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Half of the private foundations that give money to Israeli charities say their grants will be lower in 2009 because of the economic crisis, a new poll has found. Another 10 percent said they planned to increase their donations, while the remaining 40 percent said their donations would be unchanged.

The poll, conducted by IPA-Israel Philanthropy Advisors, surveyed 50 private Israeli foundations. The results were presented yesterday at a conference on the philanthropic crisis organized by the Israel Civic Leadership Association, an umbrella organization of Israeli nonprofits.

IPA President Yael Shalgi said that of those foundations that plan to cut donations, most said the decrease would be around 20 percent. However, eight percent said they would slash giving by more than 50 percent.

Most of the foundations said they would meet existing commitments, but would cut back on awarding new grants, she added.

Altogether, Shalgi said, the findings indicate that charities will be receiving about 15 percent less from private Israeli foundations this year than they did last year. It will be very hard for them to find new funding sources to make up this loss, she noted.

Yaron Sokolov, Civic Leadership's executive director, said the nonprofits "are in crisis. They don't know how they will finish the month, how they will pay suppliers, how they will pay salaries."

The conference, he said, was held to enable groups to exchange ideas on how to cope with the crisis. Response was enthusiastic: Some 600 representatives of various organizations attended. Sokolov says he now plans to establish an Internet hotline where nonprofits can get information, support and ideas.

"The Third Sector is for the first time getting acquainted with the term 'risk management,' after five years of continuous growth," said Shlomo Dushi, director general of the Shitufim organization. "Philanthropists in Israel and abroad will reduce funding, and this presents a challenge to the government, which is about to return to being dominant."

However Prof. Hillel Schmid, who runs the Center for the Study of Philanthropy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said nonprofits should actually reduce their dependence on the government. "Most studies show that financial dependence on the government dictates conformist behavior by the nonprofits," he said. "There is a danger of dependence and of adopting norms of behavior similar to that of the government and government bureaucracy."