Tzedakah Inc. Creates Facebook Group To Help Select Effective Jewish Charities

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem --- February 6, 2013 ….. Tzedakah is a Hebrew word literally meaning righteousness. But the Jewish community commonly uses the word Tzedakah today to mean charity. And there are many Jewish charities out there. From UJA, AMIT, AIPAC, Magen David Adom and the ADL to Hadassah, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, HIAS, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and the The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

The list of Jewish charities transcents into the hundreds. So how can one determine which is the best charity for them?
Which Jewish charity truly gets the money to where it's needed most?

Tzedakah, Inc. was founded by Ira Kaminow. Kaminow wants donors to go beyond selecting charities based purely on the organization's marketing and PR fundraising skills or popularity. Instead, he encourages donors to establish their own giving criteria and then to find Jewish charities that best meet their giving objectives.

"Tzedakah, Inc. has published educational materials that inform donors about ways to evaluate Jewish charities and charities to be more transparent," says Kaminow. " We prepare detailed reports on the activities of select Jewish charities that are willing to describe their activities and operations in some detail and will award those charities its Highest Rating for Transparency. These profiles will shortly be published on the Web in Tzedakah, Inc.’s new Website which is under development."

Kaminow discourages excessive focus on charities’ financial data, which is the first place many look to learn about charities.

"The first question I am often asked is what percentage of my donation is spent on programming as opposed to overhead?," says Kaminow. "After years of examining hundreds of charitable financial statements, I have concluded that the numbers provided are too soft and ill defined to be of much help in evaluating charities in almost all cases. Evaluations of charities should include consideration of such key non-financial factors as the quality of programs, whether and how the charity evaluates and learns from its successes and failures, the effectiveness of the stewardship of resources, and the ethical behavior of management."

Kaminow states that the strategic objective of Tzedakah, Inc. is to encourage donors to learn more about ways to evaluate Jewish charities and to reward those that are effective, well managed, and honest. Kaminow says he is often frustrated by donors who ask him what he thinks about this charity or that. Ninety-nine percent of the time, he fears he has no good answer.

"There are just too many charities for one person to monitor," says Kaminow. "Donors interested in particular Jewish charities need to call them up or email them with specific questions and if good answers are not forthcoming, move on to other Jewish charities."

Kaminow hopes that charities will start putting more information about themselves and their operations on their Websites.

In making giving decisions, Kaminow advises donors to look at the organization’s activities and accomplishments, how it evaluates the quality of its program outcomes, the degree of board involvement in oversight and planning, and endorsements by experts. He hopes that in the near future, Jewish charities will be posting this sort of information on their Internet Websites to help donors make more informed giving decisions.

Tzedakah, Inc. has just created a Facebook page called "Tzedakah - A Guide to Jewish Charities."

This social media page is designed to host a conversation about how best to give to Jewish charities and meet the needs of the disadvantaged and to encourage Jewish charities to be more transparent. The Facebook group, which just a few days old, already provides a great deal of information for donors. It includes articles on educating children about money and charity, ways to choose charities, charity in Jewish tradition, and American giving to Israel.

Tzedakah - A Guide to Jewish Charities will have information about charities that are especially transparent and those that are less so.

"Charities will be encouraged to provide relevant information about themselves and their operations that transcend PR and marketing soundbytes," says Kaminow.

"Like Consumer Reports which helps educate consumers about the best products, Tzedakah, Inc. wants to help educate donors about the best charities. Educated donors is an important Jewish ideal. Jewish law states that a person should not contribute to a tzedakah (charity) fund unless he knows that its management is reliable and knows how to conduct the fund properly. However, unlike Consumer Reports, which can buy and then test individual products, donors can only evaluate charities that are transparent. Therefore Tzedakah, Inc. wants donors to insist that charities provide information necessary to make informed giving decisions before they contribute."

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Joel Leyden, journalist, media consultant, social media and SEO pioneer
working with both the Israel Defense Forces and the US Army in Haiti.

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