December 30, 2002

The logo for the Keshet telethon – the event raised almost $3 million.By now, it is fairly commonplace for every large corporation in the US to engage in social activism and charitable activities. While corporate giving is a concept that is relatively new on the Israeli scene, as Israeli businesses have learned more about the practice from their overseas counterparts, they are quickly catching up.

Two recent examples include an Israeli television station holding a unique telethon to raise funds for disadvantaged children and a public service venture fund receiving grants of stock from four additional high-tech companies

“Four years ago I was in London, and everyone was walking around with their nose painted red,” says Uri Shenar, station manager at Israel’s Keshet, one of the three franchise holders for Channel 2 – and the man behind the Good Day charity campaign to raise funds for disadvantaged Israeli children.

“I asked people why the red nose, and was told: ‘It’s Red Nose Day – the day of the national telethon that was started by the BBC that has become a big annual television celebration.’ It was then that I understood the meaning of creating a television tradition that enlists the public for a social objective.”

In September, Keshet publicized the parameters for distribution of the money raised, and over 200 institutions submitted applications.

“We will transfer the funds to projects that care for children in distress and to education projects taking place in 2003, but not to organizations that use any of the granted funds for administration. The money from these contributions will go exclusively to children,” says Shenar.
The theme of the first telethon – held earlier this month – was humor and laughter. Commercial partners include MSN, McDonalds, and Toys R Us. According to Keshet, the telethon raised almost $3 million. Keshet hopes their project will become a tradition.

“All over the world, companies are now moving from social responsibility to social leadership, which also produces competitive value for a brand,” said Ivri Verbin, CEO of Good Vision, a new Israeli company that specializes in social marketing. “In the past, companies responded on a random basis to all the charity organizations that would come to them for assistance, without formulating a strategic plan,” he says.

The companies’ efforts in the realm of social activity are often linked to the brand values that the donor company wishes to propagate. For the past three years, for instance, Keshet has been running a project called “Creating with Keshet,” in which it set up and equipped classrooms for television and cinema studies at five schools in Sderot, Kiryat Shmona, the Hadassah-Neurim boarding school, Daburiyah and southern Tel Aviv. In 2002, Keshet invested $500,000 in the project.

The Co-Op Blue Square supermarket chain chose to help the community within its field of expertise: consumerism. The company developed a project that promotes responsible consumerism among junior-high-school students. The program was initiated this year as an experimental project in Kiryat Malachi and Acre, and Blue Square plans to invest $500,000 in it over the next few years. The Herzliya-Pituach branch of Anglo-Saxon Real Estate recently announced that it would renovate a branch of an after-school framework for children from underprivileged families; Ytong is contributing construction materials and instructors for the operation of a science camp that is operated by the Association for Advancement of Science Education in Israel; and Bio-Pat, which sells Bonzo and Le Cat pet foods, is contributing pet food to non-profit organizations that rescue animals in distress.

However, not all of the firms restrict their benevolent efforts to their own areas of expertise. Fox, the retail fashion chain, sells stylish lapel pins, 20% of proceeds of which are contributed to Etgarim, an association that promotes sports activities for disabled IDF veterans. This month, Bezeq International will be giving about $2.50 for every high-speed Internet package it sells to programs for children and youth at risk. And around the High Holiday season, Lee Cooper, a jeans company contributed 10,000 articles of clothing to two groups that work among youth in distress. Carmel Mizrahi wineries recently announced a unique promotion in conjunction with the Center for the Blind. The company is selling bottles of Emerald Riesling with labels printed in Braille. About $20,000 from sales of the Emerald Riesling Selected will be contributed for the welfare of the blind in Israel.

Meanwhile, Tmura the Israeli public service venture fund last week announced the receipt of equity grants from four new high-tech companies:
Tmura, which in Hebrew means “change” as well as “value for money” is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to increase the involvement of the high-tech community in charitable activity in Israel.

Tmura wants to develop a “culture of giving” within the high-tech sector and is eyeing the many growth companies in this industry and making the most of their capabilities.

The organization receives grants of stock from high-tech companies and uses the proceeds from successful exits such as a public offering of acquisition to fund education and youth-related charitable initiatives in Israel. Each of these companies has allocated a percentage of its equity, in the form of warrants, to Tmura.

“It is gratifying to see the Tmura model gaining acceptance among high-tech companies,” said Baruch Lipner, Tmura’s executive director. “Our vision of creating a new standard whereby companies make an equity contribution to Tmura a part of the way they do business, is slowly being realized.”

Yigal Jacoby, chairman and CEO of Allot Communications said, “By sharing the wealth being created by the country’s technology sector through Tmura’s initiative, we are assuring the development of the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

“Tmura gives us the opportunity to give back to the community in a very unique way,” says Gideon Grader, CEO of Cellaris, one of the sponsor companies. “The process is uncomplicated and best of all, it is gratifying to know that we will share our future success with a very good cause.”

Based on a report in Ha’aretz.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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