Five things you may not know about Jews and philanthropy
1. Many Jewish donors don’t call their values “Jewish.”
“People did not want to ascribe their Jewish values to giving,” said Lisa Farber Miller of the Rose Community Foundation, who observed the discussion of a focus group of donors in Denver, one of eight conducted as part of “Connected to Give.” “Their Jewish connections clearly made a difference, but they were really talking about how their family traditions, their grandmothers, their family members really influenced their giving.”
2. Young Jews give less to Jewish organizations than their elders – and they give to different kinds of Jewish nonprofits.
Only 72 percent of Jews under 40 donate to Jewish organizations –compared to 78 percent of Jews aged 40-64, and 81 percent of those 65 and over. When young Jews do give to Jewish organizations, they focus on education, international aid and the environment in greater numbers than older Jews. Older Jews, meanwhile, are more likely than the young to give to Jewish Federations and synagogue congregations.
3. Nevertheless, fundraisers ignore Boomers and older Jews at their own risk.
Very few older Jews have made provisions for Jewish charities in their wills, according to the Jumpstart study. “The fact that only 12 percent of higher-income Jews over 65 – we’re not talking about people who are 35 – have wills with bequests to Jewish charities, is a problem,” said Andres Spokoiny, president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network and a member of the “Connected to Give” steering committee. “At the same time,” Spokoiny added, “it’s low-hanging fruit.”
4. Less affluent Jews make all Jews look particularly generous.
Collectively, Jewish Americans may be more likely to give than their non-Jewish counterparts, but break down the data by income level, and it turns out that it’s the less well-off Jews – households earning less than $50,000 a year – who are out-giving non-Jews at the same income level.
“If you ask the average person who studies philanthropy, they would think that it’s the very high-income Jewish households that are driving the results,” said Una Osili, a professor of economics and philanthropic studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Osili, one of the study’s principal investigators, said that this apparent finding requires more analysis, but speculated that other kinds of support might be leading Jewish households at the bottom of the income spectrum to be more philanthropic than non-Jewish households with comparable incomes. Those Jewish families “might actually have wealth, and they also might have more networks, family networks” than non-Jewish families of similar economic status, Osili said.
“Or, they may be living off their assets rather than their incomes.”
5. The Orthodox are just different. “Hugely different,” said Steven M. Cohen, professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, which is why they were excluded from the data set that underlies the key findings in the first report from “Connected to Give.”
“They have far higher rates of Jewish social networks as manifest in Jewish spouses, friends, neighbors, and members of Jewish organized endeavors,” Cohen wrote in an email. “They have higher rates of subjective commitment to things Jewish. They experience more intensive and extensive periods of Jewish education however measured. Hence, their philanthropic giving to Jewish life is so much more extensive and generous than among the non-Orthodox.”
Future reporting looking at the Orthodox Jewish Americans captured in the Jumpstart data is in the works.