30 November 2012

Philanthropic Considerations #3: What About Young Adult Jews?

As a young person (I'm 31), I get the sense that not many of my peers are into philanthropic activities (at least those who are working (as opposed to those in graduate school or who are between jobs)).  Our culture is not given over to discussing our philanthropic activities openly, so I really don't have a good sense of whether that's true or not.  Nevertheless, my sense is that many young people consider philanthropy to be the realm inhabited by old people, especially empty-nesters and retirees.  They probably don't understand this obligation and privilege of contributing to the Jewish people extends to any amount and to anybody earning money.
     This sentiment was recently featured in last week's Jewish Journal, in an article written by Danielle Berrin about Michal Taviv-Margolese that even though she had been giving money here and there, she hadn't realized how much she really could be giving until her mid-30s.  Since attending Tribefest this past March, I have been heavily desiring to encourage my fellow young Jews who are working and earning money to be philanthropic. 
      Although one can fantasize about young adult Jews going into the workforce and immediately begin making financial donations to the community, this fantasy is far from reality.  Of course, one reason is that young people have so much of their lives ahead of them and not only need to save for financial distress or being in between jobs, but also for building their families and futures.  However, another reason is that many (most?) young adult Jews do not understand the importance nor significance of financial giving. 
     This conundrum is certainly not going to be fixed by one person, but perhaps I need to be engaging in a more concerted effort of encouraging my fellow young adults in financial giving....

29 November 2012

Philanthropic Considerations #2: Curiosity About How & Why Jews Give (or Don't)

As I stated yesterday, my wife and I make financial donations every year to numerous organizations because we are fulfilling our obligations as Jews to make financial contributions to our people.  Working in the non-profit world, however, I have come to realize that this notion of obligingly giving is not common.  In the last several months, my curiosity as to how Jews consider philanthropy has been greatly piqued.  Granted, Jews think about many things in quite a variety of ways, so I imagine that there are myriad ways in which Jews consider their charitable donations.  Nevertheless, I imagine there are at least groupings one can generally sketch outlines of to better grasp how and why Jews give. 
      One interesting way of hearing about how Jews consider their giving came last month while I was attending an educational forum run by the American Jewish World Service and Shawn Landres made a side comment that some Jews with whom he has interacted bifurcate their giving.  They consider their synagogue dues, Jewish school fees, etc. as tzedakah and all their other giving as philanthropy.  I don't know how widespread such sentiment is, but I imagine it hints at complicated notions of Jewish giving.
      Because I have to raise funds for my operational budget in my current position, I thought other people would give as I do: giving to organizations they either have benefited from in the past (or currently) or on account of ideological affinity.  I further thought that people would see what I was doing and would realize that my work was worthy of receiving donations (Jews do have to give, after all).  However, that absolutely did not occur.  A better way of understanding this is, as stated by Stephen Donshik, that "an agency’s purpose and programs are not enough to guarantee the closing of a gift". 
      I also had been baffled as to why I was contacted for a  small donation I made to a local Jewish Studies Program, not only to be thanked for my donation, but even to be asked out to coffee by someone in the fundraising (I refuse to call it 'development') department to chat.  I had just given them some money (not even much, at that), so what does meeting up with me accomplish?  I can understand voicing some interest to them that I might be interested in giving, and then they would want to meet with me to try to explain what the cause is.  However, I had already given!  Moreover, it made sense as a place for us to give (especially since I had enjoyed a couple of talks and symposia there), but I didn't have any need to chat with someone or be recognized for my gift.  But, as Marc Chardon and Hal Williams have written,

Today, individuals have a driving need to be connected, to be engaged, to participate in a conversation around their lives and experiences, to drive the conversation from wherever they happen to be. To engage them, nonprofits need to take a broader view. The back office must leave “donor management” behind in place of creating and cultivating a far more complex and interactive supporter journey. Donors need to be cultivated and thanked. Supporters need to be engaged.
It may sound strange to me, since I am not that type of donor, but I realize that many people do need to be thanked and have that more personal touch. 

28 November 2012

Philanthropic Considerations #1: Personal Excitement

With yesterday having been "Giving Tuesday", I realized I had some thoughts I would like to share about giving.  However, I have not a little to share.  So, I have a few posts coming out soon (including this one) in which I will be discussing philanthropy.
     When I came out to California a little over three years for my job, I was excited not only to have a job and to go out and serve the Jewish people, but I was particularly enthralled to be philanthropic and to make financial donations.  It is a Jewish obligation that when one earns money, one is supposed to give a portion of it back to the Jewish community.  For me, that was something particularly exciting about owrking: to do my part in supporting Jewish institutions and organizations to enrich Jewish life.
     For me, I do what I call "planned giving", where my wife and I set aside a certain amount of money for that year that we will donate.  It is my responsibility (and honor) to divvy up where the money is going to go.  While I plan to give money for certain organizations, I also set aside some leeway in case of certain disasters or memorial funds, etc.
     Most of my giving is to either organizations from which I have benefited or am ideologically committed to.  At the top are our local Jewish Federation and my rabbinical school, followed less by my local shul/Chabad, then behind that comes both the Hillel and Chabad I frequented during my four semesters at IU and also two Modern Orthodox organizations doing good work: the Institute for Jewish Ideas & Ideals and the Center for Modern Torah Leadership.  Following those seven organizations, I have a larger number of organizations to which we give smaller amounts of money, some of which I have also benefitted from, but there are several to which we give that I feel do beneficial things and have never received any benefit from them. 
     We give because we understand the importance of the Jewish obligation to financially contribute from our earnings and it is encumbent upon us to make sure we give that money away - we just need to figure out where to give it and how much.  Granted, I enjoy fulfilling this obligation :)