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Observance, age and wealth drive giving

November 24, 2016 23:21

A senior leader of the community once said to me: "If only we knew what makes someone give us a donation, we'd be able to unlock the full potential of our very generous and affluent community."

Well, I am delighted to report that we now have an answer to his pivotal question. A partial one, at least.

Whether it is even theoretically possible to provide a full model explaining what drives Jewish charitable giving is debatable. Think of the myriad potential thought processes that accompany any single donation, from those bearing upon the cause, the persuasiveness of the ask or the donor's personal circumstances, to simply whether anyone happened to answer the phone when it rang. The story behind every donation is unique. And equally, for that matter, is the story behind every non-donation.

Therein lies the beauty of JPR's National Jewish Community Survey dataset; it not only captures donations but also non-donations, because in trying to understand why people give, it is as important to understand why they do not give.

JPR's data on the giving and non-giving habits of 3,736 Jews have been used to develop a statistically robust model that allows us to assert with confidence the three underlying drivers of Jewish charitable giving.

As with so many things in life, it all boils down to money. And age. And Jewish identity. Not surprisingly, we found that the larger a person's income, the greater the overall amount they give, be it to Jewish or general charities. However, it is a person's age that is the key predictor of their generosity, with older respondents tending to give in greater proportion to their means than younger ones. And the stronger a person's religiosity or level of Jewish communal engagement, the more likely they are to prioritise Jewish over non-Jewish charities.

These findings do arm fundraisers with some powerful information. First, they should be aware that the baby-boomer generation - the bulge of babies born after the Second World War - is now entering retirement. But it is also entering its peak ability to give. Soon that peak will pass. So now is a critical time to encourage gifts and legacies from this group.

Similarly, with growing secularisation in the community, pressure on Jewish charities will steadily increase. Perhaps we need to work harder to impart the ethical and cultural Jewish imperatives to give, as well as the religious ones, not just to make the life of one particular communal leader easier, but for the betterment of the whole community.

November 24, 2016 23:21

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