Men vs Women in the Non-Profit Field, and Other Topics

I had an interesting situation occur to me. I was planning to write a blog post about men versus women in the nonprofit world, and right before I was about to publish it, I read an article in eJewish Philanthropy entitled “Gender Equality in the Jewish Nonprofit? Progress Being Made” ( by Maayan Jaffe. 
There are many things that still need work in terms of the gender divide in the nonprofit world. Take the wage gap, for example. “In 2000, Eve Nagy pointed out that women in top Jewish communal leadership roles earn as much as $20,000 less than their male counterparts – a statistic that has not nudged. In 2010, Dvora Meyers that female Jewish communal professionals earn $28,000 less than men working in the field … and that is even if women can get to the top spot. Within the Jewish Federation system, for example, women account for only 9 percent of the top leadership at major Jewish federations, according to Rebecca Dinar, managing director of communications and media relations for JFNA. And this is despite women comprising 70 to 80 percent of the federation workforce.” 

According to Naomi Adler, the head of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, “women also have to do their due diligence by making themselves well-rounded by pushing themselves into lay or professional roles that offer a combination of relationship building, fundraising and programmatic experience.” THIS I ABSOLUTELY AGREE WITH! “Lean In”, ladies!! 🙂 

On another note, Shifra Bronznick, a feminist activist who focuses largely on Jewish women’s rights and organizational life, writes that: “It is very easy to get thrown off the island when you criticize donors, organizational leaders or institutional choices. Lack of dialogue is not healthy for a community that needs to make profound decisions about its future,” she said. Bronznick continued: “This is not just about women. There is a link between what is good for women and what is good for everyone, a link between advancing gender equity and what we will need to sustain a healthy, vital Jewish community.” This is a bit of a side point, but it is generally a very tricky issue. I think there needs to be a greater amount of give and take in organizations. Many times I have seen donors/board members who do not want to have their opinions challenged/do not respect the professional’s expertise. How can we make donors/board members more open to constructive criticism? 

Additionally, how can we facilitate more of a dialogue between nonprofit employees of different “ranks”? Of course seniority should be respected, but in certain instances, the younger generation may offer an area of expertise, such as social media marketing. I also read a very interesting article (I did not save the link; sorry!) about the differences between the “Millennials” and “Generation X” (especially interesting for me, because I am “Generation Y”! 🙂 ). According to research, Generation X employees tend to be very “by the book”, following company rules and procedure without questioning them. The Millenials are not afraid to question the rationale behind decisions made by their superiors. They also are not bound to the company procedures. They may approach their managers often and ask for feedback, not waiting for their annual review. Again, this is an aside, but these are important facts that managers should understand when dealing with their younger staff members.

But back to the ladies …. What do you think? Are there other factors contributing to the fact that there are much less women in top management roles? Any factors specific to the nonprofit field?

I look forward to your comments.


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What is the Role of Communications in the Today’s Nonprofit World?

