Assimilated younger generation still gives Jewishly, report says

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Despite research indicating that Jewish young adults are less involved in formal religious practice than previous generations, these “next-gen” donors continue to fund Jewish organizations, identifying religious and faith-based organizations as the second most common area of their giving, according to a new study.

A report by the N.Y.-based nonprofit 21/64 and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy in Michigan paints a revealing picture of the next generation of major Jewish donors. The report, “Next Gen Donors: The Future of Jewish Giving,”  examines the ways Jewish identity shapes the causes these younger donors care about, how these donors approach their giving, and how their approach differs from the generations that preceded them.

Jewish next-gen donors give to religious institutions, including Jewish federations, and report a “strong sense of Jewish identity that influences their philanthropic activities, even to secular causes that they believe are in line with their Jewish values,” the report says.

The report is based on national studies of individuals between the ages of 20 and 40.

Results show that inherited values — often learned from parents and grandparents — often drive these donors in their philanthropy. However, the Jewish next-gen donors report seeking a balance between honoring and respecting their family legacy, while looking for new ways to make an impact.

The report also finds that Jewish next-gen donors are eager to be more formally involved in family philanthropy, and often strive for a more active role. Many are frustrated by the lack of formal engagement in their own families, and look elsewhere for meaningful philanthropic engagement and experience.

Jewish next- gen donors, like their non-Jewish peers, are looking for new, innovative ways to maximize the impact of their giving, by exploring more hands-on experience and shifting to more peer-oriented giving, the report says.

Overall, the findings paint a positive picture for the future of Jewish giving.

“Despite concerns from the community that the next generation of Jewish funders are less involved in Jewish giving, the results from our study provide an optimistic view,” said Sharna Goldseker, managing director of 21/64, a consulting practice specializing in next-generation and multigenerational engagement in philanthropy and family enterprise. “As the surveys reveal, not only are Jewish next-gen donors committed to supporting Jewish organizations, they want to be even further involved in substantive and meaningful ways,” she said.

“Many Jewish organizations and Jewish families are re-evaluating how to engage the emerging generation of Jewish donors who will carry the legacy of Jewish family giving into the future,” said Michael Moody, Frey Foundation chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. “The new findings from this study help advance our thinking about how Jewish next-gen donors want to be engaged, either by the organizations they support or within their own families.”

The complete report can be seen at www.nextgendonors.org.