Monthly Archives: May 2012

Hello, Cleveland!

Our recent article on religious denominations within the Jewish community was featured in yesterday’s edition of the Cleveland Jewish Times.

Read the article HERE.

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Payments in Lieu of Taxes: Necessary Evil or Unfair Imposition?

Reposted from The Giving Institute Blog – May 23, 2012

Click HERE to download a PDF of this article. 

Today’s continued economic uncertainty has prompted bold actions by local governments as they struggle to secure necessary income while faced with substantial budget shortfalls, unpredictable tax revenues and critical services in dire need of funding. In this era of municipal belt-tightening, a rapidly growing number of local officials now look at previously untapped sources of revenue: nonprofit institutions.

Since Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino first broached the issue several years ago, other communities – small, medium, and large – have followed suit and have turned to some of the country’s most significant nonprofits to augment the current tax base.

Image Source: http://american.com

This has become an unprecedented source of revenue as well as debate, especially as questions arise around the endowments and land holdings of some of the country’s largest nonprofits, with universities, museums, hospitals and other community resources being cajoled, negotiated with and sometimes even publicly assailed in the media.

This country’s 1.5 million nonprofit organizations represent and cater to a myriad of important causes and missions, and in return, they have traditionally received immunity from real estate taxes and other taxes through their federally-designated 501(c)(3) statuses. However, the notion that charitable institutions are off-limits to the tax collector has recently been cast off.

As a result, municipalities now see an opportunity to extract some much-needed revenue from nonprofit organizations. This phenomenon has been working its way across the U.S. under creatively phrased monikers such as “voluntary contributions” and “payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT).”

We first noticed the momentum towards acceptance of this new model about 15 months ago when we developed a then-controversial op-ed piece for the Giving Institute’s blog about PILOT.  Since then we have witnessed additional municipalities placing public pressures on their largest local nonprofit institutions. Most organizations are obliging, and only a few weeks ago a precedent-setting court decision undoubtedly propelled these controversial PILOT issues into the public arena.

The Mesivta Eitz Chaim of Bobov Inc. summer camp, located on 61 picturesque acres in Pike County, Pennsylvania, is operated by the Bobov Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. Between June and August, the camp provides classes and lectures on Orthodox Judaism as well as some recreational activities, though the camp is primarily designed as an educational institution.

Although the camp’s dining and recreational facilities are open to the public, camp representatives were unaware of neither Pike County residents using the facilities nor Pike County or Pennsylvania residents attending the camp.  As a nonprofit organization, the camp sought an exemption from real estate taxes, but Pike County and the local school district denied the camp’s request for an exemption based on the nature of the camp and its charitable status.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld two lower court rulings against the camp’s tax exemption. In order to receive an exemption, the Court held that a claimant must meet the definition of a “purely public charity” as measured in a 1985 Pennsylvania case (Hospital Utilization Project v. Commonwealth).

In Pennsylvania, an “institution of purely public charity” advances a charitable purpose, donates or renders gratuitously a substantial portion of its services, benefits a substantial and indefinite class of persons who are legitimate subjects of charity, relieves the government of some of its burden, and operates entirely free from private profit motive.

At issue in the case was whether the camp relieved the government of some burden, since the dining and recreation facilities were open to the public and the camp’s soccer fields, located outside of the camp’s gates, were used on occasion by the public. The Court affirmed that the occasional use of recreational facilities was insufficient to relieve Pike County’s government of some of its burden and made the camp’s property taxable.

This decision has the potential to be very important, especially in this challenging economic environment when many municipalities are cash-strapped. The implications from the point of view of the nonprofit are that local governments may look to charitable organizations as revenue sources. Furthermore, nonprofits that balk at payments in lieu of taxes may face a likely possibility that the municipality could challenge its nonprofit status, and possibly revoke it.

Here’s an overview of where PILOT programs are especially active:

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston has become the clear leader in implementing PILOT programs, collecting almost $17 million annually from a variety of cultural, educational and medical institutions, with annual payments ranging from a few hundred dollars from a VFW Post to millions from hospitals and universities. In 2010, 36 nonprofits provided “voluntary tax” payments to the city.

