New study looks at new Jewish nonprofits


The Jewish Week and both have stories out about a study released last week by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation and Natan exploring the landscape of small, new Jewish organizations.

The survey of nearly 300 Jewish non-profits that have been started in the past 10 years and have budgets of $2 million or under was conducted by Jumpstart.

You can click here to see the whole survey, but The Jewish Week summarizes some of the data:

And while two-thirds of the population engaged by Jewish startups are in their 20s and 30s, nearly a third are baby boomers and older. “These organizations speak to a multigenerational community,” says Shawn Landres, CEO and director of research at Jumpstart, the think tank for Jewish nonprofit innovation that carried out the survey.

Jewish startups are “dynamic but fragile” — especially in the current economic climate, Landres says.

The survey was mailed out on Nov. 30, and most respondents completed it by the second week of December — BM, or before the Bernard Madoff scandal broke. Still, as of the end of last year, 59 percent of respondents reported having taken action in response to the recession. Common cutbacks included delaying planning new initiatives (41 percent), reducing the scope of programs and/or services (32 percent), slashing marketing budgets (24 percent) and freezing salaries (19 percent) and new hires (17 percent), as well as reducing staff hours (14 percent). “I’m sure it’s increased since then,” Landres says.

As the economy shows no sign of improvement, Jewish startups are particularly vulnerable. Merging, however, is not necessarily the answer. “So many people say, ‘Why don’t they just merge?’” Landres says. “But mergers are so complicated; it’s one organization eating up another.” More than 40 percent of respondents felt that a merger could have a somewhat or very negative impact on their organization’s health.

  Over at ejewishphilanthropy, Bob Goldfarb is quoted with some analysis:

Let’s start by taking a closer look at what’s being measured. Is it new organizations, or innovation among Jewish nonprofits? Jumpstart, which was commissioned to undertake the study by the Natan Fund and the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, did an amazing job in surveying hundreds of organizations in December, digesting the data, and producing a report last week.

But that understandably required some simplification, including treating “startup” and “innovation” as more or less the same thing. However, plenty of innovation happens in organizations that have been around for a long time, and new organizations can be unimaginative or derivative in their work. If we care specifically about nurturing new programs, services and mechanisms, as opposed to encouraging startups generally, the next iteration of research might look more closely at what constitutes real innovation and particularly how it correlates with financial success. It might also look at ways that old organizations have successfully reinvented their programs and fostered innovation from within.

Case studies can be especially useful in capturing both.

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