Over the past four decades, NIF has provided over $300 million to Israel’s progressive civil society organizations. Find out more about our approach to grant-making, capacity-building and initiatives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Respect for a multiplicity of viewpoints;
- Transparency to grantees, donors and the public at large
- Compliance with standards of accountability and due diligence
Criteria for Grant-Making and Support
- Compliance with the laws of the state of Israel
- Respect for the principles of the New Israel Fund and compliance with its policies and procedures
- Relevance to NIF strategic priorities, including:
- A focus on social change
- Strengthening Israel’s democratic values and institutions
- Missions that fall within one of NIF’s four general issue areas: human and civil rights; social and economic justice; religious pluralism and tolerance; and protecting Israel’s environment.
- Nonprofit status
- Registration as an amuta or a company for the benefit of the public;
- Publicly available bylaws;
- Audited financial reports;
- Confirmation of proper accounting procedures as required by Israeli tax authorities and possession of a certificate of tax-withholding at source.
- The above eligibility requirements will not apply to individuals or coalitions requesting capacity building services from Shatil.
Organizations that engage in the following activities will not be eligible for NIF grants or support:
- Participate in partisan political activity
- Promote anti-democratic values
- Support the 1967 occupation and subsequent settlement activity
- Violate the human rights of any group or individual, advocate human rights selectively for one group over another and/or reject the principle of the universality of human rights
- Condone or promote violence or use violent tactics
- Employ racist or derogatory language or designations about any group based on their religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
- Works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel or to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel.
- Engage in activities at odds with the positions, principles, or vision of the New Israel Fund.
Approved July 29, 2010 – Tel Aviv
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.
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.
We oppose religious coercion and the monopolistic practices of the ultra-Orthodox- controlled Rabbinate in Israel, which curtails personal and religious freedom in such matters as Jewish identity and citizenship, marriage, divorce and burial. NIF supports a variety of strategies to combat this monopoly, and to promote the rights of all Jewish streams to receive official recognition and equal allocation of State resources. NIF is currently the only major funder with a dedicated program promoting pluralistic voices in the Orthodox community; the seed-funder of Israel’s first secular yeshivot; and the promoter of several initiatives against religiously-based racism targeting Israel’s minorities.
Why does NIF focus substantial resources on supporting Arab (Palestinian-Israeli) organizations in Israel?
We support Arab as well as joint Jewish-Arab civil society organizations that work to protect and promote the rights of Arab citizens on issues ranging from land and water rights to equal access to education, employment and housing. Our work in the Bedouin community, Israel’s most impoverished, has resulted in the recognition of previously unrecognized villages, the rejection of government-enforced dislocation and the slow but steady provision of basic infrastructure and services to this dramatically underserved population. From incubating micro-enterprise to uniting women against honor killings, no one has done more to empower Palestinian women than the New Israel Fund family.
Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens live together in one small nation, but bring dramatically different narratives to their shared land and citizenship. Understanding the Arab minority narrative means that we do not demand adherence to Zionist principles as a condition of our support. Achieving meaningful coexistence between these two populations will require patience, dialogue and mutual respect, including the freedom to disagree about Israel’s most difficult and existential issues.
The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland.
NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.
However, NIF opposes the occupation and settlement activities. NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that lawfully discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.
With a free press, involved citizenry, a strong and independent judiciary, and a track record of officially constituted commissions and committees of inquiry, there are internal means to hold Israeli leaders accountable to the law, and we work to strengthen all those institutions. We therefore firmly oppose attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in foreign courts or apply the generally-accepted principle of universal jurisdiction against Israel or Israeli officials.
At a time when Jewish-Arab relations in Israel are particularly difficult, this proposed Basic Law would damage the democratic nature of the state by creating a precedent whereby Jews could be legally favored over non-Jews. Potentially, this new Basic Law would provide for the establishment of two tiers of Israeli citizenship, one for Jewish citizens and one for everyone else. Additionally, this legislation allows for the possibility of allowing Jewish religious law to influence legislation and court decisions. This violates fundamental democratic principles regarding religious pluralism and freedom of religion for Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis alike.
We join with President Reuben Rivlin, dozens of legal experts, political scientists, and leaders of mainstream organizations in both the U.S. and Israel in opposing this legislation as harmful and unnecessary.