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Developing the Israeli Third Sector – NP Tech Launches GuideStar Israel

4 Comments 26 August 2010

In early August, NP Tech launched Guidestar Israel. It took almost five years to make GuideStar Israel a reality, and it is an incredible resource for Israeli nonprofit organization. The GuideStar project was established as an unique cooperative venture by the Ministry of Justice, JDC-Israel, and Yad Hanadiv with the objective of developing civil society in Israel.

NP Tech (established by JDC-Israel and Yad Hanadiv) is the operating organization behind GuideStar Israel. It provides services and activities designed to help social organizations make information and communications technology (ICT) more accessible to social organizations to reach their goals. NP Tech wants to create a “socio-technological market” in which different providers offer their products for social activity advancement, internet sites encourage social action and social organizations use these products in accordance to their needs.

I had the opportunity to ask Royi Biller, CEO of NP Tech, about why it was so important to bring GuideStar to Israel, how it could change the Israeli third sector, and upcoming NP Tech initiatives.

The interview is below (my questions are in orange):

What services does NP Tech provide?
1.    GuideStar Israel
2.    Software Donation Program: NPTech collaborates with TechSoup Global and software vendors on establishing low cost distribution channels for nonprofit organizations to acquire state of the art ICT tools to enhance their capabilities.
3.    Way2Know: an online knowledge base including videos, articles and blog posts around utilizing ICT tools for social purposes.
4.    Consultation services: NPTech assists nonprofit organizations analyze their technological needs, acquire the appropriate solutions and integrate them into their activities.

What are the technology needs of Israeli nonprofit organizations?

Our analysis and market research indicates that nonprofit organizations (at large) make use of the relatively simple tools the IT industry offers, especially with regards to organizational information systems. However, most nonprofit managers reported that they lack knowledge about the opportunities available to them, as well as available funding sources for such purposes. The role of CIO or CTO usually does not exist in most nonprofits, and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is commonly not budgeted or planned ahead routinely.

Another phenomenon identified is typical to the Israeli market – the language barrier; there are far less tools and applications available in Hebrew then there are in English, and when it comes to specific applications for nonprofit needs there may be zero solutions available in Hebrew. Nonprofit managers have expressed a need for support from a trusted partner to help decision making and adoption processes of ICT tools in their organizations.

How do these needs compare with worldwide trends?

Most of the findings are quite similar to the common challenges nonprofits face when trying to adopt technologies into their organizations. The only unique pattern was the language barrier and market size that are the main reasons for the shortage of Hebrew software tailored for nonprofit needs.

What is GuideStar Israel?

GuideStar Israel is intended to be the main information website resource about nonprofit organizations in Israel. The website currently features mostly official information regarding all NPOs in Israel from the Registrar of NPOs. It is gradually being updated with additional richer and more “colorful” information provided by the NPOs themselves. This combination creates the most comprehensive and qualitative database of civil social organizations in Israel.

Why is it important to have a GuideStar Israel and offer this database of nonprofits?

The goal in building this database is foremost to create public transparency regarding the conduct of nonprofit organizations in Israel. Anyone who has any interest in nonprofit organizations – donors, volunteers, suppliers and customers – may surf and find official information reported to the Registrar of NPOs regarding the conduct of each non-profit organization operating in Israel.

GuideStar itself operates from within and for the benefit of the third sector, out of the belief that public transparency is an important means for the development of this sector. We see great importance in providing “as is” information, without any judgment. We focus on providing surfers with maximum updated information, in a digital, accessible and convenient format for searching information about all active nonprofit organizations in Israel.

Just as important is the internet exposure offered to all nonprofit organizations operating in Israel, even to the smallest NPOs which have, thus far, not been able to exploit this medium. This exposure will encourage donors and volunteers, as well as cooperation between non-profit organizations with a view to reinforcing the third sector in Israel and making it more accessible for everyone.

How do you think GuideStar Israel will change nonprofit operations, organizations, or the way that Israelis (and others) perceive Israeli nonprofit organizations?

We expect that the readily available information provided by GuideStar will help nonprofit organizations become more effective by making data-driven decisions, comparative analysis and sharing knowledge. We believe the public perception of the Israeli third sector will become more positive once each and every user will be able to easily determine whether an organization is being run properly, and that the “rotten apples” would be easier to distinguish from the legitimate majority. We expect to see more fact-based discussions taking place regarding nonprofit activities.

I know that NP Tech is a TechSoup Global partner. What does that mean for Israeli NPOs?

We are in final stages of preparations for the launch of the software donation program in collaboration with TechSoup Global, which will enable eligible nonprofits to acquire state of the art software for a fraction of the cost. We intend to launch the program during the last quarter of 2010.

Royi Biller is the CEO of NP Tech. Royi initiated the establishment of NPTech during his work as a Program Officer for Technology and Knowledge at Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild Foundation). Royi is well versed in technology project management, relying on vast experience from his military service as an intelligence officer, his work as a Decision Support Systems engineer in Intel and his position in Yad Hanadiv.

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  • Florence Broder

    As a staff person for the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the first thing I did when Guidestar Israel launched was search for my organization’s profile. To my surprise it did come up in the search engine. After much poking around, I learned that JAFI does not have a nonprofit status in Israel (amuta number), but it has a designation of Keren Leumi by the government (National Institution/Fund). Israel is the only country in the world that makes this distinction. Keren Hayesod-UIA as well as Jewish National Fund also fall under the Keren Leumi category.

    What is the problem with making this distinction in Guidestar? It perpetuates the idea that these organization are arms of the government and receive government funding when they are not. Like every other nonprofit in Israel they must do their own fundraising. In addition, it may impact where Keren Leumis are eligible for the other services and benefits that NP Tech provides.

    [Reply]

  • Royi Biller

    Dear Florence,
    Thank you for your comment and interest in our site. GuideStar Israel is planned to include all nonprofit organizations registered in Israel, not only AMUTOT, which is currently the only type of nonprofit organizations in our database. We hope to add Public Benefit Corporations (“HELETZ”) to GuideStar around the beginning of 2011, and then proceed to adding other types of nonprofit organizations (which are relatively few). Since the Jewish Agency is a truly unique organization, with a unique legal status, I cannot say for sure when we’d be able to include it in GuideStar, but you’re very welcome to contact me directly and we’ll see what can be done.
    In any case, I encourage you to join NPTech’s newsletter through our site (www.nptech.org.il) in order to follow these and other GuideStar related updates.
    Best wishes,
    Royi Biller, CEO, NPTech (biller@nptech.org.il)

    [Reply]

  • Hi Florence,
    Great comment. I don’t know why JAFI doesn’t come up in the search, but I’m guessing that it is because it is not an actual amuta in Israel. Because Israel is the only country that makes a distinction between amuto and keren leumi, it seems to me that a customized GuideStar Israel would be ideally customized to deal with this issue.

    I bet that Royi Biller from NP Tech will have more information about this, and I am hoping that he will respond on to your comment directly.

    [Reply]

  • Florence Broder

    I agree that Guidestar should be customized to include Keren Leumis with Amutot. I look forward to Roi’s response.

    [Reply]

About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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