Path To Boosting Jewish Charity Giving Lies in Community Involvement

Study Offers Glimmers of Hope for Luring Younger Donors

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By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published September 03, 2013.
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What’s the best way to squeeze charitable dollars out of Jews? A new study suggests it could be to make sure that they’re involved in a Jewish community.

Jewish charities complain that shrinking donor pools and tighter-fisted younger Jews are threatening the viability of the Jewish not-for-profit ecosystem. Yet a September 3 study from Jumpstart, a Jewish charity research group, suggests that some of those concerns are misplaced.

The study, based on a survey of 3,000 American Jews, does include some bad news for Jewish federations, the communal umbrella groups that raise and distribute money on behalf of smaller local Jewish charities.

But overall, the study’s authors say that findings draw a strong correlation between engagement in Jewish life and giving to Jewish and non-Jewish causes. That’s pretty good news for most Jewish not-for-profits, which had suffered from a severe case of hand-wringing in recent years as they faced what they considered generational shifts in giving patterns.

“The accepted wisdom is that organizations within the Jewish community are fighting over a shrinking pie,” said J. Shawn Landres, CEO of Jumpstart and one of the authors of the new study. “I think that this shows that we can actually grow the pie.”

Jewish not-for-profits across the United States have suffered a major fiscal crisis since 2008, slammed first by the recession and then by the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal. On top of those disasters, charity executives have grown increasingly concerned over whether younger Jews will continue to support the thousands of Jewish social service, educational and religious organizations that rely on donor dollars.

The new report is the first publication to come out of an effort called the National Study of American Jewish Giving, a survey aimed at understanding how Jews are spending their donated dollars.

The worst news in the September 3 report is for the Jewish federations, which appear to have very little appeal among younger donors. While 45% of Jews older than 65 told researchers that they gave to Jewish federations, only 28% of Jews younger than 40 said the same.


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