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What is the New Israel Fund?

The New Israel Fund was founded more than 30 years ago to actualize the vision of Israel’s Founders, that of a Jewish and democratic state that, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, “ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Through our founding, funding and advocacy of more than 800 organizations that comprise Israel’s progressive civil society, we have become the leading organization advancing democracy and equality in Israel.

Widely credited with building Israel’s progressive civil society from scratch, we have provided more than $300 million to more than 900 cutting-edge organizations since our inception. And we are more than a funder; NIF is at philanthropy’s cutting edge thanks in large part to SHATIL, the New Israel Fund Initiative for Social Change, and to our own projects, programs and coalitions.

Our values drive our work. We fight inequality, injustice and extremism because we understand that justice is the precondition for a successful democracy — and the only lasting road to peace. The New Israel Fund’s founders wanted to connect with Israel in a way that reflected their progressive values, and thousands of Israelis and Diaspora Jews have joined with us for that reason. Our supporters love Israel, and see it clearly as striving for an ideal not yet attained.


What has NIF accomplished since it was established in 1979?

The NIF family has been the agent of Israel’s most significant social change since its founding in 1979.  We have won the most important legal and legislative victories that have improved the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis, opening doors to women, non-Orthodox Jews, Arab Israeli citizens, the LBGT community, immigrants and the disabled. Working at the cutting edge of sometimes-contentious social change, we have placed previously neglected issues on the public agenda and changed the consensus on some of Israel’s most difficult social issues.

Thirty years ago, Israel’s NGO sector consisted of small groups that were mostly partisan and allied with political parties, and charitable organizations dominated by traditional cultural, educational and religious institutions. Today there are more than 27,000 citizen-action groups, hundreds of which are helped each year by the New Israel Fund. NIF has also influenced the principles and practice of other philanthropies, resulting in additional support in areas such as the rights of Arab citizens, environmental justice, women’s rights and more.

The New Israel Fund has nurtured many of Israel’s best-known and most effective NGOs, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; B’Tselem; Association of Rape Crisis Centers; Community Advocacy: Genesis Israel; Israel Women’s Network; Adalah: Legal Center for the Arab Minority; Israel Religious Action Center; Bizchut: Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities; Jerusalem Open House; Kolech: Religious Women’s Forum; Tebeka: Legal Center for Ethiopian Immigrants; Worker’s Hotline, and many more.


What is the difference between NIF and other Jewish philanthropies?

NIF’s partnership, priorities and accountability set it apart from other fundraising organizations. We are a unique hands-on international partnership between Israelis, North Americans and Europeans in the vanguard of the social change movement in Israel.  Rather than provide direct social services to Israel’s disadvantaged sectors, NIF empowers marginalized Israelis to organize and speak for themselves and achieve recognition and results in the corridors of power.

Investing in the New Israel Fund means investing in a specific vision of Israel. Our unshakeable dedication to democratic values and to equality and justice for every Israeli provides a values-driven measurement of success. Almost every significant cause-related progressive NGO in Israel was seed-funded by NIF, and the NIF family is responsible for significant advancements in human rights, social justice, religious pluralism, and environmental protection. And we don’t just seed-fund start-up organizations; through our action arm SHATIL, we give them the know-how to grow and prosper.

From small, community-based groups to Israel’s most influential human rights organizations, NIF’s funding, training and leadership have made the difference in building the Israel we know to be possible.


Is NIF a “go-it-alone” organization or does it work with other philanthropies?

NIF participates in many activities and events within the Jewish philanthropic community. In recent years, NIF has developed partnerships with Jewish federations, groups of Jewish philanthropists, such as the Israel Venture Network (IVN) of high-tech entrepreneurs, and other foundations such as the Nathan Cummings and Dorot Foundations. NIF is a key partner in the Green Environment Fund, a consortium of funders which includes the Bronfman Philanthropies and other major foundations, and is the first and largest funding collaboration in Israel dedicated to the environment. The Abu Basma Project, run by NIF and the American Joint Distribution Committee, supports efforts to ensure representation for the residents of formerly unrecognized Bedouin villages.

These collaborations help focus philanthropic dollars on issues of strategic importance in areas of common concern such as education, religious pluralism, the environment and the rights of Israel’s minorities.


How does NIF operate?

The New Israel Fund is a c(3) philanthropic organization, incorporated in the U.S., with the stated mission of incubating and fostering social change organizations in Israel.  Except for public education programs in the U.S., Canada and the U.K, NIF uses rigorous guidelines to fund organizations, training and other activities in Israel exclusively.

We are a funder with a point of view.  We evaluate our grantees and grantee applicants rigorously and frequently, relative to our primary goal of achieving progressive social change in Israel. NIF seeks to fund organizations that share our most significant values – justice and equality for every Israeli, as well as freedom of speech, conscience and dissent.   In addition to organizational effectiveness, NIF grantees must meet five standards:

  • Legal status as an Israeli “amuta” – a registered NGO meeting the legal requirements of the Israeli government.
  • Organizations must respect and support the democratic nature of the state of Israel.
  • Organizations must refrain from partisan political activity.
  • Organizations cannot advocate violence or the destruction of the state of Israel.
  • Organizations cannot use racist or derogatory language or designations about any group based on their religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

And NIF is not “just” a funder.  We are an advocacy organization that takes on the toughest issues; builds coalitions; incubates new approaches, programs and projects for social change; and serves as the acknowledged leader of progressive civil society in Israel.  NIF works on the most difficult, intractable issues of Israeli society — and the issues we take up today often become the concerns of mainstream organizations tomorrow.


