Editor's note: This story, which was originally posted on August 31, was updated on September 6.
Jewish donors—especially those of modest means—are among the most generous Americans, says a new report. And many of them make a high proportion of their gifts to causes that have nothing to do with their faith.
About 76 percent of Jewish donors say they made a charitable gift last year, compared with 63 percent of non-Jews. The contrast is even more striking among households that earn less than $50,000: About 60 percent of those households give, compared with 46 percent of non-Jewish households.
Among the other findings:
- Fifty-four percent of Jews in the study are more likely to give to social-service charities than to their religious congregations, compared with 41 percent of donors in the study who are not Jewish. What’s more, 92 percent of them give to non-Jewish causes while 79 percent support Jewish organizations.
- The more deeply involved Jews are in causes connected with their faith, the more likely they are to support both secular and religious charities. More than 90 percent of Jews who report a high level of involvement in Jewish life give both to secular and to religious charities, while only 58 percent of Jews who report a “very low” level of involvement give to any kind of charity.
- One in five Jewish donors gives only to organizations with no connection with their religion.
The report, by Connected to Give—a research project of Jumpstart and a consortium of private grant makers, community foundations, and Jewish federations—was based on a survey of 2,911 Jewish and 1,951 non-Jewish households, as well as a series of focus groups that included Jewish donors, leaders of Jewish nonprofits, and advisers to foundations and Jewish donors.
As other donors increasingly tell fundraisers, Jewish donors want to see the impact of their gifts. But they also want to give to causes that help strengthen their communities.
Fifty-two percent of Jewish donors said they give out of “a desire to meet critical needs in the community and support worthwhile causes.” By contrast, only 38 percent said they donate out of “a belief that my giving will help improve Jewish life and the Jewish community.”
This interest in helping the broader community is one more fundraisers should recognize when soliciting Jewish donors, says Shawn Landres, chief executive of Jumpstart, a philanthropic research organization, and one of the study’s authors.
“These are people for whom giving locally matters,” says Mr. Landres. “They see helping people who need help, irrespective of their religious group, as fundamentally a Jewish value. And so learning how to talk to somebody who thinks in those terms could be very valuable for fundraisers who work on any cause.”
Jews in their 20s and 30s said they are less likely to give to Jewish organizations than are their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Forty-nine percent of Jewish donors under 40 give to a Jewish nonprofit, compared with 63 percent of those over 40.
The finding echoes studies by the Pew Research Center and others that say young people are more likely than older ones to lack religious affiliation. Mr. Landres says he suspects today’s youths will give differently as they grow older, but the findings represent a challenge for Jewish organizations that want to attract younger supporters.
“Getting married and having kids will lead to levels of increased giving to organizations,” he says. “As giving goes up, more of that will go toward Jewish organizations if they have at least a moderate level of connection to the Jewish community.”
Getting Involved Now
Connected to Give’s study comes on the heels of another one that examined Jewish donors but focused on people under 40 from wealthy families.
Twenty-three percent of them were invited to serve on the primary boards of their families’ foundations. A similar study of young, wealthy people from a variety of backgrounds, released in January, found that 37 percent of respondents served on the boards of family funds.
If parents don’t get the younger generation involved in the family’s philanthropy now, they may lose their interest in it for good, cautions Sharna Goldseker, co-author of the study and managing partner of 21/64, a group that advises donors.
“The data affirm that their children and grandchildren are eager to take up this mantle,” says Ms. Goldseker. “They’re hungry for it, and they’re going elsewhere for it while wanting to be invited to the table.”
Nearly 90 Jews age 21 to 40 were surveyed by 21/64 and Grand Valley State University’s Johnson Center for Philanthropy. Most of those surveyed have inherited or will inherit their wealth, and just under half of them report $1-million or more in personal net worth.
A Gap in Donation Rates by Income