Developing a formula for success
By YONAH SOLOMONS
June 12, 2005
David Maeir Epstein measures his success very differently from other professionals. In the past six years, he has obtained over $14,000,000 for his clients, but the measure of his success is when they no longer need him.
Hailing from the United States, Epstein, specializes in resource development for non-profit organizations and has been active on all levels of resource development for over 25 years.
An ideal scenario
Creating and maintaining a strong base of support for his clients, Epstein strives for the ideal scenario where partnerships are built between the donor and his client.
“We aim to get the donor involved in the cause, to be involved in policy and to recruit others, not just to write a cheque once a year,” he says.
Commenting on Jewish philanthropy, Epstein expresses his wonderment at the uniqueness of the Jewish spirit.
“Jews have an incredible willingness to contribute towards the greater society; not to pass by somebody in need without doing something to help.”
Bitten by the bug
Epstein first visited Israel during his junior year at college when he became “infected with the [Israel] bug,” overcome by “a strong sense that it was a country of ‘relatives,’ not strangers.”
He subsequently spent a year in Rosh Ha’ayin after his graduation, working with school dropouts on behalf of Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed.
“I used to hang around the local pool halls, trying to build relationships with the kids, helping them into various life-improvement programs,” says Epstein.
He returned to the US to complete a Masters degree in Social Service Administration – both his parents were social workers and he was actively involved in his community from an early age – and then, driven by his identification “with the idea of the connection between Judaism and social justice,” made aliyah in 1983.
“At that stage I wanted to change the world, its social infrastructure, to really make a difference,” he says.
Epstein’s resume is impressive, he has held leadership positions in organizations like the Jewish Federations, the Jerusalem Association for Neighborhood Self-Management, the Jerusalem Center for Community Leadership Development and the Israeli Federated United Way. He also served a three-year shlichut (emissary) term with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York City.
Today, Epstein lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four children. He heads his own practice as an organizational consultant. The company assists non-profit organizations in writing grant proposals as well as locating potential sources for funding, planning and implementing fundraising events, personal solicitation and developing partnerships with the corporate sector. Epstein trains his clients’ employees and volunteers, empowering them to take over the fundraising activities he initiates.
Hebrew, basketball and patience
Many variables have contributed to Epstein’s success. He lists his education as a primary factor, but places major emphasis on his advantage as a native English speaker coupled with a comprehensive knowledge of Hebrew. Epstein worked hard on his Hebrew with various intensive and evening ulpan courses, keen to rise to “the challenge of learning the language.” He advises all olim (immigrants) – in every field – to gain a high level of Hebrew.
“This will give them a significant advantage in the work environment,” he says.
In general, says Epstein, coming as an Anglo to live in Israel translates as taking several steps backwards in almost every way, financially, socially and workwise. The one thing, he says, which provides a definite advantage is the ability to play baseball.
“If you were a decent baseball player in the US, here you can become a star,” says Epstein, who was on the Israeli National Team for 12 years and won two bronze medals in softball at the Maccabi games. Today, at 55, he still plays in the league.
As to how to know if you are ready to make aliyah, well, Epstein has a formula.
“If you can stand on line for 20 minutes only to find out you are on wrong line, and laugh about it, then psychologically you are ready to come and live here!”