Is NIF a “peace group?” Does it lobby in the U.S.?

The New Israel Fund does not lobby in the United States or other countries outside of Israel.  We and our organizations, while non-partisan, do work to influence government policy at all levels in Israel. And we do advocate outside Israel for changes in Israeli society that may impact Jewish communities elsewhere. For example, our work in religious pluralism broadens the definition of ‘who is a Jew’ vis-à-vis the Orthodox hierarchy for the Jewish community worldwide.

NIF is not a “peace” organization in that we do not involve ourselves in the specifics of the ongoing peace process. Since our inception, the New Israel Fund has believed that only a just and equitable society can make peace with its neighbors. Our work for human rights, social justice and religious pluralism is the natural complement of progressive groups who are advancing the two-state solution and the peace process.

As a matter of policy and organizational values, NIF:

  • supports an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories as a central principle of the strategic framework in which we operate.
  • supports two states for two peoples and strongly advocates for efforts to realize that goal.
  • opposes the settlement enterprise as inimical to the peace process and to the future of Israel as a just and democratic society.


How is NIF governed, and how does its grant-making process work?

NIF is governed by an international Board of Directors that includes Israelis, Australians, North Americans and Europeans who represent different points of view within our common values. The New Israel Fund CEO, development, communications and financial management functions are located in various offices in the U.S. The Executive Director in Israel manages NIF-Israel, which includes grants, program and administrative staff as well as SHATIL, NIF’s action arm, which provides capacity-building and training programs from five offices around Israel. The New Israel Fund of Canada, New Israel Fund-UK, New Israel Fund-Australia and New Israel Fund-Switzerland also contribute financial and volunteer support to the NIF family of organizations.

The grant-making process begins in Israel where our office accepts applications that are reviewed by staff, then by the relevant Grants sub-Committees. These and other Board Committees are composed of members of the Board, members of an International Advisory Committee, and other non-Board members who have a familiarity with the Israeli non-profit sector and are experts in social change or other specific NIF issue areas.

The Grants Committees make detailed recommendations to the Board, which then considers which grants to approve. NIF consistently monitors the use of funds in grantee organizations’ activities to ensure that grant funds are being utilized effectively, efficiently and for the purpose for which the grant was approved. Grantees include grassroots community-based organizations as well as regional and national professional organizations, and cover a diverse range of issues assisting all sectors of Israeli society.

NIF does not fund direct services, except in special circumstances.  Our orientation has always been towards changing Israel as a society so that all citizens will have equal opportunities and live in a just society. In certain instances, as during the Second Lebanon War, we partner with other agencies and organizations to provide emergency relief to sectors in dire need of assistance. Some of our grantees do provide direct services in cases where they are developing a model that may be replicated, such as intervention programs for youth at risk, micro-enterprise training for unemployed women, and alternative educational programs for liberal Orthodox pupils and others.

We generally do not fund academic or research, and do not fund organizations affiliated with political parties.

NIF publicizes its activities and financial statements in our annual report and on our web site.  We are transparent about our donors and grantees, and provide audited financial statements each year to our donors and to the public.


How Does NIF Raise its Annual Budget?

NIF raises funds to cover its operating budget on an annual basis. Foundations and individual donors in the U.S., Canada and the UK – as well as a small but growing number of Israeli philanthropists – provide the more than $30 million that comprises the overall NIF annual budget.  Within that overall budget, the Ford Israel Fund is a grant-making partnership between the Ford Foundation and the New Israel Fund to promote peace and social justice in Israel.


What is SHATIL?

NIF is at philanthropy’s cutting edge in large part because of SHATIL, the New Israel Fund’s Initiative for Social Change (formerly known as NIF’s Training and Empowerment Center for Social Change Organizations).

Founded in 1982 to complement NIF’s grant making, SHATIL’s original mission was to provide grantees and other social change organizations with hands-on assistance and training in the basics of non-profit management. As a capacity-building center for grassroots organizations, SHATIL provides tools that empower its clients to improve their lives and communities and build institutions to promote long-term social change. Widely regarded as one of the world’s most successful capacity building centers, SHATIL regularly originates, discovers and disseminates best practices to Israel’s growing NGO sector. More than 1000 organizations are currently receiving assistance from SHATIL.

Now officially recognized by the United Nations, SHATIL has evolved into NIF’s action arm, — launching innovative programs, building coalitions, and working at the forefront of social change in Israel. With more than 100 ethnically diverse professionals working in Jerusalem, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Lod, and the “Triangle,” SHATIL embodies a bottom-up, community organizing approach, reaching out to constituencies on the economic and geographic periphery, helping them create and run their own programs when existing institutions fail to act, and maximizing their strength by building coalitions among them. Today, SHATIL often takes the initiative in spearheading national advocacy and emergency campaigns.


What are NIF’s funding priorities?

NIF’s funding priorities are determined through a combination of long-term strategies and more immediate needs and opportunities. Some NIF priorities take years to bear fruit; others have immediate impact.  Committees of NIF board, staff and qualified outsiders intensively analyze requests for grants and funding each year, and the Board of Directors has the final say on funding allocations.

In terms of fundraising priorities, NIF works to cover its core commitments (as set in the annual approved budget) as a higher priority than raising funds for extra-budgetary projects.

Generally, our priorities fall into three major issue areas – human and civil rights, social and economic justice, and religious pluralism. We also focus on issues of the environment and environmental justice through our partnership in the Green Environment Fund.


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For additional information please see, Selected NIF Policies.