21 January 2009 ORT vision bridges the Atlantic Senior World ORT and ORT America staff members have spent three days together hammering out strategies to take the organisation forward through the difficult times ahead. Followed up by three days of intensive sessions involving top management and senior lay leaders, the meetings are the latest stage in ORTs on-going process of evaluation and improvement, a major feature of which was the merger of Womens American ORT and American ORT two years ago. This, the first ever meeting of Americas regional directors, national staff and World ORT management, took on an added sense of urgency because of the impact on the philanthropic world of recession and the Madoff case. Standing from left: Lawrence R. Ludwig, Director, Management Information Systems, ORT America; Kim Ross, Head, North American Representative Desk, World ORT; Roni R. Wallace, Director, Cleveland Region, ORT America; Lisa Lager, Senior Director, Planned Giving, ORT America; Roslyn L. Black, Director, Greater Washington Region, ORT America; Caryn Liss, Associate Director, Development, Atlanta Region, ORT America; Herbert M. Kaplan, Director of Annual Giving, ORT America; Bonnie Hirsch, Communications Assistant, ORT America; Jenna Leopold, Associate Director of Programming and Next Generation, Atlanta Region, ORT America; Stephanie Pritzker, Director, Midwest Region, ORT America; Michael J. Burlingame, Associate Director, Special Events, ORT America; Esther Merkin, Director, New Jersey Region, ORT America; Iris S. Margolin, Senior Director, Development, ORT America; Leah B. Siskin, Advancement Director, Florida Region, ORT America; Tanea Hammond, Associate Director, Outreach and Leadership Development, ORT America; Annette Holland, Associate Director, Florida Region, ORT America; Gail Wahle, Trades Consultant, ORT America; Barbara Glickler, Executive Assistant and Board Relations Coordinator, ORT America; Annette Holland, Associate Director, Florida Region, ORT America; Susan Baumohl, Assistant Director, Outreach and Next Generation, ORT America; Karol Friedman, Director, Michigan Region, ORT America; Valerie Khaytina, Deputy North American Representative, World ORT; Loren Krongold, Director, Miami Region, ORT America. Seated from Left: Bob Golbert, Head of Regional Operations Desk, World ORT; Sonia Gomes de Mesquita, Head of International Liaison Department, World ORT; Robert Singer, Director General & CEO World ORT; Janice G. Stolar, Chief Advancement Officer, ORT America; Rachel Lobovsky, Senior Director, Outreach and Leadership Development, ORT America. This is a scary time for philanthropies, said Shelley Fagel, Chair of ORT Americas National Executive Committee and Chair of World ORTs Allocations Committee. But this week of tiring but highly productive meetings shows that were on the ball, that were very serious about what we do and how we do it it has put everyone together on the same page and on the same place on that page. Among the challenges addressed at the retreat, held at Bramson ORT College in New York, was the sudden contraction of charitable giving. Cutting costs is absolutely vital if we are to have the money to meet ORTs global commitments so that our students can continue to receive the education they need, Ms Fagel said. Some 10 years ago World ORT underwent a major restructuring which delivered huge efficiency dividends; and the merger of Womens American ORT and American ORT has also significantly improved our efficiency by removing duplications. Our efforts to ensure that as much as possible of the money we raise goes to providing the education and training for which were famous are nothing new, only now the pressure is greater. The professionalism and determination evident at the meetings made a strong impression on the lay leaders present, Ms Fagel said. Ive received very positive feedback from them, she said. I think this has energised them to maintain and even try to increase their already massive commitments in time and money despite the considerable strains they are under. Presentations at the retreat provided participants with comprehensive examinations of ORTs history and vision, detailed explanation of World ORTs new governance structure and professional network, an update on World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme in Israel, and overviews of World ORT activities in the Former Soviet Union, Latin America and other parts of the world. ORT Americas regional directors each shared insights on their local operations, national staff led discussions on fundraising strategies and analysis and Dr Ephraim Buhks, the Director of ORT Operations USA the programmatic arm of ORT America presented developments in his sector.A critical development initiated at the retreat was the direct contact between World ORT and ORT Americas fundraisers for the allocation of projects requiring support. The Head of World ORTs International Liaison Department, Sonia Gomes de Mesquita, explained: We presented them with a portfolio of 200 projects and went through them with the regional fundraisers one by one so that those projects which best suited the donors could be selected. Until now, this process was carried out between the head office staff in our respective organisations. In future, this intensive selection process will take place in October of each year to allow fundraisers to prepare the support material and speakers they will need when they reach out to their communities from December. Not only will this give the fundraisers the information and time they need to prepare their outreach for the year having direct contact will mean greater clarity in communication and so avoid the need for clarifications during the fundraising period, Ms Gomes de Mesquita said. We anticipate that this streamlined system will result in more effective fundraising. Ms Fagel said that in bringing both sides of the Atlantic together to make strong, practical plans about ORTs future at a time when other philanthropies were weakening the retreat had generated optimism among participants. ORTs international programmes were presented side by side with US programmes allowing our fundraisers to get a snapshot of the entire range of ORTs activities, she said. It was also significant for World ORT to hear what ORT America needs from them. There was a very open dialogue about our respective needs resulting in a greater closeness, something which has been tremendously helped by having [World ORT Director General] Robert [Singer] also as acting Executive Director of ORT America. Mr Singer said he was very happy with the outcome of the retreat which had set ORTs course for 2009 in a strategic and methodical way. The structural improvements we are establishing are fundamental to ensuring that ORT is not only strong for today but sustainable for the future, he said. By significantly decreasing expenses, adopting a full transparency attitude and moving to a result-oriented policy, we are confident that ORT America will continue its 87-year tradition of being a leader, main supporter and champion of the World ORT family. Janice Stolar, ORT Americas Chief Advancement Officer, said ORT had proved its resilience over the past 129 years. Since 1880, ORT has faced and strongly responded to every challenge, including two world wars, the Great Depression, Israel at risk, and economic turmoil in Argentina, Ms Stolar said. Today, as we face a great fiscal challenge, the vision, tenacity and strong partnership of our volunteer and professional leadership make us powerfully poised to again transform our organisation. We have an exciting mission to give dignity to ORT students and a high-calibre education that prepares them to be productive members of their communities and build a better world, which is even more crucial in this current environment.