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October 22, 2014 | 28th Tishrei 5775
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Reimagining Financial Support for Your 21st Century Congregation

Financial Support We hear over and over again that current dues models of synagogue financial support are not working. Temple leaders are searching for new and innovative dues models to restructure their finances and to strengthen their members' involvement.

The Reimagining Financial Support for Your 21st Century Congregation Community of Practice is exploring the connection between financial support and member engagement. Our premise is that we can increase financial contributions to our temples by strengthening personal relationships within the congregation. Making relationships central to this equation, refocuses our priorities on the people and how they relate to each other, to the congregation and to their financial obligation.

Participating congregations are experimenting with and creating innovative, relational-based financial models that can increase both congregational funding and membership engagement.

Who Are We

The URJ Reimagining Financial Support for Your 21st Century Congregation Community of Practice consists of seventeen URJ congregations, who share a concern about the financial health and future of their communities. They range from 208 family members to 1044 family members, from the east coast to the west coast. Each congregation team includes at least one lay leader and one staff member. In order to participate, congregations were expected to be: 1) financially sound; 2) already working toward being a relational community; 3) open to the idea of experimenting with new financial dues models; 4) willing to allocate staff and lay support; and 5) transparent, open to learning from others, and open to sharing successes and challenges.

The participating congregations are:

Temple Emanu-El Tucson, AZ
Congregation Shir Hadash Los Gatos, CA
Congregation Sherith Israel San Francisco, CA
Temple Judea Tarzana, CA
Moses Montefiore Congregation Bloomington, IL
Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim Deerfield, IL
Beth Emet the Free Synagogue Evanston, IL
Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation Indianapolis, IN
Congregation B'nai Jehudah Overland Park, KS
Beth Israel Congregation Jackson, MS
Temple Ner Tamid Bloomfield, NJ
Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester Chappaqua, NY
Congregation Beth Tikvah Worthington, OH
Temple Beth-El Providence, RI
Beth El Hebrew Congregation Alexandria, VA
Temple Beth El Madison, WI
Temple Sinai Washington D.C.

What We Hope to Accomplish

Participating congregational leaders will gain knowledge about the intricacies of financial support, discover successful engagement practices, strengthen their professional networks and create and implement new and innovative models of engagement and financial support that will propel their congregations into the future.

Schedule (24 Month Commitment)

The participating congregations will work together formally for 24 months to push the boundaries of existing congregational efforts, experiment in their own communities, receive peer support and guidance along the way, create congregational changes and garner skills that will benefit all areas of congregational life. They will participate in monthly virtual gatherings and e-learning opportunities. The results of their strategic experiments will be shared with congregations outside the communities of practice and with the Reform Movement at large.

General Topics Covered

Based on our premise that we can increase financial contributions to our temples by strengthening personal relationships within the congregational community, we began our research with understanding how to build a relational culture and how to measure its success. Then we moved into exploring the best principles of fundraising and analyzing current congregational dues models. Ultimately, each of the 17 congregations will create a new dues model fit for their congregation and implement it with the support of their Board of Trustees.

Specific Topics Addressed

  • Building a Relational Congregation
  • How to Measure the Success of a Relational Culture
  • Understanding the Connection Between Temple Finances and Congregational Culture
  • Fundraising and Development Essentials*
  • Exploring Dues Models that Work
  • Understanding the Voluntary Dues Model
  • Understanding the Congregations Who Have Successfully Transformed Their Dues Models

In The News


  • Debbie Joseph ( is the Primary Coordinator
  • Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, RJE- Director of Expanding our Reach ( is the Secondary Coordinator
  • Rabbi Dan Judson is the faculty for this community of practice
  • Daphne Macy ( is the Administrative Assistant

* The Webinar on Fundraising Essentials is available to all URJ congregations by contacting the URJ Knowledge Network at This outstanding 90-minute webinar explains the basic rules of fundraising and development, discusses new trends in philanthropy and current challenges of fundraising, and suggests ways to create a culture of philanthropy in congregations, and outlines ways to plan and execute a congregational development strategy. The Fundraising Essentials webinar is planned and presented by Naomi Levine, Executive Director, and Richard Brown, Visiting Clinical Professor, at the New York University George H. Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising.

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