“In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.” 1 Timothy 3:8
Many have no doubt seen the rather frequent and emotion-laden advertisements on Fox News asking for your donations to help struggling Jewish people around the world. The ads come from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) founded and run by Rabbi Yeckiel Eckstein. Recent ads have featured what the ministry claimed were elderly holocaust survivors in the former Soviet Union and poor Jewish people in Israel. Rabbi Eckstein is said to now have a database of over 1 million Christians who donate to his ministry, so it is clear the ads are effective in stimulating well-intentioned people to donate their money. In the most recent year, the ministry raised over $113 million dollars and millions were indeed spent meeting the needs of Jews around the world. Unfortunately, television advertising is quite expensive, which is why few ministries utilize it. Using the ministry’s audited financial statements, MinistryWatch.com calculates the ministry’s fundraising costs amount to 14% of its revenues, almost three times the level of the average ministry in our database. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), however, allow non-profits considerable leeway in how they handle fundraising expenses. Some observers put IFCJ’s fundraising costs at as high as 39% after adjusting the accounting information to more realistically reflect the ministry’s actual fundraising costs. This is an absurd amount of money being spent on fundraising and donors should be aware that so much of their gifts are being diverted from helping suffering Jews to instead raise more money for IFCJ.
Additionally, Rabbi Eckstein’s total compensation in 2012 amounted to over $1.2 million! Moreover, compensation paid to two of Rabbi Eckstein’s daughters and a son-in law amounts to over $250,000. Combining the adjusted fundraising costs noted above and his compensation, over 40% of a donor dollar goes to fundraising and Rabbi Eckstein’s excessive compensation. While IFCJ clearly also does considerable good work, donors can certainly get a much better “bang for their buck” by supporting other ministries serving the Jewish people. We noted recently the good work of the Joshua Fund and would recommend donors consider it along with Bridges for Peace and Christians Friends of Israel. These are all much smaller ministries (largely because they do not use emotional TV advertising), but which send more of the donor’s gift to help the actual needs that exist, while simultaneously avoiding paying their founders and CEO’s exorbitant compensation.
Given IFCJ’s $116 million in annual revenues, almost all coming from small donors, it is clear that many kind-hearted Christians will respond to emotional appeals for funds believing their hard-earned money will be going mostly to good works. Unfortunately, Rabbi Eckstein’s stewardship of IFCJ leaves much to be desired ad over 1 million donors to IFCJ are currently being duped. Passionate pleas for help must be measured against a rational understanding of the full picture of any ministry’s activities. This is where MinstryWatch.com can help donors who wonder whether they should respond to such approaches that leave out important information, like the exorbitant compensation paid from donor’s donations and the massive amounts spent on TV advertising and other methods of raising funds.