Should Charities Have National Emergency Campaigns?

The major Jewish/Israeli organizations regularly initiate and participate in fundraising campaigns when there are high-profile events, often tragic and/or dramatic, in Israel, such as Wars, terror and other crises (which we should not know of). These include campaigns by UJA, The Joint, KKL, and numerous other highly respectable and respected NGOs.

Literally hundred of millions of dollars of donations are raised in these often intense and emotive campaigns. With national emergencies (unfortunately) hitting Israel approximately every two years, these fundraisers have almost become part of the fundraising calendar.

A posting by member of the Fundraisers Forum in Israel asks his fellow fundraising professionals about the ethics of fundraising from tragic circumstance: "The major issue is how much mileage can we make out of others tragedy?" 

I think it is legitimate for organizations who supply services which are particularly in demand during such national emergency events, such as MDA, Hatzola, hospitals, IDF & Home Front supporting orgs, trauma treatment centers, etc to actively bring this to public attention.

It is morally debatable if such organizations should use these occasions to raise "emergency funds" which are actually intended to fund activities which are not directly related to the said events. Such as a new cancer unit in a hospital. Or routine budgetary costs for MDA. Here the issue is to what extent the donors are designating their donation to specifically help with the war effort - and so are being deceived by the "emergency" campaign.

In addition, there are organizations which have been directly impacted by a tragic event, such as a terror attack against a specific student at a yeshiva, but where there is no specific financial impact on the institution. There is a huge amount of awareness and sympathy for the organization - which can be translated into increased financial support.

I believe there are tasteful way for such an institution which has been struck by tragedy to benefit, such as establishing a library or appropriate program in memory or in honor of the victim/s, or naming a new wing of a building, etc. Obviously, these campaigns should not cross the line into exploiting or capitalising on the tragedy in a distasteful manner. This is an issue of balance and common sense.

Then there are causes which are unrelated to the national event. Such as an organization which specifically launches a war effort campaign, where the funds are not actually being used for any activities related to the war. ("There is a war in Israel, so please fund our new synagogue"). In my books, this would be deceptive and distasteful (and potentially fraudulent). Definitely in the "never, never" category.


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