eJP Interview Series

“Get Your Phil” with Andrés Spokoiny

In yesterday’s inaugural episode of “Get Your Phil,” Jewish Funders Network President and CEO Andrés Spokoiny told eJewishPhilanthropy News Editor Judah Ari Gross that his message to funders after Oct. 7 is: “This is not just ‘a’ crisis… this is ‘the’ crisis of our generation… So you need to go beyond your 5% payout every year. You need to make a commitment.”

The hour-long conversation touched on a variety of issues, including the merits of donor-advised funds, the need to support Jewish arts and culture — in addition to combating antisemitism — how the Jewish philanthropic world has been responding to the war in Israel and what nonprofits should understand about donors.

“It’s a mood of heightened uncertainty,” Spokoiny said, reflecting on the previous year, which saw record-setting protests by Israelis against the government over its judicial overhaul followed by the worst terror attack in the country’s history, which in many ways is still ongoing, and a meteoric rise in antisemitism around the world.

He said most funders have understood the importance of the moment and have increased their donations, not just shifted around the recipients of their grants. “Probably 70 or 80% of JFN members have increased their giving in the past year, meaning they have given to the crisis without defunding any of their existing commitments,” he said.

In addition to giving to causes in Israel, Spokoiny said JFN has noted an increase in donations to causes that combat antisemitism at home, but he added that funders are also open to making donations to support and boost Jewish life, not just to fight hatred.

Though he was loath to use the term “opportunity” to describe a moment so full of death and worry, Spokoiny said that this is a time for Jewish nonprofits to reach out to potential Jewish donors who, in the past, may have focused their giving on non-Jewish organizations.

“There’s a feeling of deep homelessness for Jews and for Jewish donors in the secular society, especially in progressive spaces,” he said. “People that were funding women’s rights organizations that were silent regarding the sexual violence during the massacres, they can now go and fund the National Council of Jewish Women, which is a progressive Zionist organization that fought the right fight.”

In March, JFN members will gather in Tel Aviv for the organization’s annual conference, whose focus was changed twice – first to account for the judicial overhaul protests and now to account for the Israel-Hamas war. According to Spokoiny, registration is already full.

This year’s conference will include fewer presentations by nonprofits and more time for funders to collaborate. “The vibe of this conference is to give an opportunity for the funders to talk among themselves, to think together about what they want to do, how they want to face this crisis, what has to be their role in the crisis and the like,” Spokoiny said. “There’s going to be information. But most of the conference is going to be about funders discussing, reflecting, analyzing, dreaming together.”

Here is a recording of the conversation: