2016 Major Gifts from Jewish Donors: Not Very Supportive of Jewish Orgs … Yet!

million dollar bills

By Robert I. Evans

With the calendar pages flipping quickly and as we approach the fourth quarter of the year – a period when Jewish organizations of all types and sizes report on their successes with major donor prospects and all types of capital and endowment campaigns – we reviewed the constantly-updated List of Million Dollar Donors. We specifically wanted to tabulate year-to-date reported gifts by Jewish donors to Jewish nonprofits in 2016.

Through August, the listing contains 517 gifts of at least $1.0 million that America’s nonprofits have already announced this calendar year. The aggregate value of all gifts totaled almost $5.3 billion.

However, we counted 109 gifts for 2016 from Jewish philanthropists (with four of the gifts from people we were not able to verify as Jewish but whom we believe at least had Jewish ancestors) and collectively they totaled more than $2.5 billion.

The largest single gift came as a $400 million bequest from Holocaust survivors Lottie and Howard Marcus to the American Associates of Ben Gurion University of the Negev. I highlighted this gift in a previous post on eJewishPhilanthropy in July when applauding their generosity to the university’s program in desalination.

Our tabulation of the gifts includes a significant observation that four professions of the donors dominated the listing: technology, Wall Street, real estate, and entertainment.

Nine Jewish organizations, led by the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. which announced three very significant gifts, received at least one million dollar pledge, bequest, or gift. Two Jewish federations – South Palm Beach, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio – each tallied a gift of $1.0 million. Other major Jewish organizations included in the recipient list of seven, or eight-figure gifts are: Yeshiva University, Hebrew Union College, the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Jewish Studies Program at Rice University, and the Mandel Jewish Day School in Cleveland.

Six major universities and a cancer-focused research effort also received major Jewish support this year, with the University of California receiving eleven very significant gifts from Jews; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington secured five major gifts; Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago each formally announced three very substantial commitments; Barnard College got two large gifts, and the BRCA Foundation received an eight-figure gift from its founding donor.

Collectively, the various campuses of the University of California received the largest dollar amount of Jewish philanthropy this year: $553.4 million from eleven Jewish donors, with the largest – $200 million – coming from Larry Ellison.

We note sadly that:

  • No U.S. synagogue has announced major donor support in 2016 … yet;
  • Of the various seminaries, only Hebrew Union College has announced a major gift;
  • No large gifts have been reported from three of the best-known American Jewish philanthropists: Sheldon Adelson, Michael Steinhardt, or Harold Grinspoon.

Following is the listing of Jewish support for Jewish organizations that we uncovered in our research and analysis:

American Associates, Ben Gurion University Lottie & Howard Marcus $400 million
Yeshiva University Monique & Mordecai Katz $25 million
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Shelley & Allan Holt $20 million
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Tad Taube $15 million
92nd Street Y (New York) Lawrence Belfer $15 million
Rice University (Jewish Studies & Music School) Goldye & Samuel Spain $4.1 million
Mandel Jewish Day School Aliki & Peter Rzepka $1.5 million
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Rita Stern $1.2 million
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Eugenie Fromer $1 million
Jewish Federation of Cleveland Lois Davis $1 million
Jewish Federation of S. Palm Beach County Barbara & Ted Wolk $1 million

The annual listing is the only publicized and free record of publicly reported gifts of $1 million or more since 2000. It provides a clear picture of the philanthropic landscape, revealing patterns and trends in million dollar-plus giving. Million dollar gifts comprise a key part of charitable giving and represent an important threshold for donors. Information and increased knowledge about these gifts provide greater insight into giving at this level, and offers donors and their advisors a new resource as they consider strategic approaches to their giving.

Giving USA last year re-defined “mega gifts” as ones that are at least $300 million.

Visit Philanthropy.com to view the entire list of million dollar donors.

Robert Evans is founder and president of the Evans Consulting Group, a full-service firm that helps nonprofits address their strategic and fundraising goals. Now in its 25th year, Evans Consulting leads fundraising campaigns, facilitates strategic planning processes, engages in donor research and cultivation, coaches nonprofit leaders and performs a number of other development-related services. Mr. Evans is a member of the Giving USA editorial review board and is also a board member of the Giving Institute. He can be reached at revans@theevansconsultinggroup.com.

Update: This post was updated on Sept 16th to include Tad Taube’s gift to Hebrew Union College.