‘Impact’ celebrates young philanthropy

Young philanthropists celebrate giving at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Impact DC event last week. Credit: Robert Stevens
Young philanthropists celebrate giving at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Impact DC event last week.
Credit: Robert Stevens

Celebrating the philanthropy and leadership of local young Jewish professionals, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington brought together more than 400 young Jewish professionals for the third annual Impact DC event at the Howard Theatre last Thursday.

“I came out for my friends and to support a good cause,” said Impact attendee Tova Jacobovits.

A minimum of $100 to the Federation’s annual campaign set the baseline for attendees, many of whom said they had contributed more and counted the Federation as only one of the outlets for their philanthropy.

“It’s a testament to the strength of the young Jewish community,” said Matthew Friedson, who co-chaired the Impact event this year.


According to Friedson, over $25,000 was raised by the event alone, and thanks to donations of space and comestibles, it all went to the philanthropic works provided by the Federation.

“It’s representative of donations throughout the year,” he said. “There’s about $80,000 from the last year in the room.”

The event is characteristic of larger efforts by Jewish organizations to seek ways to both increase philanthropic giving and increase the involvement of younger Jews in the community.

“With engagement and involvement comes philanthropy,” said Avital Ingber, chief development officer for the Federation.

It’s good sense to look at combining the two goals, according to a major national study on American Jewish philanthropy released by philanthropic research lab Jumpstart last month. It found that for American Jews, philanthropy is directly connected to involvement in a Jewish community, and that while younger Jews are just as likely to give as older people, it does not necessarily lead them to donate to groups like the Federation. That’s where Impact and other efforts come in.

“It celebrates the understanding of the importance of philanthropy,” Friedson said.

“I’m looking to get involved and volunteer,” said Impact attendee Jon Mervis, adding that he had been excited by the event since it brought together so many people from the Jewish community who were also exuberant about contributing to the community.

According to the Jumpstart study, 92 percent of Jewish donors give to non-Jewish causes, so showing younger donors that giving to Jewish organizations is worthwhile is a vital part of youth outreach. Engaging those young professionals in the Jewish community in philanthropy gives them a stake in its future, Ingbar explained.

“It empowers youth to take on leadership roles in the Federation,” Ingber said.

The twin pillars of leadership and philanthropy are what brings people to Impact as well.

“It has blossomed into a signature event for D.C. young Jewish leadership,” said Bradley Buslik, who co-chaired the first Impact event in 2011. “It’s an event to celebrate the fact that you care about the community.”

And while larger commitments are always sought after, the young philanthropists come from a far broader socioeconomic range.

“Some are young professionals doing well, but some just make it a priority to donate,” Friedson said.

The Jumpstart study found that while income level, of course, affects how much is ultimately given, it doesn’t indicate whether or not someone will give at all. And young donors can be influential in other ways, indirectly encouraging their elders to also do their part.

“It inspires other generations,” Ingber said.

Giving the younger philanthropists a chance to have fun while contributing has seen some success, as the Impact event has more than doubled since it first began and, Friedson said, will likely only grow next year.

Or, as attendee Erica Ettin said at the event, “I’ll take any excuse to dress up and support philanthropy.”

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