Young donors want to see where the money is going

Young people volunteer for the Project HOPE Passover meal at the Sinai Temple in Dresher in 2019. (Courtesy Samuel Domsky)

Millennials enjoy giving their money and time to charity, according to local nonprofit leaders.

But, unlike older generations, they don’t just want to donate. They want to know why.

As we enter a new season of giving, the Gen Z cohort continues to grow into adulthood. And, like their older siblings, Gen Z kids want to know why.

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“A lot of them want to know the impact of their money,” said Polly Edelstein, the head of the Tribe 12 program, which connects young Jews to Jewish life. “They want to see it.”

As Edelstein explained, the older generations would simply donate to a reputable organization. It was reliable, so they would trust him to invest their money in worthy causes.

Millennials want to be in the rooms where allocation decisions are made.

“They want to be the ones who say this money should go to x, y, z,” Edelstein said.

Tribe 12 focuses on Jews in their 20s and 30s. It connects them to Jewish life today so that they stay connected tomorrow.

Founded in 2010, the association needed to understand the younger generation in order to survive, so it adapted its scholarship program to the millennial mindset. Each year, the program includes 12 fellows who pay a membership fee of $ 360 each. Half of each scholar’s contribution goes to a cause the group chooses together.

The 12 young people are invited to present potential businesses and nonprofits as worthy beneficiaries. The process includes speaking to people from the outside organization and then introducing to the fellowship group.

“We work together in a consensus model,” said Edelstein.

One year, the fellows helped The People’s Paper Co-Op in North Philadelphia, which shares the stories of formerly incarcerated women trying to reintegrate into society. In recent years, they have also helped an organization that organizes visits to children’s hospitals and another that provides legal services to survivors of domestic violence.

These causes are not only valid, but specific – another quality that is important to young adults, Edelstein said.

Millennials have entered an economy marked by the Great Recession of the late 2000s. Many have faced economic hardship or know people who have suffered, or both.

Hence, they are used to dealing with specific issues such as expensive medical procedures or unpaid rent.

“If we give to something that isn’t an ordeal or something that we can see, it gives people a break,” Edelstein said.

The millennial mindset also translates into volunteering. Some leaders of nonprofit organizations have found that this generation’s Jews like to volunteer their time.

Malkie Schwartz is the founder of Bikkur Cholim of Philadelphia, which helps children who are hospitalized or confined to the house. Bikkur Cholim offers fresh food, toys and “anything to make things easier,” Schwartz said.

In November, a group of high school girls prepared salads and lasagna for delivery. A school approaching the organization with an offer of help is common, according to the founder.

The same goes for a Bat Mitzvah girl who asks to do her service project with Bikkur Cholim. The most recent involved the girl wrapping scarves in soap and shampoo with bows on top.

Since the outbreak of COVID in March 2020, older volunteers are more reluctant to come to the hospital. So now the organization has young people visiting local hospitals to stock their pantries.

“When you help someone else, you feel good,” Schwartz said.

Samuel Domsky is the president of the HOPE project in the Dresher region. Each Passover, the charity provides meals to the needy and the elderly.

While Domsky doesn’t get a lot of money from millennials, he does get their time. Each spring, young Jews come to the Sinai Temple in Dresher to pack food and then hunt it.
to people.

By participating, millennials see what their efforts are doing. They grow up to understand that they are helping people in their community.

“It makes them feel like they’ve really contributed something meaningful,” Domsky said.

Participation also makes millennials more likely to give at least some money. Domsky receives more than 200 donations per year. Many are small, like $ 10 or $ 25, and therefore doable for younger residents.

“We want people to volunteer, get involved in the program and then take ownership of it,” he said.

A young family participates in Project HOPE’s Passover Meal Drive at Sinai Temple in Dresher in 2018 (Samuel Domsky)

Galvanizing millennials into deep involvement is difficult for organizations. But, as Domsky explained, it’s not impossible.

For a generation skeptical of institutions, commitment must be earned.

This may be easier for narrowly focused initiatives like the Tribe 12 scholarship program, Bikkur Cholim, and Project HOPE. But for a large nonprofit like the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, it’s a bit more difficult.

“Our parents’ generation gave to the (Jewish) Federation because that’s what you do,” said Adam Klazmer, chairman of the board of NextGen, the Jewish Federation’s under 40 group. . “Our generation needed more than one goal.”

To meet this challenge, NextGen is trying to recruit local Jews into its leadership development program. The program requires little more than a commitment to learn about what the Jewish Federation does.

“This is what we are doing to support Israel, Holocaust survivors, Jewish education,” Klazmer said. “Here is what we do to make sure Jewish children receive Hanukkah gifts.”

By explaining these efforts, the program helps millennials know what cause of the Jewish Federation could mean the most to them. Then, once they get involved, they stay involved and are more likely to trust the organization.

Klazmer and several other NextGen board members got involved in the development program.

“It seems to be the most effective way for people to get involved,” Klazmer said.

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