A call to arms for a new model of involved venture philanthropy.The Pradler Project of the Pratt Foundation is a unique model of involved venture philanthropy in Israel, that is designed to be replicated and/or adapted by community foundations elsewhere in the country and abroad.
Alongside small grants to select NGOs, this program additionally provides an in-house ‘mentoring’ service to empower the organizations, building their capacities thereby creating a culture of effective self-sustainability, long-term stability and project viability after the (generally) one-year grant period is over.
Begun in 2003, the program is providing a foundation-generated effective and successful model of non-profit revenue generation and resource development that can serve as a model for other venture philanthropic organizations to replicate with the mission of empowering organizations to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on outside forces to determine their fate.
All too often, foundations invest considerable sums in an NGO, and although this enables project support and the achievement of objectives, the organizations are still super-fragile over the long-term and financial stability is almost always a limiting factor on achieving social and voluntary missions.
Resources are scarce and new models of community foundation support for an ever increasing number of charities are now needed. Following a survey in 2002-3, it was found that a sample number of the (Australian) Pratt Foundation funded non-profit organizations in Israel measurably lack the culture, human resources, expertise and experience to generate revenue effectively and better utilize the small grants this community foundation awards.
Furthermore, on the whole, their local organizational culture is such that they have little conception of fundraising strategies and long term planning, despite their courageous and innovative programmatic aspects. This situation is at least partly caused by the following organizational and environmental conditions prevalent in Israel:
1. The rate of staff turnover in the non-profit sector is high due to low wages and a lack of any long-term formal training;
2. The (even) semi-proven fund raiser is always in demand from other organizations, and is tempted to leave an organization after realizing the potential as a professional fund raiser on the open market;
3. The nature of the work environment is such that were professional and personal opportunities for growth no longer forthcoming, fund raising and other mid- to top-level managerial staff naturally and legitimately move on to gain further development and advancement in other organizations, not necessarily related to the wages and/or benefits offered.
In order to address this problem, and provide the ‘fishing rod together with the fish’, the foundation is providing per annum eight to ten organizations with expert resource development mentorship, personally tailored to each group’s needs.
The program was devised by the foundation’s Israel director, Peter Adler who has been a long-time change agent in Israeli civil society and brought to reality by the program coordinators Jenny Cohen-Khallas, a former senior staff member of Keren Hayesod, and myself, who has done advocacy and fund raising work in the field of Jewish-Arab coexistence.
The (micro-level) goal of the foundation?s program is to develop the tools/materials and empower the organizations, building up capacities, thereby creating a culture of effective self-sustainability, long-term stability and project viability after the accompaniment period is over.
On the macro level, by providing a viable, effective, efficient and successful new model of resource development, the Pratt Foundation in Israel is serving as a model for other venture philanthropic organizations to emulate and support a cost effective scheme of empowering organizations to help themselves.
By creating a new culture of donor-grantee relations, the model will ultimately serve as a lever for altering the perceptions of both parties (from the ‘strong-weak relationship’ of donor and grantee, to mutual gain and measurable result generated) and contribute to broader social change by a strengthened and empowered third sector in a developing civil society in Israel.
Charities are chosen via recommendations and selection by a steering committee chaired by Peter Adler of the Pratt Foundation, and includes the program coordinators and prominent members of the philanthropic community in Israel, academics and other social stakeholders in the State’s future.
In order to be eligible for inclusion in the program, amongst other factors, the organizations generally have no significant history of systematic fundraising, and must be totally accountable and transparent, and whose activities:
** further the mission of the organization;
** have specific and measurable outcomes;
** exemplify innovation by demonstrating a new dimension of performance and performance record;
** make a demonstrated difference in the lives of the people it serves, and
** serve as a model that can be replicated or adapted by other organizations or social bodies.
Organizations that are accepted demonstrate that have done their homework by clearly defining the problem they plan to address, describing the reasons behind their approach, and outlining how they anticipate measuring their achievements. The basic premise is that funding decisions are more favorable if the organizations can demonstrate clearly how and why they will succeed.
Already after just under two years, the pilot program has had tremendous impact in Israel – materials and expertise have been developed, seed monies have been strategically raised from the public and private sectors and are already being transparently utilized.
Among the organizations, leadership styles have been radically transformed that now place fund raising as an organizational priority and a high degree of internal professionalism regarding theoretical and ethical practical fundraising now exists – a paradigm shift from where the organizations were before the Pratt Foundation’s intervention.
The impact is organizational stability and strategic growth through foundation generated short-term tactical as well as long-term financial strategies, and with a high degree of staff motivation to carry the strategies out. New Israeli organizations are now being recruited every four months.