Shekel rate adds to strain on charities

By Jay Grenby, November 6, 2008
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Charities raising funds for Israeli causes have more than the credit crunch to contend with. Around a 25 per cent fall in exchange rates means that funds generated are worth considerably less in Israeli currency.

"We are presently getting a lot fewer shekels for our pounds than hitherto," reported Alison Rosen, executive director of Wizo UK, which supports welfare and educational projects in Israel. "This effectively reduces the amount of money we can send and we therefore need to raise more than ever to maintain even the same level of support."

Early indications were that Wizo's Rosh Hashanah appeal would raise less than last year.

At One Family UK, helping victims of terror attacks in Israel, executive director Andrew Alexander reflected that "in a normal situation, we look to see an increase in donations year-on-year. But in the current circumstances we are very happy that this year's Yom Kippur appeal - target £60,000 - seems to have raised virtually the same as last year."

However, with "money sent to Israel not worth as much as it was this time last year, and with the recession looming, our office in Israel is having to adjust its budget accordingly".

Magen David Adom UK, backing Israel's emergency medical service, is facing a "nightmare" situation, according to chief executive Eli Benson. It sends no cash to Israel, but deals directly with suppliers and builders, paying them in shekels or dollars. "Last year, we were getting eight shekels to the pound, now we are only getting six," Mr Benson said.

MDA UK is involved in a dozen building projects - constructing ambulance stations or refurbishing existing ones - and is finding "that costs have escalated by anything up to 50 per cent since we started on them. Yet we can hardly go back to donors and ask them to increase their original pledges".

Although not yet in a position to give figures for this year's Yomtov appeals, UJIA suggests that the number of its donors has increased and JNF believes that it will match its 2007 total.

Among domestic welfare and educational charities, Jewish Care is confident of reaching its £150,000 target. At Chai Cancer Care, chief executive Elaine Kerr reported: "So far, our Rosh Hashanah appeal has raised slightly less than last year. We are also finding that some of our clients are being affected by the credit crunch, and this compounds their trauma of coping with cancer."

Special needs charity Kisharon's Rosh Hashanah appeal is, to date, 15 per cent down on 2007's £58,000 total. Chief executive Beverley Jacobson believes this is "only the beginning of the downward spiral. The credit crunch will have a far greater pinch on future fundraising".

    Last updated: 10:10am, November 6 2008