Connected to Give

Brett and Julie Cohen recently enrolled in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund.
Brett and Julie Cohen recently enrolled in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund.

Jewish social engagement drives charitable giving to both Jewish and non-Jewish causes.

So reported a recent study by Jumpstart, a philanthropic research and design lab based in Los Angeles, Calif. Earlier this year, Jumpstart released “Connected to Give,” the first findings from its National Study on American Jewish Giving. They collected data from nearly 3,000 American Jewish households that covered a wide spectrum of philanthropic habits. Polled were those with and without wills, Jews donating to Jewish and secular causes and those who do and do not include charitable bequests in their wills (dollars earmarked to charity upon their death).

Legacy or planned giving (charitable contributions pledged in wills or estate-planning documents) is typically considered attainable only by financially established or older patrons. But that sentiment is changing, reports the study, as more and more legacy programs geared to younger adults are being established within foundations.

Daniela Levine, senior development associate for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s legacy and endowment department, engages young adults in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund, a “during lifetime” contribution program.

“The Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund requires a $10,000 initial
contribution, and perhaps that’s too high a barrier for some young adults,” said Levine. “So we allow younger individuals (40 and under) to contribute $2,000 a year for five years to get their $10,000. Once they’ve reached that amount they can recommend grants from their fund like any other donor-advised fund contributor.”

The Associated’s donor-advised programs are tax deductible at the time of contribution into the fund, and its Consolidated Investment Fund (CIF) is managed by Associated fund managers. Brett Cohen, 34, and his wife Julie, recently enrolled in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund.

“We come from comfortable families with average resources,” said Cohen. “So especially with a new family, $10,000 was a little daunting. But $2,000 a year is about … $6 a day, that’s like a Starbucks coffee. We can do this. Young people have the capacity and ability and desire to do more, to really help out the community on a larger scale.”

The Cohens also see this as a way to pass on the value of tzedakah (charity) to their newborn son, and they hope to recruit other young friends that have the financial availability and capacity. They want to help create another generation of giving to the Baltimore community.

The Create a Jewish Legacy program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington also has an initiative geared to young adults as part of its “after lifetime” donor program.

“It’s called the Key Donor Life Insurance Program,” said Yvonne Schlafstein Distenfeld, co-chair of Create a Jewish Legacy. “A young person purchases a life insurance policy and the United Jewish Endowment Fund (the endowment arm of the federation), shares the cost 50/50 of the new policy with the donors and the federation is the beneficiary. So legacy giving is not just for very, very rich people or people in the third part of their life.”

Because life insurance policies cost much less when purchased at a young age, this is attainable for younger donors, enabling them to make a much larger financial impact than they thought possible.

“The Create a Jewish Legacy program reaches young adults because we’re creating a visible culture of planned giving across our community,” says Distenfeld. “It’s a cultural change of thinking.”

Kate Conn, CEO of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation said, “Organizations are leaving millions of dollars on the table by not placing planned giving front and center in their philanthropic efforts.”

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor —

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