Last month I read a fascinating article on eJewish Philanthropy entitled “Prodding the Jewish Organizational World into Third Space”, by Gary Wexler ( The premise of the article is that “it isn’t all about hashtags”. As a person who has never used a hashtag before, I was happy to hear that! 🙂 Wexler asserts that the job of Communications is to make certain that organizations reach their bottom-line goals. However, in order to do so, the leaders and decision makers must “be educated in this new technology-driven era as to how Communications is now absolutely central to reaching organizational results” … or they have to trust that their Communications professional(s) knows what s/he is doing!!
According to Wexler, “in today’s world, what department within an organization can function with excellence without a new-era relevant Communications strategy and the ideas it generates? Nonprofits today need a culture shift and Communications is that generator.”
Wexler goes on to say that in “most Jewish organizations, when they interact with Communications, think it’s about a hashtag, a website, a social marketing campaign, an ad, a brochure, and branding, branding, branding.” And according to Wexler, these are a “manifestation of the kind of Jewish communal and organizational thinking that just keeps us scrambling and running in circles. Jewish organizations in this case are not thinking cultural or adaptive change. They’re not thinking risk. They’re not thinking creativity. They’re not thinking big. They’re thinking little. They’re thinking fearful. They’re thinking of technical fixes, for example, hashtags, because that’s really comfortable.”
So what’s Wexler’s solution? I love this: “If the Jewish organizational world is to succeed in a new era … this requires that Jewish leaders, particularly lay leaders, admit they don’t know how to do this”. (Is he reading my mind? 🙂 ) “It’s about the Jewish organizational world moving away from risk-adverse strategic planning at its core, and moving into risk-taking creativity as its culture.”
Wow, Wexler has said a lot! Time to hear what I have to say! 🙂 Let me start by saying that I am not a Communications professional. My expertise lies more in grant writing, donor relations, and event planning. However, I have been known to dabble in Communications: writing articles for magazines, appeal letters, marketing materials, speeches on behalf of someone else, etc. However, Communications is much more than that, and in my opinion, organizations need a true Communications professional running the team and implementing a strategic vision. It seems that many organizations just hire someone right out of college and tell them to “handle the social media”. In my opinion, that doesn’t seem very effective.
I also love how Wexler says that Jewish organizations are not “thinking risk. They’re not thinking creativity. They’re not thinking big. They’re thinking little. They’re thinking fearful. They’re thinking of technical fixes, for example, hashtags, because that’s really comfortable.” Why is this? In my opinion, the employees are not given enough freedom from management/lay leaders. This is a problem in the nonprofit world in general. It can be assumed that a person is hired for a position because s/he has expertise in this role. This person should be given the freedom to exercise his/her expertise, and not be held back by a lay leader who most likely got their position by making large donations (no disrespect! 😉 ). As in all aspects of nonprofit life, LET THE EMPLOYEES DO THEIR JOBS!! 🙂
OK, this post is getting long, so I will stop here. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for listening to me! 🙂 I would like to end by saying that, I am excited to announce that last week I began an online university-accredited course entitled: “Marketing via Social Media”. I still have no desire to use a hashtag though 😉
What do you think?
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Should Nonprofits Be Held to a Business Standard?

Last week on eJewish Philanthropy, Yehudit Sidikman published an article entitled: “What We Should Learn from Moses- the First Jewish Fundraiser” (

Her main premise was that For nonprofits to compete for the talented and professional employees they need to maintain the high business standards demanded of them, we need to allow them the room to offer competitive salaries.”

This reminds me of Ted Pallota’s famous Ted Talk, “The Way We Think about Charity is Dead Wrong”


Sidikman agrees with Pallota that “Nonprofits today are being held up to a business standard. This is a good thing. They are being asked to have a plan, a detailed plan, complete with measures and metrics. They are being asked to strategize and to report not only outputs but outcomes. This is progress. Part of this is because philanthropists and foundations are tired of seeing money wasted. They demand accountability.”

However, as Sidikman points out, there is a “dissonance between holding nonprofits up to a business standard and begrudging them the resources needed to maintain such standards.” An example of this is the idea that nonprofits do not need money, based on the salaries of top-level employees. As Sidikin writes, “had this CEO been managing a bank, or coffee chain or any other ‘real business’ of that size no one would have batted an eyelash at the salary.”

Sidikin agrees with Dan Pallota (and me! J ), writing “For nonprofits to compete for the talented and professional employees they need to maintain the high business standards demanded of them, we need to allow them the room to offer competitive salaries. “

This reminds me of when Dan Pallota says in his Ted Talk that there is a general attitude (and I agree with him) that “people should not make money helping people”. I say, WHY NOT? What could be a better/more noble thing to do? The same argument can apply to why teachers should receive good salaries … they are educating our future generations. Dan points out that the prevalent attitude is that one must choose between “doing good for yourself and your family” (i.e. going into the for-profit sector and getting a higher salary) or “doing good for the world” (i.e. going into the non-profit sector knowing that you will earn a lower salary than you would if you worked in the for-profit sector). Dan then says something that makes me sad: every year, tens of thousands of the best and brightest minds are marching straight from university into the for-profit sector, because they are “not willing to make that lifelong economic sacrifice”. It is a shame, and it makes me feel sad for the future of the non-profit industry (and I guess a little proud that I decided to become part of it, because I consider myself to be among the “best and brightest minds ;)).

