Giving in the United States is more than ever a rich person’s sport, finds a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies. And Jewish charities aren’t immune to the trend, according to nonprofit consultant and fundraiser Avrum Lapin.
“The growth of inequality is mirrored in philanthropy,” one of the report’s authors, Chuck Collins, told EJewishPhilanthropies. “As wealth concentrates in fewer hands, so does philanthropic giving and power. We believe this poses considerable risks to both our independent sector and democracy.”
Collins and the other researchers found several pieces of evidence to support their conclusions, including a spike in the amount of money given to charity by the wealthiest, a growth in the number of private grant-making foundations and a leveling off in small dollar contributions.
According to Lapin, such a trend appears to be reflected in the Jewish community, which has its own share of mega-donors, like Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt.
“It is the reality around the country, wealth is more concentrated, and so is philanthropy, so there’s no surprise that we might see it in our community,” he told the Forward. “For many organizations, it definitely follows that model, they’re looking for those mega-gifts,” he continued, referring to Israeli universities such as Technion.
But Lapin said there might be a silver lining, with a growing emphasis among some Jewish organizations, including synagogues, on engaging more with the wider community.
“As you drill down in the community, philanthropy is experiencing a natural evolution to greater community engagement,” he said. “Many large foundations want to see buy-in from the community, and will only fund part of a project, expecting small dollars to make up the rest.”
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Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.