Taking a Closer Look
On Forbes Magazine’s list of top 200 US charities, 12 Jewish foundations are featured.
Who are they? I think you will find their names no surprise based on Forbes’ criteria of “charitable commitment, fundraising efficiency, and donor dependency.”
|Foundation||Net Assets||Charitable Commitment||Fundraising Efficiency||Donor Dependency|
|American Jewish Committee||$110 million||81%||91%||65%|
|American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee||$347 million||92%||99%||89%|
|Anti-Defamation League||$21 million||79%||88%||85%|
|Hadassah: Women’s Zionist Org. of America||$675 million||84%||93%||40%|
|PEF/ Israel Endowment Funds||$134 million||98%||100%||97%|
|United Jewish Communities (Federation system):
Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Miami,
New York, San Francisco
|See details below||See details below||See details below||See details below|
Forbes’ Criteria: Taking a Closer Look
So who are the largest US Jewish foundations and what do we need to know about them?
First let’s talk about who they aren’t. Forbes’ criteria eliminated from its list private foundations, academic institutions, and community and religious organizations without high degrees of transparency.
Foundations were assessed on the basis of three characteristics: charitable commitment, fundraising efficiency, and donor dependency. Forbes’ evaluations were based on major gifts, not total revenue.
- Charitable commitment: how much funding goes to program support compared to how much is used for management
- Fundraising efficiency: how much funding goes to the actual gift compared with how much is used for overhead expenses
- Donor dependency: “how badly a nonprofit needs your contribution to break even”
The Jewish Foundations
Note: the Forbes’ list is organized alphabetically, not by rank, so you can easily navigate your way around the site.
American Jewish Comittee
The American Jewish Committee is one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations worldwide.
Established in 1906 to help protect Russian Jews from the pogroms, it has since spoken out on the behalf of Jews in vulnerable communities across the world.
Take note of the AJC’s special projects, which include:
- Its blog, the AJC Wire
- The AJC Archives (an amazing historical and cultural resource)
- The Green Project, which seeks to make its national offices compliant with LEED (the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System)
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
The best place to read about the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is here: “Know Your Jewish Philanthropy: the Federations, the Joint, and the Jewish Agency.”
The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (aka the JDC or “the Joint”) helps vulnerable Jewish and non-Jewish populations worldwide. Its primary program areas are: rescue, relief and recovery, renewal, and Israel.
Note that the JDC’s Dr. Rick Hodes has recently been recognized as one of CNN’s Heroes for his medical outreach to disadvantaged populations. Dr. Hodes is currently serving as the JDC’s Director of Medical Programs in Ethiopia.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an activist organization fighting hate and anti-semitism around the world.
It is the number one best recognized organization of its kind in the Jewish world. The ADL has made a name for itself politically for its anti-hate and civil rights campaigns.
Note the ADL’s special section for governments and schools on Negotiating the ‘December Dilemma.’
Recommended reading: “Yad Vashem Recognizes Albanian Muslims Among Righteous Gentiles.”
Hadassah: the Women’s Zionist Organization of America
Hadassah has long been renowned as the central address for Jewish women’s philanthropy.
You’ll notice in the comparison chart above that with a net worth of $675 million net assets, Hadassah is far and away the wealthiest organization on the list.* This is true even more than you think: Hadassah women are loyal devotees of the organization and many women active in the Jewish community have lifetime Hadassah memberships.
Hadassah is probably best known for its support of medical organizations. If you’ve ever been to the Homeland, you know the important work they are doing here on behalf of the State of Israel. I am also a big fan of their print magazine (and wish they would migrate online).
* Not including federations.
PEF/ Israel Endowment Funds
Confused by the PEF part of PEF/Israel Endowment Funds‘ name? That’s Palestine Endowment Funds and yes, the organization has been working on behalf of Israel since the beginning.
PEF acts as a conduit for Jewish giving to Israel. If you look at the numbers and percentages in the chart above, you can see that they are doing their job well. With little overhead, many major Jewish American organizations trust PEF to get the job done.
Photo: Justice Louis Brandeis (pictured), Rabbi Stephen Wise, and Robert Szold were the original founders of PEF in 1922.
United Jewish Community Federations
The United Jewish Communities (UJC) is the keystone for giving in the Jewish world. When people talk about “the federations,” what they are referring to is the UJC’s federated regional offices.
You can see purely from its net assets that the UJC’s regional offices are in powerful command of donor dollars. Knowing what we do about fundraising, the UJC’s information indicates that they are considered a primary giving destination in the American Jewish community that has deep impact and strong results.
If you haven’t read it already, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the UJC by reading: “Know Your Jewish Philanthropy: the Federations, the Joint, and the Jewish Agency.”
Let’s take a look at Forbes’ breakdown of the 7 UJC federations that topped the list: Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.
|Federation||Net Assets||Charitable Commitment||Fundraising Efficiency||Donor Dependency|
|Boston: Combined Jewish Philanthropies||$331 million||89%||94%||52%|
|Cleveland: Jew. Comm. Fed. of Cleveland||$372 million||89%||91%||77%|
|Chicago: Jew. Fed. of Metropolitan Chicago||$463 million||85%||90%||70%|
|Detroit: Jew. Fed. of Metropolitan Detroit||$501 million||89%||95%||25%|
|Miami: Greater Miami Jewish Federation||$145 million||83%||91%||41%|
|New York: UJA/Federation of New York||$908 million||78%||85%||51%|
|San Francisco: Jew. Comm. Fed. of San Fran.||$456 million||88%||94%||46%|
- JTA’s special on Jewish philanthropy featuring Howard Rieger and Joseph Kanfer, heads of the UJC
- “Jewish Groups Aid in California Wildfire Recovery Efforts: You Can Help Too”
Forbes’ list of “America’s 200 Largest Charities” is a definitive list of who’s who in the world of global giving.
In closing, Forbes recommends that you: “Treat any would-be donation like you would an investment. After all, as a supporter, you become a stakeholder. Do your research and learn all you can.”
Flickr images sourced from the following, with thanks– Martin, Sarcaser, and Michelle Zliman under the Creative Commons license. All other images sourced from organizations’ websites or credited within the text.
Thanks to CK at Jewlicious for the tip off.
Links of Interest
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:
- “Top Jewish Foundations and Their Philanthropic Giving,” Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg’s “A Study of Jewish Foundations” provides us analytic rankings of the most generous American Jewish foundations
- The Slingshot Guide to American Jewish innovation gives us insight into creative and original new Jewish organizations
- And a bonus, thoughts on charity versus philanthropy (the Forbes list uses the word “charity,” I prefer “philanthropy” because it implies a partnership in social change rather than a handout.)
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