American Jewish World Service (AJWS) - its work and its effectiveness
American Jewish World Service (AWJS) embraces the Jewish imperative of tikkun olam—the repairing of the world—and tzedakah—charity—through a program that operates across 35 countries and that works towards combating hunger, poverty, ignorance, intolerance, and disease. I've been a supporter for the past couple of years and am proud of the work they do for people in need, without regard to race, religion, or nationality.
With a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator for 9 years, AWJS does an admirable job of running efficiently, with 86% of revenues being used on program expenses.
What are those programs? AJWS funds 388 grassroots organizations at current count, that work to promote disaster relief, education, economic development, community and public health, and social/political change in developing countries.
What kinds of projects does AJWS work on and fund?
Broadly, AJWS divides its activities into these areas:
- emergency disaster relief: quick response to disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (it raised $6 million) or the 2009 Haiti earthquake ($6.4 million)
- grassroot organization support: AJWS supports via grants over 300 organizations in over 30 countries that do work such as empowering women, fostering public health, and encouraging human rights
- advocacy: AJWS encourages members to lobby their Congresspeople for things like preserving international food aid, fostering peacemaking initiatives, and keeping aid programs that help the rights of women and girls.
- education: They make a lot of materials available to educators and everyone else. I have used their Passover haggadah supplement to help spark a discussion on contemporary slavery and human trafficking, timely when we're commemorating ancient Hebrews' liberation from the bonds of Egyptian slavery.
- service/volunteer trips: AJWS helps college students, rabbis and adults volunteer and help NGOs and other organizations they support in countries around the world.
How effective are AJWS's efforts?
With a current Charity Navigator rating of 63.58, AJWS has a 4-star rating, the highest star rating available and something the organization has earned for 9 years (although it did earn a 3-star rating in 2007, so it's clearly making up ground it had lost). AJWS has, fortunately, dropped its proportion of operating expenses on fundraising from 10.4% in 2007 to 6.5% in 2009. In 2009, it was able to disburse $32.5 million dollars across its affiliated organizations. It also has almost $18 million in the bank with which to maintain smooth operations, almost a half-year's worth of working capital at its disposal. A relatively light 6.5% of their total operating expenses are spent on overhead, or administrative expenses (including salaries for employees, facility expenses, etc).
The AJWS is also certified as an accredited charity by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and InterAction, the largest alliance of US-based NGOs (non-governmental organizations).