Israeli Nonprofits Advancing Female Causes Receive Less Than 1 Percent of All Donations, Study Finds

Researchers and advocates hope the findings will be a ‘wake-up call’ for both philanthropists and the Israeli government to help address the massive underfunding of organizations that advocate for women and girls’ causes

A banner for Naamat, one of the largest women's NGOs in Israel, at a protest in Tel Aviv last October.
A banner for Naamat, one of the largest women's NGOs in Israel, at a protest in Tel Aviv last October.Credit: Hadas Parush

A new study has revealed that less than 1 percent of all donations to Israeli nonprofits go to organizations that advance the interests of women and girls.

The stunning statistic arises from a report compiled by Prof. Michal Almog-Bar of Hebrew University, together with Dr. Minna Wolf and Kylie Eisman-Lifschitz, titled “Giving to Women’s and Girls’ Causes in Israel.”

The research should be a “wake-up call” both to philanthropists and the Israeli government, said Eisman-Lifschitz, a management consultant who initiated the research. “Less than 1 percent of philanthropic funding to advance women is shocking, in my opinion,” she said. “I always ask people to guess the percentage that goes to women and girls. Most people guess low, but nobody guesses just how low it really is.”

Eisman-Lifschitz serves as the chair of Mavoi Satum, an advocacy group that supports women whose husbands refuse to award them a religious divorce. Her experience has taught her that most groups oriented toward helping women were small and “starved for resources,” but said that it was important to quantify the extent of the problem and approached the academics to collaborate on an investigation.

The issue, she said, had become particularly pressing given the rise in domestic violence and the increased economic vulnerability of women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women were the first workers to be laid off and bore the brunt of childcare when schools were closed. During that time, Eisman-Lifschitz perceived a significant gap between public awareness of the plight of women and the level of funding for organizations addressing the problem, from both private donors and the Israeli government.

The study found that when even government support – not only private philanthropy – is factored in, nonprofits that advance women’s welfare only receive 2.2 percent of the country’s total nonprofit income.

That figure, however, is heavily weighted by three large veteran women’s organizations: Naamat, WIZO and Emunah, whose strongly government-supported day care facilities benefit parents of all genders. When these three organizations are taken out of the equation, just 0.3 percent of all nonprofit income goes to groups that advance women and girls.

The vast majority of NGOs that support women and girls, the study found, have tiny annual budgets of less than 2 million shekels ($640,000) which limit their impact. Of the 197 NGOs that primarily aid women, the study determined, the total income is only 2.15 percent of the total income of the country’s NGOs. Nearly half of the donations to these groups – 45 percent – come from overseas donors.

One reason for the relatively low level of funding, she said, is the “misperception” that social and welfare organizations that serve the general population divide their assistance on a 50/50 basis between men and women, when “it isn’t even close to half.” Another is the overall lower level of giving from wealthy women who “are often less comfortable with giving larger sums and give less than their partners.”

Then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon visiting a women's shelter operated by WIZO in 2017.Credit: Raanan Cohen

Prof. Almog-Bar, head of the Hebrew University’s Institute for the Study of Civil Society and Philanthropy, said that the issue of funding Israeli women’s organizations had never been studied in Israel before, as it has in other countries.

These findings, she said, would be followed up by further research in order “to better understand how donors and philanthropic foundations perceive this issue; how nonprofit organizations experience it, how they raise funds and interact with donors and the wider public; as well as the role of government in supporting and working with nonprofit organizations and philanthropic foundations in this field.” She hopes the research will “help to develop new innovative solutions to foster giving to these important causes, and to support and advance women and girls’ lives in Israel.”

The study “clearly shows that organizations that primarily benefit women and girls are grossly underfunded. Our hope is that serious funders will see this data as an invitation to change this dynamic,” Wolf added.

Eisman-Lifschitz joined Wolf’s call, saying that her hope is that the dismal statistics in the study will inspire “growing new wealth” and “a new generation of Israeli philanthropists” from the high-tech sector and beyond to take action.

“I believe this represents a huge opportunity. If any of them can be encouraged to step into this arena, then that is already going to make an enormous difference. Israel isn’t a big country and just one significant funder can make a big difference,” Eisman-Lifschitz said.

With the study, she added, “I am hoping to start a conversation about this and bring new people to the table.”

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