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US Jewish philanthropists give more during pandemic but struggle with allocation

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JTA — Lisa Greer used to devote a significant share of her time and money to long-term philanthropic projects. She didn’t mind that it could take years to see a new multimillion-dollar hospital wing built halfway around the world or for a project requiring years of planning to begin.

But when the pandemic started, her thinking shifted to what was closer to home, and in some cases to what was happening right in her own city.

“I’d much rather get some hospital people PPE, so people can live,” she said from her home in Los Angeles, where hospitals are again filling to capacity and another lockdown has been put into place. “It’s sort of like life or death became more important.”

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Greer, a philanthropist and investor, isn’t alone in shifting her giving. According to a recent report by the Jewish Funders Network, a majority of Jewish donors are rethinking their strategies in response to the pandemic, loosening application requirements for grants and increasingly giving unrestricted gifts that can be used for any purpose rather than for specific projects or new programs. Honorees Lisa Greer, left, Amy Brenneman, center, and Susan Cartsonis at The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Women of Distinction Luncheon at The Beverly Hills Hotel on May 8, 2013, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“We’ve been talking about this for years but when the pandemic hit, people really adopted wholeheartedly this more flexible way of giving,” said Andres Spokoiny, president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network.

The changes to philanthropic giving have perhaps never happened as fast as they have during the pandemic, now in its 10th month, nor is it easy to recall a time in living memory when need has escalated so quickly — though unlike in past crises, a booming stock market means donors are in a better position to give. Not only are the strains on medical resources stronger than ever, but the economic fallout from the pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns has created an........

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