New guidelines promulgated by Mayor Menino’s PILOT Task Force increased the number of nonprofits asked to contribute and pushed nonprofit payments up by 24%. Boston University and other large landholders have “volunteered” payments for municipal services approximating 25% of what they would pay if they were a for-profit entity.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has slashed critical city services amounting to $417 million. Colleges, universities and hospitals are being approached, although organizations of all sizes are affected.

One prominent example is the 20-member nonprofit Austin Green Team. Since 1989, the Austin Green Team has maintained over one dozen gardens and two greenhouses in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side, providing beauty and a sense of serenity to more than 100,000 residents. Under the Mayor’s 2012 budget, the Austin Green Team’s water service fee waiver is proposed for revocation, threatening the viability and survival of the gardens. The proposed budget plan includes eliminating fee waivers for virtually every nonprofit organization in Chicago.

Worcester, Massachusetts

In 2011, Worcester Polytechnic Institute entered into a 25-year agreement with the city to annually fund $50,000 to maintain and improve a neighboring park. WPI had already been making annual PILOT contributions of $180,000, including a 2.5% increase built in annually over the next 25 years. WPI president Dennis Berkey described the payments as strengthening the quality of the relationship between the college and the city. WPI also received assurances from the city that for the next 25 years, no additional taxes would be levied on the institution. However, a more important aspect of the relationship was the positive publicity lauded on the school for its support of the city.

Syracuse, New York

In 2011, Syracuse University began making $500,000 annual payments on a 5-year, $2.5 million pledge to the city of Syracuse. Responding to the pleas from the financially strapped city, University officials agreed to be the first nonprofit in Syracuse to make a voluntary payment after the City Council began exploring taxing some aspects of the University’s newly expanded properties. According to City Council, even as the University further shifts the burden of municipal services away from taxpayers, “It’s time for the University to kick in a little more to support these services.”

Providence, Rhode Island

Due to unprecedented financial problems, the Mayor of Providence initiated a program designed to pursue tax exempt institutions for a “failure to sacrifice.” The natural target was the city’s largest landowner, Brown University, who since 1764, was “freed and exempted from all taxes.”

Recent negotiations have yielded voluntary payments from Brown in the amount of $31.5 million over 11 years. Brown owns 200 buildings in Providence valued at over $1 billion in total, and if taxed, would pay the city $38 million annually. As Providence Mayor Angel Taveras summed it up, “every organization, including tax-exempt institutions, must share part of the burden of saving our city.”

Even with a slowly advancing economic outlook, the landscape has changed and nonprofits are unlikely to continue to benefit from their open-ended special tax exemption. With this in mind, land-owning nonprofit organizations should consider the following:

  1. Be prepared. Charitable organizations should not assume that their nonprofit status creates blanket immunity from all taxation. Houses of worship, community centers of all types, camps and other agencies owning larger parcels of land may be targeted for voluntary payments.
  1. Budget now for PILOT. Nonprofits should plan on including PILOT payments that might represent “reasonable” contributions to the municipality and tailor their budgets and programming accordingly.
  1. Get out in front of the issue and use it to your advantage. Appearing as a “good citizen” is important to nonprofits, especially those that are large landowners. Tailoring the PILOT to garner positive PR can strengthen an organization’s community image as well as possibly enable special consideration from the municipality later on. Nonprofits of all sizes should expect governments to ask them to step forward and contribute voluntary payments or pay usage fees to cover municipal services, including fire and police protection and other services.

What Do Donors REALLY Want? Information!

Reposted from eJewishPhilanthropy – May 21, 2012

Nonprofit leaders face tremendous pressures today: living, operating and succeeding in a competitive marketplace of ideas, programs and services presents innumerable challenges. Donors who are guided by a passion for certain aspects of an agency’s mission and vision might be unaware, or unconcerned, about the everyday deliverables the agency must produce to achieve certain goals. Keeping both supporters and constituents happy is often a delicate dance.

Nonprofit leaders must continuously upgrade and strengthen their abilities to translate their mission into a “selling proposition” for a variety of interest groups. This selling proposition involves creating a case for support that clearly communicates what the agency does, their goals, and the methodologies used to achieve these goals.

All of these complexities must then be translated into “everyday language” and communicated in the fundraising context to donors of all shapes and sizes, from national foundations to individual givers.

In today’s economy, customers drive the marketplace, and in the philanthropic world, donors drive the discussion around sustainable funding. The essential question then becomes, “What do donors want?”

