The State of Jewish Start-Ups

The first ever survey of Jewish start-ups finds thriving, dynamic organizations at financial risk

The number of Jewish entrepreneurial non-profit organizations has exploded over the past decade, with more than 300 initiatives serving as many as 400,000 people across the United States. As much as $500 million has already been invested in this start-up sector. At the same time, current economic conditions have had an impact on many of these start-up organizations, and their vulnerability has led to calls for collaboration, new income sources, and more effective governance.

These are the major findings of the 2008 Survey of New Jewish Organizations, the first-ever snap-shot of this dramatically growing sector. The survey was commissioned by The Natan Fund and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, and conducted by Jumpstart, a think tank and incubator for sustainable Jewish innovation.

Dana Raucher, Executive Director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation notes, “With such a sizable investment in this sector, and with these organizations affecting nearly 400,000 people, it is clear these non-profits represent far more than a fringe phenomenon; they are an integral part of the future of the Jewish community’s landscape.”

The results of the survey point to a wide range of significant issues, from financial transparency and budget frameworks to the populations engaged and methods used to communicate with constituents. “This study is just an initial snapshot, but it’s an important first step in understanding how these grassroots efforts that are transforming Jewish life are doing business,” says Felicia Herman of Natan.

Indeed, as fallout from the economic crisis and Madoff scandal continues to ripple throughout the landscape of Jewish funders, foundations and donors are under increasing pressure to make smart and informed decisions as to where to invest their philanthropic dollars. “Many of these newer, smaller initiatives are particularly vulnerable in the current economy,” says Jumpstart CEO & Director of Research Shawn Landres. “We hope our findings will lead to targeted, strategic responses that sustain and encourage innovation.”

The survey’s results will be formally presented at events hosted by Natan and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation on February 17 in New York City, and then again on February 19 in Los Angeles hosted by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jumpstart, and Natan. Both events will be webstreamed live – New York will begin at 5:15 pm and be available here. We’ll update you on LA tomorrow.

Also coming shortly, and posted on this site, an indepth look at 41 programs involved in Jewish social entrepreneurship and/or new leadership development – an outgrowth of questionnaires developed by JESNA in conjunction with the UJC and the Lippman Kanfer Institute.