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Projects: PHILANTHROPY
Mega-gifts in American Philanthropy Trends in Philanthropy Foundations

The Institute conducts research about Jewish foundations, patterns of major gifts, and ideologies of giving. The context in which Jewish philanthropy takes place has changed radically in the last few years. The purposes for which funds are raised, the processes of collection and distribution, and the institutional landscape in the Jewish fundraising world are all being altered. Some of the underpinnings — philosophical, ideological and religious — in the Jewish fundraising system remain essentially unaltered, but the nuances of the purposes for which monies are raised have expanded and become more differentiated.

The Americanization of Jewish philanthropy has taken place. Jews are now so integrated into the American mainstream, that tzedakah (charity) has taken on more of the character of American philanthropy, and will continue to do so, representing less the religious tradition of Jews and more the civil tradition of philanthropy in the United States. Philanthropy among Jews mirrors certain aspects of the American system, especially among the very wealthy. Issues of power, gender, generation, and the roles of professionals all come into play. More Jews will make contributions based on American values of giving: voluntary associations, giving through personal choice, and supporting a wide variety of causes. They, like other Americans, will pick and choose that which they want to support, most often philanthropies for which they have some affinity or connection.

Mega-gifts in American Philanthropy

The Institute for Jewish & Community Research conducted a major study on mega-gifts, those of $10 million or more, comparing the general giving patterns to those of the Jewish community. This was the first extensive study of Jewish philanthropists making gifts at the highest level. The study captures giving between 1995 and 2000 and provides a systematic account of gifts $10 million and above.   The Institute is continuing this research, expanding the study to track gifts of $1 million or more. We intend to publish a report on an annual basis.

Mega-giving is an important component of American philanthropy. Donors provide billions of dollars annually to non-profits through gifts of $1 million or more. The magnitude of the highest-end giving is such that major areas of society can be seriously influenced.

Contributions of this scale play a critical role in the overall health of the American philanthropic system. Individuals with the potential for the largest contributions are targeted by a multitude of organizations, agencies, institutions, and causes.   Understanding the motivations of mega-givers will help organizations meet the expectations of their most important supporters.  

Gifts of $10 Million or More from 1995-2000 and 2001-2003 by Recipient Type from Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy .

Mega Gift Chart

Trends in Philanthropy

Publications

Mega-Gifts

Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003.
San Francisco: Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2007.
Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg.

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Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: General & Jewish Giving Patterns Between 1995-2000.
San Francisco: Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2003.
Tobin, Gary A., Jeffrey R. Solomon and Alexander C. Karp.

Articles

"American Mega-Giving: A Comparison to Global Disaster Relief."
San Francisco: Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2003.
Tobin, Gary A., Alex C. Karp & Aryeh K. Weinberg..

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"Getting Megagifts to the Neediest Causes"
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 1, 2003.
Tobin, Gary A.

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Foundations

The number of Jewish foundations has been growing rapidly in both size and number. Yet giving by most Jewish foundations is not very different from individual philanthropy. The differences that do exist between individual philanthropists and foundations are the result of a number of factors, including, whether or not the principal donor is still living, the size of the foundation, and the extent to which professional advice and assistance is utilized. Therefore, assessing needs has to take into account the human dynamic that is played out in this complex world. Understanding foundation needs means understanding human needs and the complications, ambivalences, contradictions, and mystery of human interactions.

One can hardly think of a more intense set of intersections than those between money, family, and religion. Jewish foundations are complex organizations filled with conflict, compassion, loyalty and disappointment, relationships between parents and children, siblings, friends and grandchildren. The terrain is filled with conflicting feelings of accomplishment and failure, generosity and greed, confidence and insecurity.

The explosive growth of foundations created by Jews parallels the same phenomenon in American society as a whole. Billions of dollars have flowed into Jewish established foundations, and even larger amounts are expected over the coming decades. What do we know about where these foundations make their grants? In particular, what proportion of dollars and gifts go toward Jewish institutions and causes versus secular (non-Jewish) ones?