What are their motivations to give, and what do they expect from the agencies they support and the staff who run them?

How are decisions made in the current giving climate, and what are the “deal breakers” today?

We thought that it would be most helpful to address these issues through questions that are often raised during our interactions with donors across North America. Let us predicate this conversation with two basic assumptions about why people give:

  • They care about the person making the “ask.” Despite advances in technology and the way people give to agencies (text to give, online fundraising websites, etc.) the dictum “people give to people” is still as true as ever.
  • They care about the impact of their gift. The vision of the organization and the resulting impact of the contribution are critical to encouraging a donor to make a gift. The difference that the gift will make in the lives of people, the life of the community and in the life of the donor remains essential parts of the “selling proposition.”

Now, let’s move onto the top three questions we receive as fundraising consultants.

DONOR QUESTION #1: Do you have a Business Plan?

We first heard this question more than ten years ago during a meeting with a prospective major donor to a prominent Jewish arts group in New York City. Nowadays the question seems intuitive enough, yet the organization’s Artistic Director who was leading the meeting was taken aback.

“Well, we have a budget,” she responded.

“I’m not looking for a budget,” the prospect responded. “I want to know that my investment will not be swallowed up because the organization – as much as I love what you do – won’t exist five years from now. Show me that you believe and can demonstrate that you will be around and in good health and I will make the gift that you are asking for.”

SOLUTION #1: Be prepared with current facts and long-term vision.

Be ready with the facts: your nonprofit is a business with a “selling proposition” that provides demonstrable benefits within your community. Know what those benefits are and how they will change over time. Luckily for our example organization, the Director had considered the long-term viability of the mission and vision and was able to communicate it to the donor, who then made a significant gift.

It is essential for nonprofit leaders to consider the long-term vision for your nonprofit: where it is today, where it will in five years, and in ten years. This long-term vision (which will often include grand plans such as new programs, services, and resources) will inspire and motivate your donors.

DONOR QUESTION #2: Why does it take so long to understand what you do?

“It is like I have ADD sometimes: I cannot listen to long explanations,” complained a leading benefactor to a growing Israel-based organization. This individual, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, made a good point.

In today’s fast-paced and hyper-competitive world driven by smart-phones, tablets, and the demand for instantaneous responses and results, donors want the information now. In addition, loyalty is an almost-dying commodity; unlike in decades past when someone picked one cause and stayed with it for a lifetime, today’s donors spread themselves around.

SOLUTION #2: Make your point quickly and use varied communication channels.

Modern nonprofits needs to be deft and nimble, framing their”selling proposition” in small, understandable bites through a variety of communication channels. Create an “elevator speech,” no longer than 30 seconds, that explains your organization’s mission, vision, and deliverables, and distribute it to your executive staff, Board of Directors, and leading donors. Utilize online tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as traditional media like newsletters, press releases, and direct mail.

You must always be ready to make your case quickly, because donors who notice that you are slow to respond to their interests might move on to the person or organization that best fills that philanthropic vacuum with easily digestible information.

DONOR QUESTION #3: I cannot ask my friends for money; can’t you just do it for me?

This is the question we most often receive from leading donors and Board members. For example, a committed Board member of a Jewish day school was recently approached to set up meetings with his contacts for the head of the school, who would then present the school’s “selling proposition” and hopefully engage these prospects as donors. The Board member was devoted and generous with his contacts but would not attend a prospect meeting with a contact he knew personally.

“Just tell him I said he should give,” the Board member offered. “If he hears that, and knows that I am also supportive, then he will give.”

“Come with us,” we implored him, knowing the power of personal connection. “We will help you prepare and role play for the meeting. Tell him yourself how much you support this cause, and he will be moved and surely respond.”

“I cannot ask my friends for money,” he lamented. “What if they say no?”

“He agreed to a meeting and knew why we requested the meeting. If he was going to say no, he would have done so already,” we advised.

We went to the meeting without the Board member and made our presentation.

“I really like what I am hearing and am interested in supporting the school,” the prospective donor replied, “but I really need to speak with my friend who set this up to know why he’s giving and how much before I’ll give you a final answer.”

SOLUTION #3: Conquer your fear of the “ask.”

