Jewish charities forced to find ‘creative’ ways to fundraise as crisis worsens
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Jewish charities forced to find ‘creative’ ways to fundraise as crisis worsens

Global pandemic could cripple donations and fundraising activities, multiple charities warn

A pedestrian in London wears a protective face mask
A pedestrian in London wears a protective face mask

Jewish charities may be forced to find “creative and virtual ways” to raise donations as the coronavirus outbreak worsens. 

The global pandemic threatens to hit donors and fundraising activity, multiple charities told Jewish News this week.

As countries step up restrictions to halt the spread of the virus, the prime minister urged the public on Monday to avoid non-essential contact and travel, with the death toll reaching 55 in the UK.

The Community Security Trust cancelled its main fundraising event last week  – a highlight of the community’s calendar and “significant” source of income.

The CST, which protects Jewish schools and shuls, appealed for donations in an email to the guest list within days of the cancellation. “We will follow this up as necessary in the weeks and months ahead, but are even more grateful than usual for any donations received at this time,” said the CST director of communications Mark Gardner.

Sir Gerald Ronson speaking at the 2018 CST dinner

Learning disability charity Kisharon cancelled its main fundraising dinner scheduled in May.

“With the current lack of certainty over both statutory and voluntary funding in this unprecedented period, Kisharon faces the daunting prospect of raising in excess of the  £2.3 to £2.4 million normally needed annually from the community,” said its director of fundraising Hilary Newmark.

“These much needed funds are required for education, employment and supported housing programmes,” she said. “All of us now must be as creative and ingenious as those on the front line who support the most complex of learning disability needs, support which is now very much on the line.”

“This pandemic could not come at a more challenging time,” she said.  “It isn’t just the annual dinner which is affected.  A major proportion of event income for many charities, including ours, comes through the spring and early summer period.”

But she added: “Kisharon supporters have already responded without prompting. Earlier today, one donor spontaneously doubled his patronage.  This year will define who and what we are as a community, and I remain convinced we can all rise to what is the ultimate of fundraising challenges”. 

Maccabi GB postponed a fundraising breakfast with the former MP Lord Mann, but has made no final decisions on upcoming events scheduled for the summer, said the charity’s chairman David Pinnick.

Thousands of runners take part in the 2018 international Jerusalem Marathon on March 9, 2018. Photo by: JINIPIX

The London Marathon, which was postponed until 4 October, could present challenges for some Jewish charities.

Camp Simcha was expecting to raise an estimated £50,000 across the postponed marathons in Jerusalem and London as well as other sponsored runs in the coming weeks. “We have many people due to take part in other sponsored challenges over the next few months and if these get cancelled, we will lose out on significant income for our important work,” warned the charity’s chief executive Neville Goldschneider.

Like other charities, Camp Simcha, which supports Jewish families affected by serious childhood illness, will have to “think of creative and virtual ways” to fundraise despite social distancing measures, Goldschneider said.

Meanwhile, Jewish Blind and Disabled’s chief executive Lisa Wimborne said its fundraising could be “hugely impacted” by the outbreak and its long term effects on the economy.

The charity is to launch an appeal on Tuesday for donations ahead of Pesach after purchasing a development this week with plans to turn it into 30 mobility apartments.

The charity executive said her team had been working on the project for “the best part of a year”.

“This is clearly not the best of times to be launching a capital fundraising project alongside our annual revenue fundraising requirements but somehow we will work through the challenges ahead with the confidence that our valued supporters will do all they can to continue to support us,” she said.

“Whilst we can’t stop planning for the future, our current focus is on in ensuring we do all we can to support our 360 tenants across our seven developments during these difficult days and months ahead,” she added.

Workers wearing protective suits disinfect a bus as a preventive measure amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, in Tel Aviv on March 9, 2020. Photo by: Tomer Neuberg-JINIPIX

In Manchester, the city’s leading Jewish social care charity warned any dip in donations would affect the elderly, victims of abuse or those with mental illness. Raphi Bloom, director of fundraising and marketing at the fully voluntary-funded Federation of Jewish Services, called on the government to extend relief for charities such as scrapping VAT.

“Because of the nature of the work that we do with the most needy and vulnerable, it’s even more worrying for us because we have to continue providing our services because people could die,” he said. “It’s as stark as that. People can die.”

“We’re not at that stage yet, and it’s very very much unknown, but we will have to keep a very close eye on how it develops. We have no significant fundraising events in the calendar that need cancelling, so we as a charity are very fortunate, but we don’t know yet if this coronavirus will impact the economy, which in turn will impact our donors,” he added.

The Jewish Medical Association, which supports Jewish medical professionals in the UK and promotes links with Israeli medicine,  postponed its annual fundraising dinner.

Its executive chairman Professor David Katz said: “It would be irresponsible to gather so many medical professionals in a single room, given that one positive test would require all attendees to self-isolate and the knock-on impact this would have on the health service.”

Smaller charities offering vital services in their communities could be among the worst-hit. The London Jewish Family Centre in Golders Green, which offers emotional support, therapy, and counselling for up to 200 people each month, cancelled its second biggest fundraiser of the year.

“If we close, all those people will have no access to that support,” said Ilana Greenblatt, its head of operations and fundraising. The centre, which leases its hall for simchas, has had to refund cancelled bookings.

Meanwhile, Liron Rosiner Reshef, director of the British fundraising arm of the charity ALEH, described a potentially “significant loss of revenue” amid travel restrictions rolled out in Israel.

The charity, which supports children and young people with severe disabilities, relies “heavily on the support of our generous donors in Israel, the UK, North America, across Europe and around the world,” he said.

 “It is our hope that now, when our supporters are doing everything necessary to take care of their immediate families, that they remember their extended ALEH family as well. Our vulnerable children need them now more than ever,” he added.

As it plans for the future, the British fundraising arm of Israel’s emergency service is to host a fundraising dinner in November.

Magen David Adom UK are “mindful of the ongoing situation and continue to collaborate with our colleague across the community to ensure the wellbeing of all,” said its CEO Daniel Burger.

“Fundraising will need to continue but in a new, different way to take account of the temporary reality we find ourselves in,” he added.

• Additional research by Liza Cemel

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