The June 26th Conference Organized by Guidestar Israel — a collaborative project of the Justice Department, Registrar of Corporations, Guidestar International, NP Tech, Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and Yad Hanadiv (a.k.a. The Rothchild Foundation) — was June’s best prediction for “The Tomorrow of Jewish Philanthropy.”
In the global nonprofit sector there is much talk of cooperation and the need to combine forces to increase efficiency and cut costs, yet this synergy is hard to find. Guidestar Israel, in contrast, is actually doing it. Local charities, international organizations, private funds and government resources have all cooperated to bring the Guidestar Israel project into fruition. (And yes, it took over six years for the parties agree and get things off the ground, but we’ll choose not to focus on that for right now.)
Like many conferences, there was the good and the less good, but for those paid attention, there was also the surprising — announcements foretelling actual progress.
THE SECTOR MUST POLICE ITSELF
Advocate Alon Bachar, Director of Israel’s Corporations Authority, which oversees the Registrar of Charities and the Registrar of Companies, was quick to declare that transparency is the foundation of Israel’s nonprofit sector. Scandals, he continued, harm the sector as a whole. Thus, he concluded – and this is where things got interesting – self interest dictates that the nonprofit sector should police itself. (It would appear from his words that he considers himself and the Government office he represents to be card-carrying members of Israel’s nonprofit sector.)
Furthermore, Bachar blames the local nonprofit sector’s lack of transparency for Israel’s lack-luster standing in philanthropy as compared to other modern countries. This is a bold statement considering other experts have pointed fingers at lax Government tax incentives as the root of the problem or Israeli charities overall lack of strategic engagement with their constituents (my personal belief, which I elaborated in a previous post, “The Real Reason Israelis Don’t Donate to Charity“).
Bachar didn’t leave much to the imagination for those that were looking to understand the criterion upon which the Registrar inspects nonprofits. Bachar stressed that organizations should pay close attention to the Nihul Takin, as it explains “our priorities and how we evaluate charities.”
INFRASTUCTURE CHANGES IN THE REGISTRAR OF CHARITIES
The part of his speech that had the most practical application was Bachar’s announcement that the Registrar of Charities is adding services to increase its own transparency. In the past, Bachar explained, Israeli charities essentially had five addresses within the Registrar of Charities — including accounting, legal, managerial and compliance — where they could address their problems, seek answers, or submit reports. Two years of analysis determined this method to be less than effective and a decision was made to revamp the entire system.
As part of the Registrar’s overhaul, multidisciplinary staffs will be created to combine the five different needs into one address. Instead of five addresses, each charity will be assigned a team that will handle any and all of their requests. Furthermore, this new type of team will allow the Registrar to further specialize its staffs by discipline — whether it be sports, education, welfare, health, environment, religious etc — to better cater to nuance, experience, and trends of the different types of causes.
In a similar vein, Bachar’s Deputy Director, Advocate Avital Shreiber, announced that charities will soon also be labeled by size. Shreiber acknowledged the difficulty of smaller organizations — many of whom function with no paid staff — to adequately file the multitude of government initiated paperwork. Much like a system that has existed in the United States for a few years, “smaller” organizations will face scaleddown reports. Shreiber added that it is even conceivable for their to be specialized reporting for the different philanthropic disciplines.
Transparency, as Bachar defines it for the Registrar of Charities, is uploading information quicker so that it can be utilized in a timelier manner. Toward this end, he said, the Registrar is turning totally digital, with every form and appeal to be handled online. He also announced that the Nihul Takin will be updated soon and would probably only be released on the internet.
USE GUIDESTAR OR ELSE…
Bachar also encouraged amutot to take advantage of Guidestar Israel and upload as much information as possible — even more than is necessary — so as to increase transparency of the organization and the sector as a whole. While some might see this recommendation of Guidestar as mere self-promotion, it should be taken much more seriously considering these two statements:
Bachar’s claim that the Registrar of Charities will be increasing cooperation with various Government agencies, specifically the Tax Authority & Anti Money Laundering Compliance, so as to decrease overlap.
This declaration was preceded by statements from Dr. Guy Rotkopf, CEO of the Justice Ministry which overseas Bachar’s Registrar of Corporations, in which he boldly claimed that Israeli charities that choose not to participate in Guidestar Israel have something to hide.
Definitely hints of trends to come.
Don’t Miss the Next & Final Post in the Series: Israel’s ONLINE Overhaul of its Nonprofit Sector (Guidestar Conference, Part 2)
Disclaimer: This blog houses my personal opinions and is for informational purposes only — not advice. As charity laws can be quite complex and ever-changing, please refer all questions to qualified and licensed professionals. Read the full disclaimer.