Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.
Birthright Israel aims to accomplish the following measurable objectives:
• To increase the involvement of young Jewish adults in communities around the world by providing them with an educational experience in which they become more engaged and connected with Israel and Judaism.
• To strengthen the bonds between the young Jewish Diaspora and the land and people of Israel.
• To meet the educational standards set forth by Birthright Israel educational staff by conducting thorough and ongoing evaluations of the trip and its impact on participants.
• To meet the tremendous demand for participation by working with our funding partners to provide the gift of Birthright Israel to increasing numbers of young Jewish adults. Our goal is to send 51,000 participants annually beginning in the next several years, thereby reaching half of the eligible target age cohort.
In 2012, the program had more than 42,000 global participants, representing a 27% increase over 2011. The winter 2012/2013 round had over 15,000 participants including 11,888 from North America. This summer, between May and November, an estimated 26,000 young Jewish adults will experience a Birthright Israel trip, with over 20,000 coming from North America. In total, we aim to send at least 42,000 young Jewish adults to Israel in 2013.
Participants come from all 50 U.S. states, as well as 61 countries worldwide. Each year, approximately 75% of Birthright Israel participants are from North America and 25% are from the rest of the world. Participants are evenly divided between male and female, and most are in the 18-23 age range (78%), with the remaining 22% in the 24-26 age cohort. In terms of religious affiliation, the majority of participants identify as Reform (41%), followed by “Just Jewish” (28%) and Conservative (20%). Only 3% of participants identify themselves as Orthodox. These statistics show that Birthright Israel is succeeding in its goal to serve less affiliated Jews.
In 2012, the Birthright Israel Foundation set a goal of raising $73 million to provide the Birthright Israel experience to at least 42,000 young Jewish adults, including at least 30,000 participants from North America. By year-end, we successfully raised $76.5 million from nearly 27,000 gifts by growing and strengthening all levels of the organization’s donor base through an expanded major gifts effort and a comprehensive grassroots campaign targeting alumni and their families. The strategies utilized to reach our goals, including meeting the terms of the 2012 Adelson Challenge by raising $20 million in new and increased gifts, encompassed a redoubled principal gift effort, strengthening our presence and impact across North America through a regional approach, and strategically focusing our grassroots campaign and communications efforts to alumni and their families in order to grow the lower tier of our campaign.
Building on the exciting arrival of a new President and Chief Operating Officer, we are committed to ensuring that the Birthright Israel Foundation establishes a reputation for and a culture which models organizational excellence, in order to attract top professional and volunteer leadership and talent. By building a focused, capable, high-energy team with a “can do” attitude and establishing clear professional expectations and measures of success, the Birthright Israel Foundation aims to be “a great place to work” in the Jewish world. It is also essential that we cultivate and develop our governance structures in order to ensure that our organizational goals and efforts are appropriately supported as we grow.
Birthright Israel was built upon the importance of partnerships, from its funding model through the programmatic elements of the trips. We remain committed to nurturing, strengthening and maximizing these partnerships, particularly as they relate to the Birthright Israel Foundation’s fundraising efforts. To this end, our relationships with Taglit-Birthright Israel, NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Jewish Agency for Israel represent the most significant relationships that we are invested in today and into the future.
From its inception, Birthright Israel has utilized rigorous evaluation, both to monitor adherence of trip providers to educational and logistic standards, as well as to assess the impact of the program on participants. Educational evaluations, implemented by the Henrietta Szold Institute, the National Institute for Research in the Behavioral Sciences, utilize questionnaires, participant observation, and interviews. Quality control is overseen by Teldor, with an evaluator spending a full day observing 25% of trips. Additionally, the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University conducts independent, longitudinal research on the program’s impact, comparing trip alumni to young Jewish adults who applied to the program but did not participate. Finally, the number of program applicants and participants are tracked each trip round through the Taglit-Birthright Israel registration system.
The current Cohen Center analysis indicates that, despite the increasing time lag since the trip experience, there is substantial evidence of the program’s positive impact on Jewish identity, relationship to Israel, and connection to the Jewish people. The stability in the data, unusual in studies of this kind, speaks to the strength of the Birthright Israel program.
Recent highlights include:
• 85% of participants described the trip as a “life changing experience.”
• 85% of participants feel encouraged to become more involved in the Jewish community as a result of their trip.
• Program alumni are 42% more likely to feel “very much” connected to Israel than those who apply but do not go on a Birthright Israel trip.
• Nearly 30% of participants have returned to Israel after their Birthright Israel trip.
• Three-quarters of participants feel some degree of confidence in explaining the current situation in Israel.
• The program’s influence extends beyond participants themselves, as 7% of nonparticipants are married to alumni, and 25% of participants are married to other participants.
Despite Birthright Israel’s tremendous success, the program continues to be challenged by overwhelming demand. During each bi-annual registration period, thousands more young adults apply than can currently be accommodated due to a funding gap. For example, in North America, nearly 9,500 applicants were left behind this past winter, as over 21,000 young adults applied for fewer than 12,000 slots. New research on reapplication rates has found that only 15-27% of those waitlisted but still eligible to participate reapply in a subsequent round. It is only by increasing the overall number of participant slots each trip round that we will effectively counter this trend.
In 2012, the Birthright Israel Foundation surpassed our goal of raising $73 million, by securing $76.7 million from nearly 28,000 gifts, to provide the Birthright Israel experience to more than 42,000 young Jewish adults, including 30,000 participants from North America. To support our efforts, the 2012 Adelson Challenge matched all new and increased gifts at a 1:1 rate.
In 2013, our campaign plan calls for raising $47 million, excluding support from the Adelson Family Foundation. This will reflect an increase of about $5 million in our non-Adelson campaign, representing 12% growth over 2012 results. Additionally the Adelsons are supporting us this year with a generous gift of $40 million including a challenge grant that will provide a 1:1 match on all new and increased gifts, including multi-year gifts committed this year. To date, we have raised $34.2 million, excluding support from the Adelsons, bringing us 73% of the way towards fulfilling our plan. Including the Adelson gift, our total fundraising goal will enable us to send 44,000 participants to Israel this year.
In order to achieve these goals, we will continue to focus on and refine our Principal Gifts efforts at the highest level of the campaign, representing our $100,000 and higher gifts, in order to more effectively steward and grow these critical relationships. As part of these efforts, we aim to establish new cohorts, with unique activities, to further engage our most generous and long-term donors. Additionally, critical to our long term future will be a successful effort to build a culture where our most significant investors commit to multi-year giving. We have been in preliminary discussions with the Adelsons about a multi-year commitment and match which we anticipate being a major catalyst for this program.
Birthright Israel Foundation is also committed to strengthening our regional efforts to grow the campaign in our mid-tier ($5,000 to $99,000 gifts) and will pay particular attention to more clearly defining our relationship with Federations and reevaluating our leadership structures that support our regional efforts. This will include an effort to grow and deepen our engagement with our regional councils through a first-ever regional council summit, complementing the replication of the regionally-based Las Vegas event held in October 2012 with two additional events in 2013.
We are also committed to developing a viable cash flow plan in partnership with the Board, Taglit, and our most committed funders and key leadership. This will include the development of a cash reserve at the Birthright Israel Foundation, included in the 2013 campaign budget. Finally, as we plan for the future, we hope to establish a multi-year planned giving and endowment initiative, in the range of hundreds of millions, with a targeted first-closing aimed at the program’s 18th year (in 2017). We look forward to success in building this initiative with the support and partnership of our Board.