Consultant Raybin Bullish on philanthropy

While the GA officially got started after noon ton Sunday, the Jewish Federations normally held a series of more hard core professional development workshops before the mainstream conference starts.

This morning I sat in on the fist part of a session focused on raising money for endowments. The federation system has come to be identified with the success of failures of its annual campaign, the massive outreach for unrestricted dollars that these days brings in just under $1 billion collectively. But fund raising outside of the campaign for endowments, donor advise funds and capital and other special campaigns now significantly outpaces the general campaign, bringing in anywhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion annually. 

Sunday morning’s four-hour workshop was headlined by a keynote address by Nancy Raybin, the CEO of Raybin Associates, a big-time philanthropy consultancy.

Raybin was shockingly optimistic about the philanthropy world and specifically the Jewish philanthropic landscape.

She repeated several times that while the media may have wanted the story over the past two years to be about the demise of the philanthropy scene, total American giving has held steady at about $300 billion per year, basing her statement apparently on the annual survey of Giving USA (never mind that the survey is not an exact science and is over revised several months after it is released.)

“$300 billion is a big number,” she said. “I think it will continue to grow.”

Jews, she said, should be especially optimistic as giving to Jewish federations, she said is not counted as religious giving. Rather it is categorized under giving to public society benefit. To which Americans contribute $22.7 billion per year, or 8 percentage of all giving. But giving to that sector has slowly been on the rise for the past three decades, as in 1974, only 2 percent of charitable gifts went to public society.

And beyond that, Jews give more than the average American, she said.

“Jews give more, give percentage of 20 percent more. We know that we feel that and research is starting to show that. There is no distinction within the christian world, but Jews are different,” Raybin said. “The concentration of talent in Jewish organizations is stellar.”

And while many predicted the philanthropic apocalypse with the recession, “It has not happened that way,” Raybin said. “The decline is not there, and we don’t predict we will see a decline in 2010. The media we like to see that, but the facts are that charitable giving is not going to hell in a hand-basket.”

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