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Jewish philanthropy trends

publication date: Apr 26, 2018
author/source: Atid Conference Summary

Recently, Editor Ann Rosenfield attended the annual Atid conference on Jewish Philanthropy in New York. Here are some highlights relevant to all fundraisers.

Giving, volunteering, and regular participation in religious worship are closely interconnected behaviours. This relationship is important because about 33% of giving goes religious charities according to Giving USA. Forty-five years ago, nearly half of giving went to religious charities. It is worth noting that there is a similar decline in Canada according to Statistics Canada research.

According to the The Latte Report: Jewish Identity and Community in a Time of Unlimited Choices by Anna Greenberg, this reduction in active participation in the Jewish community is combined with a dislike and distrust for all forms of organized structure. Many experts noted that the trend away from formal religious affiliation spans both Christianity and Judaism.    

As befitting a conference in the US, there was much talk of politics, Professor Steven Cohen noted that one of the challenges when raising money within a community is that larger donors tend to be more politically conservative, but the general population tends to be left-leaning. This creates a problem for leaders, particularly in religious communities. 

One speaker noted that, as Jews assimilate, Jewish philanthropic patterns will mirror the mainstream. While assimilation has benefits, one challenge for leaders in the Jewish community is the high rates of inter-marriage where a Jew marries a non-Jew. Ironically, as Jews become more accepted by society, as evidenced by inter-marriage and career success, Jewish institutions because of less interest.  

As one speaker noted the days of people giving "just because my Rabbi asked," are waning and there is an increased emphasis on reporting and accountability. Like every community, leadership in creating a broad-based culture of philanthropy is key in fundraising success.  Not surprisingly, many of the trends in secular fundraising like venture philanthropy, donor advised funds, and an emphasis on metrics, are also growing in Jewish giving. 

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