Foundations exist as private foundations, as philanthropic funds managed through financial institutions like Fidelity or Schwab, and also as philanthropic funds and supporting foundations in Jewish federations, other Jewish organizations, and secular institutions as well. Many billions of dollars have been deposited in these funds. This monograph explores standalone foundations, and a select number of supporting foundations (assets owned by other 501(c)3 non-profits).

Our studies examine the secular causes to which Jewish foundations contribute, including education, health, arts/ culture, human services, and others. The categories are comparable to those used in our mega-gift research, as well as those used by other scholarly analysts.

Data Findings

Size of Foundations

  • The total assets of the foundations examined were about $17 billionlar organizations (See Figure 4).

Geographic Distribution

  • Twenty-one foundations are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, 7 in the South, 10 in the Mid-West and 11 in the West.

Total Grants

  • In either 2004 or 2005, the selected foundations made grants totaling about $1.2 billion.
  • The foundations made a total of over 8,000 grants, with a median grant size of about $20,000.

Giving to Jewish Causes

  • Twenty-one percent of total dollars went to Jewish organizations, and 79% to secular organizations.
  • Twenty-four percent of all grants went to Jewish organizations, and 76% to secular organizations.
  • Of the 10 largest foundations we examined, under 20% of total dollars went to Jewish organizations.
  • Thirty-one percent gave a majority of their dollars to Jewish organizations, and 69% to secular organizations.
  • Twenty-two percent gave a majority of their grants to Jewish organizations, 76% gave a majority of their grants to secular organizations, and 2% gave an even amount.
  • Forty-percent gave their largest grant to Jewish organizations and 60% gave their largest grant to secular organizations.
  • The median of the largest grants made by each foundation to a Jewish organization was about $700,000, and the median of the largest grants made by each foundation to a secular organization was about $1.5 million, more than 100% higher.

Giving to Israel

  • Seven percent of all dollars ($1.2 billion) went to Israel related organizations ($79 million), as did 6% of all grants.
  • Thirty-two percent of dollars designated to Jewish organizations ($251 million) went to Israel ($79 million), as did 27% of grants made to Jewish organizations.
  • Of the 10 largest foundations we examined, 4 % of dollars ($25 million) went to Israel.

Giving to Secular Causes

  • Twenty-two percent of dollars to secular organizations went to higher education, 20% to health and medical, 17% to arts/culture, 14% to general education, 10% to human services, 9% to public society benefit, and 8% to all other causes.
  • Twenty-two percent of grants to secular organizations went to human services, 18% to arts/culture, 14% to health and medical, 13% to public society benefit, 11% to general education, 10% to higher education, and 12% to all other causes
  • Twenty-one percent of total dollars went to Jewish organizations, 17% to higher education, 16% to health and medical, 14% to arts/culture, 11% to general education, 7% to human services, 7% to public society benefit, and 7% to all other causes.
  • Twenty-four percent of total grants went to Jewish organizations, 17% to human services, 13% to arts/culture, 11% to health and medical, 10% to public society benefit, 9% to general education, 7% to higher education, and 9% to all other causes.

Publications

A Study of Jewish Foundations

Study of Jewish Foundations cover

A Study of Jewish Foundations.
San Francisco: The Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2007.
Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg.

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Articles

"Family Philanthropy's Mad Hatter"
Foundation News & Commentary, January/February 2004.
Tobin, Gary A.

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Jewish Foundations: A Needs Assessment Study (Article)
San Francisco: Institute for Jewish & Community Research, March, 1999.
Tobin, Gary A., Michael Austin, Meryle Weinstein, and Susan Austin.

Talking Truth about Jewish Federations

Talking Truth about Jewish Federations

Talking Truth about Jewish Federations
San Francisco: The Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2007.
Gary A. Tobin.

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Trends in Philanthropy

The Transition of Communal Values and Behavior in Jewish Philanthropy
San Francisco: Institute for Jewish & Community Research, 2001.
Tobin, Gary A.

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"An Exceptional Nation: American Philanthropy is Different Because America Is Different."
Philanthropy Roundtable November/December 2004.
Karp, Alexander C., Gary A. Tobin, and Aryeh K. Weinberg.

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