The results of a recent survey by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research show that Jewish organizations aren’t doing enough to harness the power of Jewish donors when it comes to mega-giving.
The Institute for Jewish and Community Research released a study last week on Mega-Gifts in Jewish Philanthropy (2001– 2003). Among its major findings was the conclusion that Jewish donors were giving more gifts than Jewish foundations and organizations were attracting.
The study states:
“This study tells the story of a fully assimilated Jewish community making significant contributions to the well-being of American society and causes around the globe. It also shows that Jewish institutions do poorly in attracting mega-gifts from Jewish donors. Jews make many more mega-gifts than they receive.” (p. 4)
Among authors Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg’s findings were the following:
- In the field of philanthropy, Jews gave 12% of all gifts over $1 million, but Jewish organizations received only 9% of that total
- Of gifts over $10 million given by Jewish donors, only 5% of total donations went to Jewish groups
- Of gifts between $1 million and $9.9 million, Jewish groups received 19% of the total
- Of all gifts to Jewish organizations, Jewish federations received only 1% (the largest being a $6 million gift in 2003 to the Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore)
The question we have to ask ourself is: “Is this a problem?”
Jewish Giving to Jewish Causes: So What’s the Problem (if there is one)?
In October of this year, the Institute released similar findings that only 20% of Jewish foundation dollars go to Jewish causes. In the debate that ensued, there was a heated discussion about what this meant.
Some said that our designation of a “Jewish foundation” wasn’t a fair one. That the Jewish identity of an organization’s founder did not make the foundation Jewish, but that we should instead define a Jewish foundation by its mission to serve the Jewish people.
Should we be asking the same questions about Jewish donors? Is a wealthy Jew obligated to section off part of his donations to Jewish causes?
My gut reaction is yes. While it is important to give universally, fulfilling the value of tikkun olam, I do think that Jewish donors should prioritize give Jewishly.
Selling Jewish Philanthropy
Those of us who work in philanthropy know that fundraising and development are sometimes the result of a good sell. Good foundations market their philanthropy to help donors understand the urgency of their mission and the pressing needs that their programming addresses.
So perhaps we should be looking at this from a different angle: not from the donor’s point of view, but from the foundations. Is it possible that Jewish organizations aren’t doing enough sell their causes to Jewish donors?
Gary Tobin, Institute president, thinks so. He says, “The conclusion I draw is that Jewish organizations are not effectively making their case. Whether that is in terms of not asking for enough or not making compelling arguments or getting access to the donors.”
Jewish Philanthropy: What’s the Difference Between 1999 & 2008?
This is no new problem. When scanning the JTA’s list of articles on giving, I came across the following familiar headlines:
- “Jewish Mega-Donors Give Little to Jews” (2004)
- “Big Jewish Giving– to Non-Jews” (2003)
- “JDC Giving to Non-Jews Going Up” (2007)
So what’s the difference between 1999 and 2008? If the same issue permeates us from one decade to the next, are we to think that:
- There is no real problem
- That there is a problem and not enough is being done to address it
- Jewish donors giving more than Jewish foundation receive is an issue we should be aware of, but not a pressing concern in relative terms
- As long as everyone’s needs are being met, the percentages of giving and receiving don’t matter so much
What’s your take? I am interested in hearing how you vote on this pressing issue? Weigh in now to be heard.
While you are thinking about your decision, these articles below may give you some food for thought.
- “Top Jewish Foundations and their Philanthropic Giving”
- “Jewish Communal Giving: Thoughts from the Blogosphere”
- “Philanthropy’s Emotional Connection: 3 Ways to Harness the Power of Donor Emotions”
- “12 Jewish Charities Featured on Forbes Top 200 List”
- “JTA’s ‘Reimagining Federated Philanthropy’– What You Need to Know”
- “Assessing the Forward 50: What We Can Learn from Top American Jewish Philanthropists”
- “3 Highlights of Jewish Giving: Adelson, Brandeis, and Women’s Philanthropy”
- “Jewish Philanthropy and the Role of the State of Israel”
- “Charity vs Philanthropy: Avoiding Relationships of Dependency”
- “Know Your Jewish Philanthropy: the Federations, the Joint, and the Jewish Agency”
Photo by Willis Monroe
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