August 31, 2013
Study reveals the who, what and where of Jewish giving
(Page 2 - Previous Page)
At the forefront – and earlier studies and anecdotal looks at Jewish philanthropy have found this as well – is the search for ways to reach Jewish-American Millenials. This generation, who are just now beginning to come of age and start families, are less engaged with Jewish organizations than their predecessors. Even those who are engaged have connected to Jewish life in ways very different from their parents.
“I was very much a product of my mother’s giving in the beginning,” said Tamar Raucher, who was born and raised in Los Angeles. Raucher is in her early 30s, and, growing up, she and her family were “very much ‘High Holidays Jews.’” Her parents gave to the Jewish Federation, and she remembers making phone calls as part of a few “Super Sunday” campaigns. But it was her mother’s involvement at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that inspired Raucher’s first philanthropic efforts as an adult.
“I was involved in the young board at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and because of that I gave to MOCA,” said Raucher, speaking to the Journal by phone in late August. Back then, she often wondered whether her money would be better spent on the arts or helping “underprivileged individuals,” but she always ended up giving to the arts.
Then Raucher began to become more Jewishly involved. Her journey led her first to join IKAR, a spiritual community founded in 2004; she later met and married a Conservative rabbinical student and the family moved to Charlotte, N.C., about two years ago. Raucher now works in marketing and development for Moishe House, a seven-year-old nonprofit that creates communal homes that also serve as meeting places for young Jews in cities around the country. Raucher’s husband, Rabbi Noam Raucher, serves a congregation in Charlotte, and their toddler son attends the Charlotte Jewish Preschool (CJP).
The family’s giving, she said, looks nothing what she was doing five or 10 years ago. For one, she and her husband think more strategically about their gifts, Raucher said. They also give “almost exclusively” to Jewish organizations. And many of their philanthropic dollars go to organizations to which they have a direct connection – including Moishe House and CJP. The arts have basically dropped out of the equation.
“I’m investing in people -- and with CJP, I can see it more,” said Raucher, who sits on the preschool’s board. “With MOCA, I was giving toward the organization, and I didn't know whether it was going to fund a certain collection or overhead. With Moishe House and CJP, I’m aware of where everything goes.”
In many ways, Raucher illustrates perfectly the study’s key finding. She’s about as Jewishly connected as an American Jew can be, and her giving is directed primarily to Jewish organizations. Likewise, an overwhelming majority (93 percent) of highly engaged Jews in the study made gifts to Jewish organizations.
She remembers her family giving to Federation, but didn’t mention having done so herself – and, indeed, of the Jewish donors under age 40 who gave to Jewish organizations, only 28 percent donated to Federation, as compared with 45 percent of those over 65.
Raucher instead has focused on supporting specific organizations – including two highly regarded innovative Jewish startups – and feeling better about giving to groups where she felt she could see the impact of her gifts. Those same goals arose in the focus groups conducted alongside the overall study.
The study’s results are not revelations – not even to its funders. Still, its scale confirms and clarifies previous assumptions.
“It’s never been documented before,” said Jeff Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), one of the funders of the study. “It was always known from studies done of donors to different organizations that engagement breeds engagement which breeds giving. This is a much more scientific look at the issue. It's the first-ever study that simply looks at Jewish philanthropic behaviors across the board.”
In fact, the behavior has been evolving for some time, and “Connected to Give” establishes a benchmark for comparisons, that will allow future studies to determine what -- or whether -- progress has been made. Earlier studies have been either limited scope or are somewhat out of date – but the data points that exist reflect tremendous challenges facing the organizations that have defined the American Jewish world for the better part of the last century, not least the Jewish Federation system, an umbrella for multiple Jewish causes.
“Take a look at the fact that there were a million donors to the Federation system in 1972, and somewhere around 400,000 today,” Solomon said. “And that’s just one example – but it’s a fairly dramatic one.”
It’s a fact of which Jay Sanderson, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, doesn’t need reminding. He sees the tendency of some Federations to focus on one number – dollars raised – and not on how many donors participate as shortsighted.