Dan brings an example from a Business Week survey, which did a study of compensation packages of MBA graduates 10 years out of business school. The median compensation of a Stanford MBA at age 38 was $400,000. In the same year, the average salary for the CEO of a medical charity was $232,000, and $84,000 for the CEO of a hunger charity. Essentially, the non-profit world is “hoping” for someone with a $400,000 talent to take a $316,000 (for example) pay cut EVERY YEAR, to work for their organizations. Dan says that there is also an idea out there that MBA graduates go to work in the for-profit sector because they are “greedy”. But he is quick to contradict this idea by saying that they might not be greedy, but rather smart. He explains that it would be cheaper for the person earning annually $400,000 to donate $100,000 every year (to the hunger charity, for example), which would enable him/her to save $50,000 on his/her taxes. S/he would also then become a “philanthropist”, most likely sit on the board of the charity, supervise the person who decided to become the CEO, and have a lifetime of power, influence, and praise.

So, what is my opinion about this? Honestly, it makes me nervous that perhaps the non-profit sector really is losing its best talent to the for-profit sector, for the reasons that Dan explained. I have seen some good (even great) leaders in the non-profit world, but I have also seen my share of mediocre and even (dare I say?) incompetent leaders in the non-profit world. Perhaps this is the core issue and root of where this problem comes from?

OK, I’ve said enough. What do you think?


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Why is Giving in Israel Less than in Other First World Countries?

Hi All,
I was recently contacted by a connection on LinkedIn. He is a director at an association of parents of children with disabilities in Uganda. His questions for me were the following: 
“What is new in Israel that we can learn from as NGOs? Why is Israel quiet in global issues, especially giving? Is it a poor country?” 
These are excellent questions, and I am thrilled that he contacted me about this. First of all, I must say that I disagree with the statement that Israel is “quiet in global issues”. Anyone who follows the news knows that Israel, a tiny country the size of New Jersey, is one of the countries most reported on and followed internationally. However, my colleague is correct that Israel is not a major player in the philanthropy world. Why is this? 
I would not say that Israel is a poor country; however, there are several factors that contribute to the fact that there is less philanthropy than in other first world countries. 
Lower Salaries
The salaries in Israel are much lower than in other first world countries. The average monthly salary is 8,000 NIS a month, which is about $2,000. That means that the average annual salary in the country is 96,000 NIS, aka approximately $24,000. Also, remember that this is the average annual salary. This means that some people are doing very well, and others not so much. Minimum wage in Israel is 4,300 NIS per month (approximately $1,080), slightly over half of the average salary. That comes out to about $13,000 per year. Compare that to an average median wage of $26,700 in the US. So those making minimum wage in Israel are making over 50% less than the average income in the US. Remember that Israel is a nation of immigrants. Many Jews come to Israel from all over the world. Many of them do not speak the language, and mastering it takes several years. In the meantime, they get by with jobs like cleaning and babysitting; not the highest income. 
Culture of Receiving Rather Than Giving Donations 
Another interesting point is that the state of Israel is only 66 years old. Israel is used to getting financial support from Jews and Christian supporters worldwide (North and South America, Europe, Australia, etc.). Because of this, there is less of a culture of giving than receiving donations. Those of us in the nonprofit world are trying to change these ideas. More and more Israelis are earning high salaries due to high tech, start-ups, etc. Also, halacha (Jewish religious law) requires that Jews donate 10% of their earnings to charity. Therefore Jews who follow halacha should be donating 10% of their income.
That is my take as to why Israel is not a major player in the philanthropy world. What do you think? 
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Teamwork As The Competitive Advantage

When I read this article in EJewish Philanthropy (, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to save it for a blog post. Well, better late than never! A year and a half later, it still resonates very strongly. 

“Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton write in “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Benefitting from Evidence Based Management” (2006) that many success stories – in medicine, sports, politics – point not to a leader or genius, but the power of the team. Pfeffer and Sutton explain that talent is not completely fixed or predetermined. Talent depends on a person’s motivation and experience. Talent depends on how a person is managed or led. Talent depends more on effort and having access to the right information and support, rather than natural ability. They state, “Natural talent is overrated.” It’s not about the best; it’s about the team.I am curious why, when our organizations are struggling, we are quick to identify employees’ weaknesses rather than first analyze our own work cultures and systems.”

