Faced with unprecedented needs during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jewish philanthropists and foundations have significantly increased their giving.

Additionally, they have widened their support to include grantees in areas they had not previously funded, and loosened reporting and application requirements. The overwhelming majority plan to continue giving at the same level or higher in the next 12 months.

These findings are contained in a new study of the membership of Jewish Funders Network (JFN). The study found that member funders responded quickly, creatively and generously to support grantee partners working to meet the unprecedented needs of their constituencies.

The findings, based on a survey and follow-up interviews with a wide variety of JFN members about their giving from March through August of 2020, are believed to represent a reliable picture of the private Jewish funding world (the sizable investments made by Jewish Federations in this space are not included in these findings).

Among the findings:

  • Seventy-six percent of funders increased their spending in order to provide emergency grants.
  • Fifty-three percent of funders broadened their grantmaking, most supporting basic needs such as financial hardship and food insecurity, and 43 percent intend to maintain emergency funding over the next 12 months.
  • Funders awarded a large number of emergency grants. As an example, 86 funders report awarding a total of 1,682 emergency grants to address pandemic-related needs, totaling more than $400 million.
  • Seventy-seven percent of funders report changing their grantmaking practices to be more responsive and nimbler during the crisis.
  • Ninety-four percent of Jewish funders intend to give at the same level or higher over the next 12 months.
  • Seventy-two percent of funders are encouraging collaborations, joint ventures, and mergers among their grantee partners.

The report, conducted by Joy Goldstein Consulting, details some particularly noteworthy funder responses and partnerships, including:

  • The $91 million Jewish Communal Response and Impact Fund, a national partnership of eight Jewish foundations and the Jewish Federations of North America that has made grants and loans to a wide variety of Jewish organizations.
  • Chicago’s Technical Assistance Collaborative, a partnership of three foundations and the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, providing capacity-building assistance to 100 local Jewish agencies and synagogues.

The report also points to challenges ahead, particularly the ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic’s economic impact and government response, and the question of whether, if the stock market is significantly impacted, philanthropists will continue to be as generous.

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