So many leading donors do not want to ask their contacts to support their favorite charity. What drives this phenomenon? Fear! Leading donors are afraid that if they ask friends for money, these friends might then turn around and ask them for money. That sometimes happens, but is typically for a good cause, and should not be considered reason enough to NOT ask.

Secondly, leading donors fear of losing a friend when they ask for money. In our 21 years of consulting, this has never happened. Strong prospect research eliminates candidates who do not want to give, so that by the time a leading donor asks his/her friend to help support a cause, the answer is always yes. The amount varies, and sometimes it takes more than one ask, but at EHL Consulting we have never seen a friendship dissolve because of this situation.

Remember, the mission and not the market drives the donor, so know WHY your agency is in business and be clear and concise in how you communicate your “selling proposition” to your stakeholders. Use ALL of the tools that you have at your disposal … from online marketing to far-reaching contacts of your Board members and agency leadership. They all have their role in helping communicate long-term vision.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask others to support your passions. The real reason a donor supports a worthwhile cause is because he/she receives a formal request. Finally, if you want to close a major gift, take a deep breath and meet face to face.

Don’t rely on technology to do what humans do best.

21 Years…and Still Going Strong!

As The EHL Consulting Group enters our third decade as a firm, it’s encouraging to see not only how much we’ve grown, but also how much the nonprofit sector has matured and evolved as well. Both domestic and international nonprofit organizations have changed markedly since the early 1990’s . . . in terms of the numbers of agencies, the levels of sophistication, the work required to attract significant philanthropic support, and the amount of transparency that donors demand.

Helping so many different nonprofits in so many different ways has been – and continues to be – meaningful beyond expectations, and has made our work at EHL Consulting an effort that has been rewarding personally and professionally. 

As a longstanding member firm of the Giving Institute, EHL Consulting abides by a strong code of ethics that ensures our clients are treated with respect, and that their campaigns are always honest, heartfelt, and powerful. Working closely with enthusiastic and devoted men and women from all walks of life and from all parts of North America and elsewhere motivates us to keep improving our services and hopefully make a positive difference in the world at large.

We have seen the philanthropic marketplace grow and strengthen remarkably over the past 21 years. From a “slap on the back” network of unseen agreements and elite charitable circles, it has matured into a sophisticated, more scientific, accountable and increasingly transparent (though not enough) environment. Giving is now a $300+ billion dollar industry, accelerated by committed professionals with a drive to achieve substantial, measureable results.

The fact remains, however, that with all of the tools and the science, the real work is still built around relationships and connections with people. Giving is an act of passion, not a business transaction, and the connections between people are, and will always remain, the driving force.

Successful organizations know that connections are key, and always work hard to cultivate those personal bonds. Those who rely on technology and “arm’s length” communication will be forever doomed to struggle with difficulty. And besides, connecting with people is far more fun!

Our team at EHL Consulting is very optimistic about the future of philanthropy and we look forward to ever greater growth and productivity in the months and years to come. Thank you to all of our past and present clients for their hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication. For all of you who we have not worked with yet…we hope to meet you soon!

With gratitude,

Robert I. Evans, Founder & Managing Director

Avrum D. Lapin, Director & Principal

Non-Cash Giving Can Be an Important Donor Option

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – May 3, 2012

While the most common way to satisfy charitable commitments is with cash and appreciated securities, an often uncommon means available to donors is to utilize “stuff:” items of value that are often very attractive to collectors and which can become practical ways to satisfy philanthropic obligations.

Donors at all levels, but most notably high net worth contributors, periodically utilize non-cash giving. Art museums have received benefactions of pieces of art for decades and other types of nonprofits have welcomed real estate, especially when property was highly valued and represented an easy way for a donor to avoid costly capital gains taxes while satisfying a pledge.

A recent synagogue client received a valuable sculpture, valued at $300,000, when a member inherited the piece from a deceased relative. The donor did not want the piece and made the gift with two important stipulations: the congregation had to hold the piece for at least three years and that it is displayed prominently (requirements made for tax considerations subject to the related-use and tax exempt purpose rules of the 501(c)3 ).

Another congregation was nearly the recipient of a time-share at a Poconos resort, carrying with it a value of about $10,000. Fortunately formal Gift Acceptance policies prohibited the institution from accepting a gift of this type and the donor ultimately made cash payment for a campaign pledge instead.

Laura Linder, executive director of the Jewish Foundation of Memphis, is talking passionately these days about two gifts the Foundation has received within recent months from older Jewish philanthropists originally unaware of the power of gifting valuable collections.

The Foundation received the first gift in late 2011 when a member of the Jewish community, Susan Adler Thorp, began breaking up the estate of her late parents, Herta and Dr. Justin Hans Adler, and considered ways to deal with a Tiffany glass collection her mother had amassed. Determining that no living relatives wanted the collection, she contacted the Foundation and made arrangements through Mrs. Linder to transfer a significant portion of the collection that took more than 50 years to create.

After cataloging the objects and working in concert with one of the nation’s top auction houses, the Foundation received very significant proceeds earmarked for and added to the Herta and Justin H. Adler Philanthropic Fund, the family’s donor advised fund (DAF). Proceeds from the auction of that collection will be used in part to help fund the purchase of life-saving prescription medications for senior citizens, the Temple Israel Museum, and other charitable organizations designed to help make life better for others.

While the Adlers were avid collectors of art, they also were dedicated philanthropists, often saying that “charity is the gift you give for having a good life,” noted Mrs. Thorp. “My parents shared an eye for beauty and a love for art,” she said. “My mother’s passion was collecting Tiffany glass. Nearly everything in the collection was found as my mother searched for Tiffany glass.” All of the items in the collection were sold in a special Heritage Signature Auction of Lalique and Art Glass in New York City on November 19th. The much- anticipated live auction generated far more than the book value of the collection.

A second non-cash gift came to the Memphis Foundation earlier this year as a result of an anonymous Jewish couple preparing to downsize. The donor had passionately developed an enormous coin collection, including U.S. coins, shekels, and other pieces of varying value. The Foundation has contracted with an auction house to catalogue the coins and it is expected to go to auction in several venues later in 2012. Proceeds could exceed $500,000 and will also be used to create a DAF for an as-yet-to-be-determined set of purposes.

“During the ten years I have been at the Foundation, we have received several real estate gifts,” Laura Linder told us. “But until recently I had never even considered the power of encouraging donors to make non-cash gifts of this type or of this magnitude. This is an eye-opener for all of us at the Foundation.”

Tax implications for donors using collected items are a motivator, for sure, especially if offspring have little or no appreciation for or interest in “the stuff,” a commonly used term voiced by Bob Koo, a Palm Beach-based art and philanthropy consultant to the high net worth philanthropically-focused. “While our work is focused especially on successful individuals and families, there are certainly implications for donors of all levels,” he says.

Koo conducts educational seminars across the U.S. and has written extensively about the approaches that nonprofits might consider to attract part or all of collected possessions. Very often, he says, “things” that people have collected probably have no significant value … other than to the collector. “But in other instances, fine art of all types, books and manuscripts, coins and medals, clocks and watches, entertainment and space memorabilia, furniture, jewelry, vintage motor cars or wines and whiskeys can have large price tags. And when estate planning requires significant taxes, nonprofits can benefit significantly when they openly encourage donors to make gifts of this type … prior to their passing.”

Both Koo and Linder have told us about other circumstances where donors have talked about people who have considered charitable gifts to either satisfy current priorities or pave the way for other charitable opportunities. Both share a common recommendation to nonprofits: market the concepts actively and showcase the values of gifting collectables.

One other important consideration for nonprofits accepting non-cash gifts: carefully review your Gift Acceptance policies and update the written, formal documents so that you minimize jeopardy and are prepared with responses when potential donors inquire about gifting collectibles. Nonprofits should review such policies annually but giving beyond “conventional” methods requires careful strategies and policies.

Connecting Practices and Learning from Each Other

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – April 4, 2012

Three different but important conferences took place late last month and have served to connect and engage Jewish development professionals as well as donors and other committed individuals in interesting ways. One gathering reached out to Reform synagogue development professionals only, another involved Jewish foundation representatives and leaders, and the third served to engage primarily nonprofit professionals working to organize their efforts across the State of Israel. Each conference resulted in positive outcomes but took different approaches and each received different levels of visibility in the media.

