The expression “money makes the world go around” rings especially true when it comes to charitable organizations. And the one key question that all charities seek to answer is this: How do people decide which causes will get their hard-earned money?
For most, it’s their generation that tells a lot about how much — and to whom — they give.
“I was raised in a giving family. I try to raise my kids the same way,” said Dara Schnee, who works in the office of philanthropy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Schnee, who is a part of Generation X (those born between 1964 and the early 1980s), said much of her personal giving is based on what she is most passionate about, such as Israel and children, but understanding the fine print plays a large part in her decision-making.
“I’m part of the Women’s Giving Circle,” said Schnee. “I’ve learned a lot about reading grants, looking at budgets, seeing what an overhead is and how many employees [an organization] has.”
Schnee thinks this attention to detail differentiates her generation from others when it comes to giving.
According to the Pew Research Center, the way people are giving their money is also changing with technology. In 2012, Pew found that 20 percent of U.S. adults made charitable contributions online and 9 percent made contributions through text-messaging services.
This was particularly true in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where an estimated $43 million was given for assistance through text-messaging services.
Bruce Sholk has set up a foundation so that he and his wife can donate to several different charities throughout the year. He said the organizations he gives to are mainly ones that have long-standing relationships with his family such as his shul, the school his kids attend and the schools he attended.
Sholk is a baby boomer (those born between 1946 and 1964), and baby boomers have been known to contribute the largest amount of charitable giving — an estimated 43 percent of all dollars — according to a 2013 survey commissioned by Blackbaud, an organization that provides software to nonprofits.
However, through Sholk’s involvement with Hillel, he has some insight on how different generations view charitable giving.
[pullquote]“As time has gone along with younger generations, one thing you see is a desire for designated giving: Find a specific organization doing a specific kind of work and support that.” — Bruce Sholk[/pullquote]“I think the previous generation grew up involved in large, Jewish philanthropic organizations such as shuls and federations,” said Sholk. “As time has gone along with younger generations, one thing you see is a desire for designated giving: Find a specific organization doing a specific kind of work and support that.”
Both Schnee and Sholk attributed their philanthropic habits to their environments when they were growing up. This leaves the question for how the next generation — the one that follows the millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) — will give its charitable dollars.
But Schnee explained that she is raising her children, who range from 10 to 16, to value tzedakah as much as she did.
“For their bar mitzvahs, we started a philanthropic fund in their name,” said Schnee. In lieu of accepting any monetary gifts, the money given to them will go toward the fund “so that they can use it as a way of learning how to give back to the community and educating themselves on what’s important.”
Schnee’s oldest son decided, after taking a trip to Israel, that he wanted to make a contribution to the Israel Defense Forces.
Said Schnee, “If you’re raised with that value, you make it a point to live that way.”