In my opinion, that really says it all. Why are organizations so quick to focus on employees’ “weaknesses” rather than examining the bigger picture? In my opinion, it could be because the person “on top” is not totally competent for their role. I think this is a question of “management” versus “leadership”. If the top-level professional is always looking to blame team issues on his/her employees, to me it seems like the problem comes from the top. And as the article states, this person is most likely not viewing their staff as a team. Focusing on “weaknesses” can also be a way for the manager to place blame on the employees under them. Each person is certainly responsible for his/her own workload, but the manager needs to remember that part of his/her job is … wait for it … managing! Although everyone is responsible for their own duties, it is up to the manager to make sure that their staff runs like a well-oiled machine. And as the article states, the way to do that is to foster team-building rather essentially breaking the team down by focusing only on the “weaknesses”. 

I think a huge part of this is also being able to offer criticism in a constructive way. The employees should feel empowered and that they are being listened to. I think that is also a big key to fostering a team environment. 

What have your experiences been working as an employee and/or a manager? I look forward to your feedback.  


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Accepting Commission as a Fundraiser

Hi All!

It’s really been awhile, and big changes have happened in my life. After 7 amazing years in Israel, I have relocated to the US (greater NY area). It is an exciting transition time for me as I start this new chapter in my life!

In terms of the non-profit world, a topic I would like to explore is the idea of accepting a commission as a fundraiser, either as full or partial compensation for your work.

In the non-profit world in Israel, the common view is that accepting commission is incorrect and even unethical. If an organization wants to be professional, they need to pay the fundraiser/grant writer a salary that is independent from the donations. Many smaller, start-up non-profits do not understand this concept. In their opinion, why should they pay someone if they are not “bringing in results”?

This is a tricky topic. It is especially sensitive because often the process of soliciting donations and grants can be a lengthy process. In my opinion (and the majority of the non-profit field in Israel), a person should be compensated for the time s/he works. The bottom line is, what is more important: the person’s time, or the results? Ideally the time invested will lead to donations, but if it doesn’t, does the person not deserve to receive any payment for his/her work and the time invested?

I’ve been out of the game in the US for awhile. I imagine that it is the same here, but I am curious to hear about your experiences. Please share your thoughts! I look forward to your comments.


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“Israel to spend billions on initiative to bolster Jewish identity in Diaspora” … ?

I have not been the most active blogger of late. Life has been busy, B”H, including enjoying my (still somewhat new) job. But sometimes I feel I just have to get my voice out there, and this is one of those times. 

For anyone who did not see the article, apparently Israel is planning “to spend billions on initiative to bolster Jewish identity in Diaspora”   Because (B”H) I am quite busy, I read the article, disagreed and felt annoyed, and then thought, “Well, what can I do?” (and since I am writing I will clarify that I thought this in a negative, sarcastic way), and went on with my life. Then I saw that the next day, my esteemed colleague Stephen Donshik not only shared the same opinion as me, but had actually taken the time to write about it and share his opinion on EJewish Philanthropy:

Please read what Stephen has to say. He has expressed himself in a very eloquent way, and I certainly couldn’t have done better. Upon hearing about this new initiative, I felt the same response that he so clearly articulated: why are Israelis taking on the financing of Jewish identity programs in the Diaspora? I understand that developing Jewish identity outside of Israel is important but, to Stephen’s point, why are we as Israelis financing it? As we who work in the non-profit profession in Israel know, we are still working on breaking into the rather new Israeli philanthropic market for Israeli causes, which are still funded mainly by the US, Europe, and other countries with significant Jewish populations. The Israeli standard of living and the wage, on a global scale, is much lower than that of countries in the Diaspora such as the US. I agree entirely with Stephen … why exactly is it that Israel, a country that is still struggling and needs the help of many non-profit organizations (and therefore money from outside Israel to finance these programs), now financing Jewish identity in countries that have much more capital than we do? I agree with Stephen that it would be most effective for the communities themselves to address the problem of (lack of) Jewish identity. If they want more help from Israel, that’s one thing (sending more shlichim through the Jewish Agency, etc.). But our tax money? I do not agree.

My questions are: 

1) What do you think?

2) If you agree with me (and Stephen), do you think there is anything that we can do (especially those of us in the NGO sector in Israel) to express our opinions in a way that will be heard and considered?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

Chava Ashkenazi

Jerusalem, Israel 

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