Consider each of the meetings:

  • At the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) in Tel Aviv, 400 Jewish funders from across the globe gathered to address common concerns and to discuss common practices facing Jewish philanthropists.
  • At Amuta21C, 250 men and women came together to discuss challenges facing “third sector organizations in Israel,” the terminology being used to refer to nonprofit organizations.
  • At the Reform Synagogue Development Professionals (RSDP) annual meeting in Philadelphia, fundraising professionals from 19 midsized and large Reform U.S. congregations focused on best practices, innovative technology considerations, and the challenges related to attracting more philanthropic dollars from the members of Reform synagogues.

In reflecting on the purposes and importance of each gathering, we see important connections that more than justify the value of commitments of time and other precious resources. While attendees at each meeting undoubtedly used the opportunities to connect with longtime friends, colleagues, and like-minded people doing similar work, the value of sharing ideas and considering new methodologies became uppermost and is a uniform theme.

Jonny Cline, the co-organizer of Amuta21C, told us this conference “looked to address the issues of the culture of philanthropy in Israel, or lack thereof, shared responsibilities with the changing paradigm of the relationships between business and the third sector.” The program and other information can be found atAmuta21C.com, and pictures and discussions are at Facebook.com/Amuta21c.

On the heels of Amuta21C, the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) continued its focus on networking between and among some of the most connected Jewish donors. According to one prominent attendee, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “JFN is the place for people who care about smart giving in the Jewish community. Participants are outstanding human beings and the work they are doing is making the world a better place.”

She told us that one highlight at this gathering “was that there were many Israeli givers … a new trend in global giving” in the Jewish giving arena. Cline cited a panel discussion at the Amuta21 conference that featured “meet the investors” where Dame Stephanie Shirley and private philanthropist and owner of the multi-family office Philippe J. Weil, joined Sandy Cardin of the Schusterman Foundation, and Vered Raz, director of corporate responsibility for the Fishman Group. The “catch phrase” that came from the conference was a call for more and better cooperation between philanthropists and nonprofits/third sector agencies.

At the gathering of Reform synagogue development professionals, networking, too, was a major focus, with several discussions sparking dynamic discussions about planned giving, technology, and best practices. Maxine Lowy, of Temple Oheb Shalom of Baltimore and who chairs the group, termed the annual meeting as “invaluable” and looks forward to the next get-together in San Francisco in March 2013.

“Our focus was a set of discussions about what Jewish houses of worship can learn from other religious institutions … how to better be a ‘connector of people’ rather than facilitators,” she mused.

Reports about these three different conferences have been covered, partially on eJewishPhilanthropy, as well as in other blogs and media sources. Most importantly, they reflect important efforts to connect people with intersecting agendas and priorities, each with different approaches. Strengthening Jewish philanthropy has historically receded in times of economy contraction or recession, which often result in downturns in giving. We note that several other major conferences are scheduled for later in 2012 but the three we have highlighted cover Jewish perspectives that focus on Jewish priorities and nonprofits that serve the Jewish community in the US and in Israel.

Jewish communal leaders have often expressed frustration that Jewish donors were not devoting sufficient attention and resources to Jewish priorities. Perhaps the long term results will reflect more Jewish dollars directed for Jewish needs and a better understanding how to marry Jewish philanthropic desires with the work of Jewish nonprofits … in the US, Israel, and around the globe.

If you are the planner or an attendee of a forthcoming conference on Jewish philanthropy, please advise us. As Cline told us, the point of these meetings “is to facilitate the development of a professional community … that will encourage and enable professional and organizational development and that will create and facilitate a channel of communication between the professional community and the (Jewish) philanthropic world.”

Jewish Development Professionals and the Job Market

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – March 27, 2012

An improving U.S. economy and an upturn in charitable giving should expand the market for Jewish fundraising professionals. Is this happening … and what are the projections for the next 18 months?

“Historically, the job market for development positions is the first to see improvement after layoffs occur,” we learned from David Edell, president and cofounder of national firm DRG Executive Search Consultants, where he has been actively engaged for 25 years of search efforts with nonprofit organizations, especially Jewish organizations looking to fill higher executive positions. “We are certainly seeing a hiring rebound, especially during the last 18 months, in three specific areas of the Jewish nonprofit arena.”

“Nonprofits are looking to refill ‘frozen’ positions, they are making certain personnel changes to upgrade staffs, and they are looking to staff some new initiatives that require professional leadership and expertise,” he told us.

