Joburg CSO threatened by lack of funding

  • CSO
The Community Security Organisation (CSO) exists to secure South African Jewry, but right now, this vital community organisation needs rescuing.
by TALI FEINBERG | Aug 15, 2019

This week, the CSO announced that, for the first time, its Gauteng branch faces an uncertain future “due to the substantial reduction in financial support from its primary fundraiser, the United Communal Fund (UCF).

“The CSO, which has not traditionally had a full-time fundraising capability, has become responsible for raising close to 100% of its financial needs in order to continue protecting our community,” said the organisation in an email to the community.

The organisation has had to retrench nine staff members in conjunction with an extensive cost-cutting process. “We now have to start the process of restructuring the organisation to ensure that the community continues to be empowered and protected,” it said in the statement.

“Unfortunately, over the past few years, the funding base of the community has shrunk significantly due to emigration, the passing away of major donors, and the adverse economic situation that has prevailed in South Africa over the past decade,” explains UCF Chairman Avrom Krengel. “This has forced almost all communal organisations to work with reduced budgets and retrench staff.”

CSO Gauteng Director Jevon Greenblatt confirmed that the situation was extremely serious. “While every effort has been made to ensure that the operations of the CSO are not affected by this restructuring, it’s impossible to maintain security at the current level with significantly diminished resources,” he said.

“Operations will be sustained in the short term by committed volunteers, but unless we reconstitute support structures as soon as possible, we might start to experience a negative impact going forward.

“We need a large cash injection to give us leeway to settle the new structure and implement a new strategy for our new reality. Simultaneously, we need to create a sustainable funding model that will ensure the consistent high standard of security that the community requires.”

He said the problem was specific to Johannesburg. The CSO in Cape Town, Durban, and other parts of the country are not affected.

Greenblatt said that it had been decided in the past that fundraising for the CSO would be housed in a separate entity called the UCF, which would also raise funds for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS). This would allow the CSO to focus on its core function – security.

“Over the past few years, as circumstances have changed and threats have evolved, the CSO has adapted to the new environment. It required new resources, training, and support for members. Our community infrastructure has grown in spite of decreasing numbers, and this has necessitated growth and professionalising of the CSO.”

But this growth has come at a cost. “Since 2011, the CSO has been requesting more funds from the UCF, but it has been unable to provide them,” said Greenblatt.

“In 2014, the CSO was advised by the UCF that it should go to the community itself and raise the shortfall that the UCF could not provide. The CSO assembled a small volunteer team to try raise additional funding, which was then allocated to improving the quality of training, administration, and volunteer backup.”

Towards the end of 2017, the UCF approached its three major beneficiaries – the SAJBD, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), and the CSO – indicating that there would be changes at the UCF from the end of 2018. It was decided that all three organisations would raise funds independently from 2019.

“We were put in a situation where we suddenly became responsible for raising almost 100% of our required funding, which we didn’t readily agree to,” said Greenblatt.

The CSO was told that all existing UCF debit orders would be utilised to fund the Beyachad building (in Raedene, Johannesburg) and pay rent, and to pay for the combined accounting and administration services of these organisations.

For the CSO, it comes to about 7% of its annual budget. However, the actual amount of financial support is unclear, and it has been told that there is no guarantee that this assistance will continue.

Krengel said that the decision for the CSO to do its own fundraising was made by mutual agreement between the two organisations, pointing to a letter sent out by CSO in February 2019 which said that donors could donate directly to the organisation of their choice, including the CSO.

He also referred to a letter he sent out in January 2019, which said that “Johannesburg Jewry has become a community where almost all of the communal organisations fundraise for themselves, and don’t make use of an umbrella fundraising organisation such as the IUA/UCF.”

The letter went on to say, “Many of our donors have expressed their wish to give directly to the beneficiaries of the IUA/UCF. After extensive consultation with our major donors and beneficiaries, we have restructured our operations to facilitate this. Each of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, SA Zionist Federation, and CSO have established their own fundraising departments, and will be approaching donors directly to meet their fundraising requirements.”

Greenblatt said that in spite of this agreement, the SAJBD, the SAZF, SAUJS, and the Israel Centre had continued to raise funds through the UCF, but the CSO was no longer allowed to do so.

“The CSO has no access to the combined structure, nor knowledge of the debit-order income of the UCF, nor expenses of the Beyachad building, in spite of multiple requests. This has a direct impact on our planning and resource utilisation.”

Asked if the CSO would survive in Johannesburg, Greenblatt said, “Neither the community nor the CSO can allow for the CSO to fail. We will have to build our own fundraising capacity, and we believe that given our value proposition to the community and to donors, there will be a positive response to our appeal.”

He said it costs in excess of R20 million a year to run the organisation in spite of its small staff and huge reliance on volunteers.

“We are constantly working to keep costs as low as possible,” Greenblatt said. “The CSO has operated quietly and steadily for many years. We would prefer to focus on security, and not fundraising.”

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  1. 3 HILARY DAVIS 15 Aug
    Can you send banking details to me please
  2. 2 Anton 15 Aug
    It’s about time the CSO became a division of CAP. 
    They have done an incredible job for our community. 
    Their leadership is unparalleled.
  3. 1 Elona Steinfeld 20 Aug
    At the beginning of this year an email went out from Beyachad with the following statement:

    Dear Donor, 
    Thank you very much for your generous support of our Campaign. In 2018 we were able to raise over R35 million for our beneficiaries which include the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, CSO, South African Union of Jewish Students, South African Zionist Federation and Israel Centre. Your donations have ensured that South African Jewry continues to be one of the most active and vibrant communities in the world. Our beneficiaries provide the protective blanket that allows us all to live in South Africa as proud and free Jews and Zionists. This does not happen by chance. It is only as a result of the tireless and outstanding work of our beneficiaries.

    My question is WHAT HAPPENED TO THE R35 MILLION that was raised and why are we in crisis again?


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