About Giving

Jewish donors are among the most generous Americans, says a report released Tuesday, September 3 — especially those of modest means. And many of them make a high proportion of their gifts to causes that have nothing to do with their faith.

About 76 percent of Jewish donors say they made a charitable gift last year, compared with 63 percent of non-Jews.  The contrast is even more striking among households that earn less than $50,000:  About 60 percent of those households give compared with 46 percent of non-Jewish households.

Among the other findings:

• Fifty-four percent of Jews in the study are more likely to give to social-service charities than to their synagogue or congregation, compared with 41 percent of donors in the study who are not Jewish.  What’s more, 92 percent of them give to non-Jewish causes while 79 percent support Jewish organizations.

• The more deeply involved Jews are in causes connected with their faith, the more likely they are to support both secular and religious charities.  More than 90 percent of Jews who report a high level of involvement in Jewish life give both to secular and to religious charities, while only 58 percent of Jews who report a “very low” level of involvement give to any kind of charity.

• One in five Jewish donors gives only to organizations that have no connection with their religion.

The report, by Connected to Give — a research project of Jumpstart and a consortium of private grant makers, community foundations, and Jewish federations — was based on a survey of 2,911 Jewish and 1,951 non-Jewish households, as well as a series of focus groups that included Jewish donors, leaders of Jewish nonprofits, and advisers to foundations and Jewish donors.

As other donors increasingly tell fundraisers, Jewish donors want to see the impact of their gifts. But they are also interested in strengthening their communities.

Fifty-two percent of Jewish donors said they give due to “a desire to meet critical needs in the community and support worthwhile causes.”  By contrast, only 38 percent said they donate out of “a belief that my giving will help improve Jewish life and the Jewish community.”

This interest in helping the broader community is one that more fundraisers should recognize when soliciting Jewish donors, says Shawn Landres, chief executive of Jumpstart, a philanthropic research organization, and one of the study’s authors.

“These are people for whom giving locally matters,” says Mr. Landres.  “They see helping people who need help, irrespective of their religious group, as fundamentally a Jewish value. And so learning how to talk to somebody who thinks in those terms could be very valuable for fundraisers who work on any cause.”

Religious Giving

Jews in their 20s and 30s said they are less likely to give to Jewish organizations than are their parents’ or grandparents’ generations. Forty-nine percent of Jewish donors under 40 give to a Jewish nonprofit, compared to 63 percent of those over 40.

The finding echoes other studies, such as by the Pew Research Center, that say young people are more likely than older ones to lack a religious affiliation. Mr. Landres says he suspects today’s youths will give differently as they grow older. But, he says, the findings represent a challenge for Jewish organizations that want to attract people in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s.

“Getting married and having kids will lead to levels of increased giving to organizations,” he says. “As giving goes up, more of that will go toward Jewish organizations if they have at least a moderate level of connection to the Jewish community.”

(Reprinted from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 31, 2013)

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