Sunday, January 3, 2010

Anonymous Jewish Non-Profits Hit the Media

There are huge numbers of non-profit organizations - Jewish and general - trying to make a difference in the world today. Many of these work quietly and efficiently, impacting on any number of problems affecting society. They file their federal 990 forms, pass Better Business Bureau standards, recruit donors and board members, and go about their work. In contrast to these, there are a few non-profits out whose work is less known, but whose advertising rivals that of any business in the for-profit world whose work is selling used cars or cable service.


In the greater New York area, a few organizations come to mind as those that seem to really spend advertising money. Curiously enough, each of these organizations' advertising fails to inform us of their organizations' mission, or the specifics of what they do. They even "forget" to tell us that they are Jewish non-profits that serve the Jewish community. Instead, they regale us with corny music and/or tell us that we should donate our cars to them or participate in their fund raising auctions because, well, because they say so.


My list of annoying and anonymous Jewish non-profits:


Oorah - This organization hawks its "Chinese auctions" several times a year in beautiful, glossy covered glory, invariably neglecting to say what it does or why I should care[ http://www.oorah.org/chinese.htm]. They appear to have found me and added me to their mailing list, and have the bucks to insert their auction catalog in the Jewish newspapers to which I subscribe. I assume, by their name and the fact that they show up in Jewish newspapes, that they do something related to being Jewish. Frankly, if a non-profit is going to make me do extensive research just to find out what they are doing, they shouldn't be wasting my time.



Kars for Kids - The most annoying commercials on New York radio today is one that sings to you to "donate your car today" to "1-877-Kars for Kids, K-A-R-S, Kars for Kids". Not only will they use my donation to spend ridiculous amounts of money to advertise on news radio stations, but they will also send me on a vacation for giving them my wheels. As with Oorah, they don't tell you what they do.

With a little websurfing came the following surprise: Kars for Kids and Oorah are related organizations! And numerous complaints have been filed across the country, complaining that Kars for Kids never told donors that it is a Jewish organization, or how their funds are used. The state of Pennsylvania settled one such complaint last year: [http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/press.aspx?id=4275].

By the way, these organizations appear to also be related to the Cucumber communications company, whose annoying place mats give you useless information on the trays of many Kosher eateries in the New York area, while hawking their service [e.g., "Did you know that former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks Yiddish?"].

L'Chaim Society - Another annoying non-profit that advertises on the radio, imploring us to donate our cars. Again, no information about how the money is used. One can infer that it is a Jewish organization from its name, but its mission remains top secret. Unlike Oorah/Kars for Kids, L'Chaim's website, if it has one, does not turn up on a simple Google search. A few other sites identify it as associated with Chabad, but this is second-hand information. All we do know is that they've got a great advertising budget.


My advice to potential donors [to any non-profit]: Know what the organization you're supporting actually does. Our money (and even our broken down cars - and kars) is valuable. Learn as much as you can and ask as many questions to a non-profit as you want -- you're entitled, often by state and federal laws.

And my advice to non-profits: Respect potential donors. If your cause is bogus, all the advertising in the world will not change that. If your cause is solid, you'll tell us, usually without recourse to glossy auctions catalogues or annoying radio commercials.