Global Jewish Philanthropy

Report on the Jewish Funders Network 2008 Conference in Jerusalem

Executive Summary

  • The 2008 International Jewish Funders Network conference took place in Jerusalem between March 31 and April 3, 2008. The JFN commissioned the Reut Institute to prepare a report on the Conference.

  • This report has three parts: Part I provides a snapshot of the major trends in Jewish Philanthropy; Part II summarizes the impact of the Conference on its participants; Part III focuses on the challenge of forging philanthropic partnerships in general, and particularly among Israelis and North Americans.

 

​Part I: Snapshot of Global Jewish Philanthropy

  • Jews will suffer disproportionately from the economic crisis, since its root cause is the systemic failure in US financial markets. There will be fewer financial resources in the short and longer term while basic needs will grow. Moreover, breakdown of trust will raise 'transaction costs' of managing philanthropic foundations and nonprofits and new regulation will have to be introduced. In the long term, tectonic political shifts are likely with profound implications for the philanthropic world, yet more concrete political implications are still unclear.

  • 'Flat World Philanthropy' – Many of the characteristics of the globalized 'flat world' – such as openness, transparency, mobility, interconnectedness, decentralization and a 'winners-take-all' mentality – have affected the world of philanthropy.

  • Moreover, we are seeing a shift from 'Charity' to 'Strategic Philanthropy' in which philanthropists go beyond financial support to hands-on involvement in the organizations that they support.

  • There is a growing focus on philanthropic impact – While most nonprofits and philanthropists claim to have 'high-impact' strategies, the entire community is grappling with the meaning of 'impact' and its assessment. The concept of high-impact philanthropy may focus either on 'efficiency and effectiveness' or on generating 'transformations'.

  • Gravitation of Israel away from the center – A heated debate is taking place regarding Israel's place in the Jewish world and Global Jewish Peoplehood. One school asserts that Israel has been and remains the only center of the Jewish world, while the other views Israel as one of a few Jewish centers.

  • At the same time, Israel is gravitating away from the center of the Jewish world due to, among other things, the decline in Israel's image, the growth of its economy and alienation among certain factions toward the makeup of its supporters.

  • Recent years have seen a rise of Israeli philanthropy and a fresh 'culture of giving' in Israel, which is motivated by social responsibility and patriotism, focuses more on strengthening the social fabric and is driven by widespread Business Social Responsibility.

  • However, Israeli philanthropy is challenged by weak tax incentives, weak institutions, and widespread public skepticism and cynicism.

  • There is clear and powerful potential synergy between Israeli and non-Israeli philanthropists collaborating on philanthropic projects in Israel: World Jewish philanthropy has a relative abundance of resources, while Israel's 'younger' philanthropists have a nuanced knowledge and understanding of Israeli society.

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Part II: Impact of the Conference (With a Grain of Salt)

  • The Conference had a significant effect on the philanthropic thinking and activities of the participants. Specifically, the conference helped professionalize the participants' philanthropic approach.

  • Conference and site-visits offered a nuanced image of Israel in comparison to the more traditional view that the participants had been accustomed to.

  • It seems the relative weakness of the Conference was its content – In general, feedback on the content of the plenary sessions, workshops and forums was not as enthusiastic as the feedback for the conference's overall structure, makeup of the participants, or some of the site visits.

  • The Conference seems to have been a successful first step in forging partnerships between Israelis and non-Israelis on issues pertaining to Israel and the Jewish world. However, due to gaps in the way each group defines and understands the nature of these partnerships, it seems that there is room for much more work to be done.

Part III: Building Lasting Philanthropic Partnerships

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  • Fundamental differences among Israeli and non–Israeli philanthropists regarding values, priorities, habits, structure, impede on building lasting partnerships. Whereas Israelis tend to seek joint ventures, North Americans tend to seek meaningful relationships.

  • Our conclusion is that networking among philanthropists and convening them is not sufficient. In-depth focused work is essential for creating the conditions for many lasting synergetic partnerships.

Tags

Israeli-Diaspora Relations, Jewish Peoplehood, Nation-State, Zionism, Tikkun Olam

2008-12-01

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