August 31, 2013
Study reveals the who, what and where of Jewish giving
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Sanderson said the study reaffirms his confidence in the strategy Los Angeles’ Federation is taking vis-à-vis engaging younger Jews. When Sanderson took over Federation in 2009, he broke out the organization’s efforts to engage young Jews – separating such efforts away from Federation’s fundraising campaigns.
The message was: Engage young people first, leave the ask for later.
“The first thing we want them to do is feel connected to our community and have them feel engaged enough to want to make a gift,” Sanderson said. “That is a very big change for us. Young adult engagement in many communities is focused on soliciting donations.”
Jumpstart approached the L.A. Federation to invite them to be involved with the study, but Sanderson decided against it – in part, he said, because he felt confident Landres and his team would be able to come up with enough money to fund the study, but also because he felt pretty confident he knew beforehand what the results would show.
“We decided that, instead, we were going to spend the money engaging the young people that this study was going to tell us needed to be engaged,” Sanderson said.
Even so, Sanderson said he appreciates the work Jumpstart and the study team have done.
“I think it’s good to be validated,” Sanderson said.
The study also conforms to earlier research. Ten years ago, Steven M. Cohen, one of three lead authors of the new Jumpstart report, arrived at almost the same conclusion – that engaging disconnected Jews would help build community and cultivate donors.
“Outreach efforts are warranted, as well, to those who are less affluent or less communally engaged, with the strategic objective being to build community by broadening the total base of donors and increasing communal affiliation through involvement [in] Federation,” Cohen, a professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, wrote in 2004 in a report based on data collected in the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey.
Asked whether he felt his advice had been ignored, Cohen said it had not.
“The investments in Jewish camps, day schools, Israel travel, the campus, and young adult activity all contribute to the building of Jewish social networks, and federations Federations have responded by moving in those directions,” Cohen wrote in an email to the Journal in late August. “More is needed,” he added, “and [the Jumpstart] report strengthens the argument on behalf of building Jewish social networks (family, friends, organizations, etc.).”
The study’s findings also appear to support those who favor investment in Jewish innovation. Indeed, a commitment fostering more innovation within the Jewish world is part of what inspired the study in the first place.
“I went to Jumpstart and asked them the question, ‘How, by 2020, can we make innovation and impact investing a greater part of the lexicon of the Jewish community?’” Solomon, of Bronfman Philanthropies, said.
Landres and Avedon argued that to find out how innovation can affect giving, the community needed to establish a baseline of for future research. Along with the Bronfmans, other funders who have backed large innovative programing, including the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which created the PJ Library, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which has supported all manner of experimental Jewish efforts, also helped support the Jumpstart study.
Some innovative programs can already show their impact, among them, most notably Taglit-Birthright –perhaps the biggest innovation to be introduced into the American Jewish community in a generation. A new study of Birthright, funded in part by ACBP, (another major funder of the Jumpstart study) suggests that young American and Canadian Jews who have gone on the free 10-day trips to Israel are three times more likely to say that they’re “very connected to Israel” than those who have not gone.
Whether those Birthright alumni will go on to give back to the Jewish community monetarily is still an open question, but Landres believes the new research suggests they will.