I joined Facebook last week. (Yes, I know, I am very late to the game here.) And within days, I happily started receiving “Friend Requests” from the many nonprofit directors and community activists whom I have met over the years.
As I watched all these familiar faces pop up on my screen, I saw firsthand what I had been hearing about for so long — how Facebook works as a great connector for both new and old friends. This got me thinking about nonprofits that, for better or worse, continually need to widen their circle, sending out ‘Friend Requests’ to the world.
So how are nonprofits able to find new champions and allies, volunteers and donors in their community? Especially these days, it is the million-dollar question for many of us who are involved with civil society. And, in Israel, with a nonprofit sector that grew from the generosity of so many supporters abroad, it takes an extra push to shake off old habits and think beyond traditional funding strategies.
Yet what is interesting is that more and more, you can find examples of nonprofits that build community in unconventional ways. Often they are finding their ‘Friends’ in less obvious places. Here are three examples of organizations in Israel that are doing so- from initiatives in the startup phase to veteran nonprofits.
Consider the group of women who started Layla Tov (Hebrew for ‘Good Night’), who back in 2015, sought to create a nightlife scene that would be a safe space for everyone. Casting a very wide net of potential supporters in the wider community, the initiative first began with a series of brainstorming meetings on sexual harassment with club and bar owners, DJs, and other concerned stakeholders. It quickly became apparent that there were lots of people who were ready to sign on as allies to promote Layla Tov’s agenda. Today, there are over 70 partnering clubs and bars in cities around the country that have signed a voluntary code , undergo annual training and post signs to signal their support.
In 2017, when they were ready to establish themselves as a full-fledged nonprofit organization, Layla Tov activists turned to Headstart, an Israeli crowdfunding site. Within days of launching their campaign, Layla Tov was able to reach their target amount , with a fundraising video that garnered over half a million views. Many of the online donors were concerned parents, and they were happy to join an initiative to create safer spaces for youth frequenting the club scene. Thinking outside of the box and using social media gave Layla Tov a new base of support and wide exposure.
Another example of new ways to engage with the community and tap into alternative funding sources is Women’s Spirit (‘Ruach Nashit’ in Hebrew). Women’s Spirit is a nonprofit, established in 2007, working to empowering women who are trying to gain economic independence after suffering from violence. What began from a stockpile of bridal gowns and formal dresses donated for a fashion bazaar fundraiser in 2014 has now evolved into a nationally known bridal boutique.
The boutique attracts donations from leading Israeli designers as well as from former brides who support the goals of Women’s Spirit. A team of trained volunteers, many of whom have benefited directly from the organization’s programs, are ready to help in the selection of dresses. Women’s Spirit thus has been able to establish a budding social business that provides a source of earned income, creates a meaningful shopping experience for prospective brides, raises awareness and reaches an ever-widening circle of supporters.
One last example is the collaborative work of One in Nine (‘Ahat M’Tesha’ in Hebrew), established in 1994, that scales up its work through partnerships. One in Nine offers breast cancer counseling and support to women and their families. It works to raise public awareness of breast cancer and advances breast health in Israel (And yes, this is timely to discuss because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!).
A few years ago, One in Nine teamed up with the much larger, nationally based, AMCHA, an organization in operation since 1987 which provides psychological and social support services to Holocaust survivors and their families all over the country. Both organizations clearly have a great deal of experience in dealing with survivors of trauma. And because of this collaboration, One in Nine has been able to expand its outreach from its base in Tel Aviv to fifteen more locations, from Sderot to Safed. AMCHA therapists, trained in post -traumatic therapy, are part of the comprehensive services offered by One in Nine to the women seeking support and treatment. It’s a ‘win-win’ partnership between two organizations, an example of collaborative work that expands both community outreach and overall impact.
So perhaps you should consider reaching out to your favorite nonprofits in Israel. Chances are you will find that they are rethinking how to define community engagement. They may be exploring earned income projects, recruiting new board members, seeking out local partners, building a larger presence on social media, or starting a membership drive.
You may or may not have a wedding gown to donate, but it is very likely you have something even better – your own resources, networks and ideas that can benefit the many organizations that are working to improve the lives of so many around the country. See if you can help them send out more ‘Friend Requests’ to the world.