Head of Indiana school on philanthropy spins positive on Jewish giving


eJewishphilanthropy has an interesting post today in which Bob Evans and Avrum Lapin of EHL Consultants spoke with the new head of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Patrick Rooney, about Jewish philanthropy.

Rooney asserts that Jews give on average more than people of other faith groups and more than those who do not belong to a faith group, but these two questions and answers stuck out for me:

EHL/eJewishphilanthropy: Are Jewish nonprofits experiencing anything differently than other non-profits?

Patrick Rooney: I have learned that ‘Tikkun Olam’ holds great weight in the Jewish charitable community; this philosophy clearly highlights the historical priority of giving by Jews. Jewish households are extraordinarily generous but the Jewish community is the only religious community that traditionally gives more to secular causes (especially in health, education, arts, and environmental issues) than to their own religious group. Giving to synagogues will grow at a fairly slow rate in the next few years, especially as attendance at synagogues slows. But what other Jewish institutions should see could be stronger giving by Jews as priorities adjust.

EHL: Is there any lasting impact on charitable giving from the Madoff mess of 2008/2009? Any lessons to be learned for Jewish donors and Jewish nonprofit leaders as a result of the scandal?

Patrick: Madoff exploited the Jewishness of his personal connections. This has raised levels of distrust and skepticism both within the Jewish community and American society. The Madoff scandal will undoubtedly continue to have a disproportionate impact on the Jewish community but he was not – and has not been – the only one to behave in this manner; this was truly a societal lesson to study and to use as a teaching moment. Non-profit leaders now more than ever need to do their due diligence when it comes to running all phases of their organizations. From diversifying their portfolios, to maintaining disciplined budgets, accountability and transparency are paramount.

To me both of Rooney’s answers seem to paint a rosy picture of Jewish giving. He seems to think that some Jewish non-profits will emerge stronger from this recession than they were before the financial downturn.

Interestingly, when asked about the Madoff effect on Jewish giving, he talks about mistrust, but does not suggest a significant dip in giving because of Madoff losses as many had feared.

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