel in 2003, she has been involved in a number of Israeli non-profits.

Recently, within a matter of months, I opened and then proceeded to close a amutah [Hebrew referring to a registered charity in Israel] here in Israel.  I wanted to open up a seminary [school focusing on religious studies] and, with the advisement of experts in the field, decided it would be best for the seminary to run under its own administrative body.  Unfortunately, we did not come to this understanding until late into the process of developing the seminary, which meant that we were rushed to register the amutah, file in the tax authorities, and open a bank account.  I learned many things in this process that perhaps can help others looking to start their own non-profit organizations. Continue reading

Defining a Chevrah LeTo’elet Hatzibur [Public Benefit Company]

"Pumping It Out" by Wolfgang Schlegl“What do you mean that Israeli charities can be registered as companies?”

That was the question someone asked me last year that that had me thinking to myself, yet again, that Israeli charity legal/tax structure is a language onto itself and should require its own Ulpan.

Towards this end, I hope to clarify in this post the somewhat contradictory concept of a Chevrah LeTo’elet Hatzibur [Public Benefit Company]. Continue reading

Israeli Government Grants: The Broken Promised Land

"Behind Broken Glass" by HzopakObtaining government funding seems to be every nonprofit’s goal, at least in Israel. I have heard countless lecturers, founders, and foundation representatives preach the Darwinian virtues of incorporating government grants into an Israeli charity’s fundraising strategy; after all, the nonprofit is servicing the Israeli public. It is to the Government’s benefit – if not its outright duty – to ensure that this charity’s program continues to exist

Not bad on paper. In practice, however, these Israeli government grants can sometimes be more trouble than they are worth.

For the purpose of this post, as a banker I would like to restrict my focus on the budgetary challenges associated with these grants.  Specifically, the two disadvantages that arise because grant monies are dispersed only after expenses are incurred. Continue reading

Updated Nihul Takin Released for Testing

I was greeted by a wonderful surprise on the Zavit Shalosh website when I returned on Monday from a very nice vacation in the United States (hence the hiatus).  There, one of their main articles, related that the Rasham Ha’amutot [Israel’s Registrar of Charities] released an updated version of the Nihul Takin on the Rasham’s website.  Furthermore, the Rasham has invited all interested parties to email comments until September 30th. Continue reading

The New Jersey Scandal, Pt. 2: The Israel Fallout

Even before the dust settles in the States, Israel and her charities will already start to feel the effects from last week’s scandal.

First, we can expect that donors’ skepticism of Israeli charities will increase, which is understandable. The current proliferation of nonprofits already casts doubt on their authenticity: Israeli charity-representatives hound communities weekly; American Friend organizations exist in abundance; internet and email advertisements appear on every Jewish website broadcasting Israel’s fight for its physical and spiritual survival. In short, this scandal has cast a shadow on a situation already wrought with suspicion, doubt, and misconception.

Second, we can expect the relationship that exists between Israeli amutot [nonprofits] and money changers to come under fire. Charities need their donation-checks to clear as soon as possible. As opposed to banks, “cash houses,” or money changers, can exchange cash for checks (for a one to two percent fee) with a wait time of zero to two days. Thus, Israeli charities regularly deposit large sums of cash received from money changers into their bank accounts. Continue reading

Guidestar Arrives in Israel (and is looking for volunteers)

The website “Zavit Shalosh” [The Third Perspective] posted on their site yesterday (in Hebrew) that Guidestar has officially come to Israel.  Currently, the Guidestar site is in its pilot stage and is inviting Israeli amutot [nonprofits] to participate.

guidestar_logo

For those that are unfamiliar, Guidestar markets itself as providing “trusted nonprofit information” so interested parties can make “informed decisions” (quotes from the Guidestar site).  The Guidestar website does this by posting organizations’ financial documents.  For United States charities this means that the site posts the IRS’s 990 form — going back to about 2005 for some organizations.  (To date, Guidestar has had the financials for every organization that I have searched for.)   Started in the United States, Guidestar has been slowly entering additional international nonprofit markets. Continue reading

Defining an Israeli Nonprofit Organization

For those individuals or corporations familiar with nonprofit organizations in the United States, any analysis of the status of an Israeli charity should begin with a comparison.  This contrast will shed light on the many differences that exist in the two countries’ legislation and definition of a nonprofit organization. Continue reading