Introducing the HIAS Foundation

By Brian Zumhagen

Jonathan Boiskin, Executive Director of the HIAS Foundation (Bridget Horgan Bell for HIAS)

Since 2017, HIAS has increased its budget more than sixfold and more than doubled the number of countries it operates in — a dramatic expansion poised to continue in the years to come. In response to this growth, HIAS has launched the HIAS Foundation, a separate legal entity which will build a permanent endowment for the organization. The inaugural executive director of the Foundation is Jonathan Boiskin, who assumes the role following a 30-year career focused on helping people translate their passions into philanthropy.

Boiskin recently spoke with about how the Foundation will use gifts of assets, sound investment, and increased fundraising to support HIAS’ current and future work to provide critical services to refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced people around the world.

What led to the decision to start the Foundation?

HIAS has grown so much, and the organization simply deserved a permanent endowment that it hasn’t had in the past. HIAS has experienced significant financial growth in recent years — it was a $30 million entity working in 10 countries in 2017, and now it’s a $200 million entity in 23 countries — and we expect that growth to continue in the coming years. HIAS is positioned globally to expand its programming and impact with enduring partnerships, as well as expertise in emergency response. Funders are eager to partner with us because they can see our growing impact.

The HIAS board decided to invest in the establishment of a separate charity to manage its reserves and permanent endowment. The thinking was that an independent foundation will make HIAS more effective at attracting bequests and other major gifts and be better able to improve our ability to manage the investment and protections of funds raised for HIAS’ mission that we don’t need for current operations. This will allow HIAS management to focus on current operations that serve to carry out its mission.

We now have an opportunity to build capacity in several program areas and strengthen our ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies in perpetuity. We see the Foundation as the conduit for funding HIAS’ strategic plan and its vision to grow, and a way to strengthen the organization for the future.

What is the relationship between the HIAS Foundation and HIAS itself?

The HIAS Foundation and the HIAS organization are separate non-profit organizations with distinct purposes. But they both exist to serve the mission of providing vital services to refugees and asylum seekers around the world. While HIAS is doing the work on the ground to advocate for refugees, the HIAS Foundation is building an endowment through current as well as future planned gifts to support HIAS’ work.

Every year, income from the HIAS Foundation’s endowments will be made available to HIAS to help refugees and asylum seekers around the world realize their rights and rebuild their lives in safety and freedom. While donations to HIAS are put to immediate use, gifts made to the HIAS Foundation are invested for the future, so that our shared mission can continue for generations.

What are your hopes for the Foundation’s impact in the future?

Thanks to our supporters, the HIAS Foundation is growing. Its principal continues to mature through charitable gifts including cash, property and stock, and funds from bequests, trusts, and annuities. When a gift that’s earmarked for endowment is invested, attributed earnings can be disbursed in annual support for HIAS for many years into the future. An initial donation, invested prudently over time, can have a more lasting impact than an outright gift used for immediate needs. Our donors have the power to change everything, and the HIAS Foundation is a key mechanism to enhance their impact.

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