Organized mass-based philanthropy (i.e., the United Jewish Appeal and its local affiliates) performs a number of crucial functions for American Jewry. Forecasts by fund-raising practitioners of declining numbers of givers and size of charitable donations, therefore, imply pessimistic views regarding the organizational vitality of American Jewry. Using a secondary analysis of the giving patterns of the Jews in metropolitan Boston, this paper tests the hypothesis that age and charitable behavior are directly related. In so doing, it posits the notion of a community of givers bounded in part by age, but also by income, occupation, and Jewish involvement. The analysis demonstrates that indeed age has both a direct effect on giving and indirect effects through income, occupation, and Jewish involvement. All four factors are major predictors of giving but some are more closely related to the likelihood of giving and others exert a greater impact on the amount given. Insofar as the connection between age and giving can be seen as a cohort rather than a life cycle or temporary effect, the pessimists' argument is validated by these data.
Young people are giving less often, professionals do give appreciably less than business people, and less identified Jews give less than their more involved counterparts. Since young people are increasingly turning toward the professions, and since Jewish involvement is to some unknown extent permanently lower among today's younger Jews, one can readily anticipate a decline both in the numbers of givers and in the size of their gifts. This prediction can be translated into the terms originally set forth.
Thus, decreased giving means, all things being equal, less support for Jewish agencies, some unravelling of the organized community with greater factionalization, poorer recruitment of lay leaders for all aspects of Jewish organizational life, less opportunity for the average Jew to be induced to participate in a broad-based communal activity, and, quite possibly, diminution in Jewish political influence.
In Journal of Jewish Communal Services, v.55:1, 1978, p.59-71.