From Synagogues to Millionaires
Breaking into the Israeli Nonprofit Industry with a Boom!
Name: Maurice Ross
Originally from: London, England
Made Aliyah: August, 2007
Lives in: Yokneam
Job: Coordinator for Special Donor Relations for the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
From the hi-tech and academic hub of Israel’s north, meet Maurice Ross- the Special Donor Relations Coordinator for the Technion. Smart, sweet, personable, and articulate- it is no wonder he has successfully integrated in his field of non-profit, post-fundraising support.
Coming from a background of Jewish community work and education, Maurice is a great example of somebody who was able to continue in his professional field and utilize skills to establish himself in an entirely new way. He has great insights to offer on career building, as well as life in Israel, after years of experience and reinventing himself.
Maurice is married to Janine and they just celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary in April. Janine is the program director for a management institute based in Moshav Nahalal.
I spoke to Maurice to hear the story of his interesting career path
What did you do before moving to Israel?
For 15 years, I was CEO of one of the largest synagogues in Europe. I was responsible for finance, management and programming—basically all of the non-rabbinic aspects of running a synagogue. It functioned as the Jewish community center in central London. Three years before making Aliyah, I earned a second degree in Jewish education and became the ‘subject leader’ at a Jewish primary school in London.
Janine was employed as a Medical Practice Manager.
What do you do now?
I work with the major donors, who have donated $5million+. I am not part of the fundraising, rather, the post-fundraising. After the money comes in, I support the donor and make sure that agreements are implemented. I also make sure that the donor gets their due recognition and prepare project reports for them.
How did you find your job?
When we moved to Israel, we decided to take some time to relax and look for a job. We both attended a business ulpan in Haifa which was next door to a recruitment agency. We told them that we were looking for work and that I was interested in applying my non-profit abilities to my future career in Israel. Sure enough, they quickly found me this job!
They found a job for Janine a few months later.
What do you love most about your job?
I love when the recipient of my services is happy. To know that the donor has been supported correctly and, as a result, decides to do more is an amazing feeling.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Getting others to understand that donor support is crucial…and getting them to recognize the value of it. Researchers and non-“resource development” personnel sometimes don’t understand that if they don’t keep the donor happy, they may lose the funds that they need to do their work.
How important is Hebrew to your job?
Personally, I have had difficulty picking it up. My work is in English, so I don’t really get the opportunity to develop my Hebrew. Having Hebrew may have opened a few more doors.
But if you don’t have strong Hebrew, don’t undersell yourself. People in the non-profit industry need English speakers!
What background is beneficial for the field of non-profits?
- Learn Hebrew. If you can afford to do it, immerse yourself for six months. Go to a kibbutz and submerge yourself in a Hebrew-speaking environment, where you have to speak it to make it! Sadly, we did not do that and I wish we had.
- Get to understand the market and understand the Israeli non-profit structure. Do homework as to what sort of non-profit work you want to go into. A lot of Israeli non-profits are political and are involved in lobbying for funding for their programs. It’s a very broad field, so make sure you support what it is you’re selling and are in tune with the goals of the agency.
- Look into “how to write grant applications” courses. Learn about good donor support. Psychology is a great background, as you learn about how to know your donor and his/her psyche.
- If you are a good manager, coordinated and have a logical approach, you can make it. Do your homework.
What advice would you give to somebody looking to break into the Israel non-profit world?
In Israel “schmooze makes schmooze!” Never forget that somebody you meet at a party might know somebody who knows somebody. Never say, “I won’t speak to that person”—that very person may introduce you to somebody who can land you your dream job! Don’t lose the opportunity to make use of the people around you. Carry your resume with you all the time. Be able to say, “Oh! Here’s my resume. Please pass it on to that person!”
What’s your funniest “culture shock” moment pertaining to your job or job search?
I used to have a sign in England on my office door that said: “I can only please one person a day…. Today is not your day…. And tomorrow doesn’t look good either!”
I put that sign on my office in Israel and coworkers who wanted to meet with me would see it and turn away from my office, because they thought I was telling them to come back tomorrow! I took the sign down. British subtlety and humor is not the same as Israeli humour!
How do you feel about living in Israel?
Israel could be the worst place in the world, and I would still love it. Some people come to Israel because they are fed up with the country where they live, but that’s not a good reason to come to Israel.
Come to Israel because it’s Israel, not just another country to live in. In Israel, it’s not about being religious, but about having religion. You get up in the morning and you are a Jew. In other countries, you are Jewish. You have to come here recognizing that—and with the determination that you are not leaving. Recognize the beauty and the dirt—there’s a lot of beauty but also a lot of dirt. But it is our dirt and that’s dirt that “I’m gonna clean up!” If you thing that way, you can make it!