One of the multitude of excellent programs taking place in Israel to coincide with the UJC’s General Assembly and various JAFI events was a conference at Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Philanthropy last Sunday titled, Jewish Philanthropy and The Israeli Third Sector in a Changing Environment. The keynote on Changing Patterns of American Jewish Philanthropy was delivered by Dr. Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.

Two really key points from the presentation,

  1. The world has changed and our institutions have not changed with the world.
  2. Public charities are so busy chasing money they loose site of their mission”.

First, some numbers: In the United States there has been a huge growth over the past decade and we now have 24,000 Jewish donor advised funds and 9500 independent Jewish foundations. However, more than half gave less than $50k. this past year and 2/3 have assets under $1m.

Within the Federation system, 1948 was the peak year for giving and since then the numbers have been on a steady downward tract. The 900,000 donors of that day have decreased to 500,000; the real dollar value now is <20% of the 1948 campaign. Added to this, as involved giving to Israel, a greater proportion of gifts remain in North America.

Telling us, “the significant decrease is a sign of the changes in the donor patterns in American Jewry” Dr. Solomon went on to list the attributes of past successes of Federation campaigns compared to today:

in the past…

  • the affluence of the Jewish community
  • Jews self-identified as Jews
  • feelings of insecurity
  • organic connection to Israel
  • the concept of a single gift
  • no competition

Compare this to today…

  • still affluence
  • insecurity is not in people’s faces
  • the organic connection decreases with age from 50; there is a disconnect to Israel
  • the concept of a single gift is gone
  • there is lots of competition for gifts today including from hospitals, universities and museums; organizations that did not previously solicit the Jewish community

We’ll have more on this program including some comments by Arnon Mantbar, Director, JDC Israel. For more on The Center for the Study of Philanthropy in Israel check out our post, What Constitutes Good Fundraising, from their Inaugural Conference earlier this year.

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