Economic crisis hits fundraising


28 November 2008 Economic crisis hits fundraising ORT America, the largest single fundraiser for ORT projects worldwide, is already feeling the effects of the global economic and financial crises. A clutch of fundraising events in New York, New Jersey and Charleston has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for ORTs mission. But while organisers have been delighted by the high levels of attendance and the enthusiasm of supporters, the sums raised have fallen short of forecasts set only a few weeks ago. We have had wonderful turnouts; people are coming together at our events and feel reassured by the company of friends. But many dont feel that they can afford to give what they have in the past, said ORT America President Doreen Hermelin, pictured. Sliding markets have swiftly cut the value of personal philanthropic foundations, the tax effective tools which are commonly used by Americans to organise their charitable giving. The situation has added a new urgency to ORT Americas work revitalising links with industry chapters, some of which became distanced while energy was focused on the merger of American ORT and Womens American ORT. The eagerness of ORTs American supporters to re-embrace the organisation could be seen at the reunion of ORT Americas Jewellery Chapter at the Rainbow Room in New Yorks Rockefeller Centre. The citys top jewellers, diamond dealers and watch company executives came together for the first time since 2006. The cocktail party provided participants with an enjoyable opportunity to network as well as to learn about the latest development in the ORT programme. And despite their industrys current woes, hundreds of New Yorks top professionals in the engineering, building and construction trades came together recently for their chapters annual tribute luncheon. Lauded at the luncheon were this years recipients of ORT Americas prestigious Community Achievement Award, which celebrates individuals who have substantially improved the quality of life for their fellow individuals and created role models, were: Christopher Erikson, Business Manager of Local Union No. 3, IBEW; Sharon Greenberger, President and CEO of the New York City School Construction Authority; and Steven Pressler, Executive Vice President, Area General Manager, Skanska USA Building Inc. Similarly, more than 300 people left Wall Streets worries behind them to attend the Accountants and Bankers Chapters annual tribute dinner. The dinner was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy financial climate resulting in a 15 per cent increase in dollars raised compared with last year. The chapter bestowed the Community Achievement Award on three industry luminaries: Larry Kaplan, Managing Director and Founder of Corporate Solutions Group; Howard Weinberg, Senior Vice President of Israel Discount Bank of New York; and Marvin Weissman of Marketing Management Group. We enthusiastically salute each of these exceptional individuals for their notable professional achievements and successful philanthropic endeavours, said the Chapters Co-Chair, Abby Parsonnet, of JPMorgan Chase Bank. Your presence pays tribute to these three industry leaders and will help ORT to continue its life-changing educational vocational initiatives in 63 countries, as well as here in New York at Bramson ORT College. At the event, Bramson ORT College accounting student Erika Lopez stated confidence in how her college education will shape her future. The knowledge gained will allow me to succeed in a competitive job market, Ms Lopez said. Companies acknowledge the excellent education that we receive and know that we can hit the ground running once were hired. Id like to thank Bramson ORT College for helping me to achieve my goals and for giving me the education necessary to ensure my future. Mr Lopezs comments could have been made by any one of thousands of ORT students in Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Former Soviet Union and Asia. It is this focus on the future that Mrs Hermelin says is vital to help ORT America and its supporters weather the current economic storm. ORTs work with young people is the future, she said. We may be nervous but we have to secure the future for these young people. If they miss out on the benefits that ORT can bring them just for a couple of years then that could undermine their whole lifes career prospects. We have to reach out and tell not only our traditional supporters but also people new to ORT who we are and why our work is more important than ever to secure a brighter future for all. Since its foundation in St Petersburg in 1880, ORT has had to navigate economic crises, wars and persecution without ever giving up on its students. The organisations historical resilience augurs well for its prospects today. I think things are going to be better than people think they are, Mrs Hermelin says. The realities are difficult but the enthusiasm and the care is there. Our challenge is to get to the right people and motivate them to give. We have done it before in worse times than these; we can do it again now.