He confirmed that the areas that are showing the most activity in the current job market require fundraising experience in major gift donor solicitation stewardship and people comfortable in on-line giving and social media … mirroring where many successful nonprofits are placing emphasis now. “Organizations today are seeking experienced and successful professionals, people who have specific expertise and skills and who are personable and articulate. Jewish agencies are following the same paths as other nonprofit organizations in this regard,” he reiterated.

While the marketplace has once again become reasonably competitive for experienced fundraisers, salary levels have not grown substantially. Current salaries for Jewish (and non-Jewish) development personnel are competitive and are of course higher for “more seasoned and experienced men and women,” even though more people are considering careers in development after having worked in the for-profit world.

Our recent review of development positions showed us a wide range of compensation, ranging from the $45-55,000 level to as high as $250,000 and higher for very seasoned development personnel. These levels have not changed markedly during the last ten years despite competition and levels of experience.

A recent published review of nonprofit salaries by The Forward focused primarily on senior executive compensation at Jewish nonprofits across the U.S., not on development positions specifically. However, because fundraising specialists are in more demand now and as a result of a competitive philanthropic world, Edell projects some upward adjustments of salaries, especially for organizations that are competing to recruit experienced, personable, and strong professionals. “This holds for vice-president positions down to development officers,” he said, but “not especially for lower level, starting positions.”

A wide spectrum of jobs in Jewish nonprofits across the globe is often announced on a popular websiteJewishJobs.com, which was started in 2001. Founder Benjamin M. Brown, of Austin, Texas, had intended to be a college professor and while going for an advanced degree he was looking for a position in the nonprofit Jewish community and there was no jobs web site at the time. Much later, he realized that there are “distinct cycles of ups and downs in hiring” that tend to be more impacted by the calendar than the economy. JewishJobs.com, which initially focused as a clearinghouse for a wide-ranging listing of postings for Hillels, JCC’s, and Jewish Federations, today carries hundreds of job openings at any given time, with “the second best level of the best paying jobs being for development openings,” he reports. Jobs listed on this website range from nonprofits seeking teachers, computer-knowledgeable expertise, researchers, and support personnel at all levels of expertise in the Jewish communal arena, but generally the organizations that turn to this resource seek personnel at levels lower than those who reach out to the executive search firms.

Even during the most severe period of the “Great Recession,” from 2008-2010, there were Jewish nonprofits that were hiring, although the length of time required to fill open positions was longer and more competitive than what we are seeing now, both Edell and Brown agreed. What we witness today, though, places even more pressure on the job seeker, where increasing numbers of candidates are attracted to each position, especially in major cities and for the largest nonprofits.

Our review of published openings currently available illustrates that hospitals and health care are paying the highest salaries for Jewish development personnel among key sectors of the nonprofit arena, with higher education close behind. Other observations about the current – rosier – job market seem consistent with criteria used for more than the last ten or 15 years:

  • nonprofits seek dynamic, curious and engaging people who know how to take initiative and how to cultivate donors;
  • people with a functional knowledge of finance and management are being sought for development positions;
  • career-minded men and women comfortable in the major gift and planned giving arenas are in short supply.

With the job market in flux today, we envision that nonprofits seeking development personnel may need to test different methods of attracting the best and most appropriate development staff, with a greater emphasis on word-of-mouth and networking than ever before. And the networking also holds for job seekers, too, many of whom have felt frozen in current positions where they may not have seen salary increases or promotions.

We talked recently with an experienced nonprofit executive in search of a new job since early January. She has held responsible positions in synagogues and at a national Jewish nonprofit; she wishes to expand her career by focusing on the fundraising profession but she is experiencing some difficulties finding “the right job.” “I have decided to be selective about my next position,” she explained, “and I certainly want to stay within the Jewish community and to use my years of experiences to impact on a dynamic organization.” She has scheduled interviews but during her 12-week job search, no firm offers have come her way . . . as yet. She is hopeful, trying to be flexible and optimistic, but meanwhile is leaving no stone unturned. “Networking is crucial and I am certain that I will ultimately secure a job that captures my skills and expertise!”

So goes the challenging search for jobs … from the employer’s perspective as well as from the view of the job seeker. All-in-all right now it’s probably back to a solid market for the best qualified candidates, though salaries are not escalating and where mid-sized and larger organizations are watching budgets but seeking outstanding personnel.