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August 30, 2015 | 15th Elul 5775

Action Memo #1: How Your Congregation Can Respond to Difficult Financial Times

Five ideas to consider to help cut expenses, and suggestions for thinking about your congregation fundraising efforts.


Do less business and do more Torah            Pirke Avot 4:10

Let your friend’s property be as dear to you as your own. Pirke Avot 2:12



  • Ensure that any financial decision is connected to maintaining the mission and fulfilling the vision of your congregation.
  • Remember the cyclical nature of economic trends and consider the long term impact of short tem financial decisions.
  • Engage your clergy, staff, leadership and members in the conversation about how to cut expenses without a significant negative impact on serving congregants.
  • Be thoughtful about the true impact of any financial decision on clergy, professionals and temple staff.


Here are some suggestions culled from congregations with the assistance of the National Association of Temple Administrators and from the Union’s Departments of Synagogue Management and Development:


Five Ideas to Consider to Help Cut Expenses


  1. Review current budget projections. Consider postponing any non-critical repairs or maintenance items.
  2. Ask your office manager or Executive Director to conduct an office audit, reviewing use of office supplies and office machine maintenance contracts.
  3. Initiate or review an energy audit. Consider closing the building or parts of the building one night each week to save on energy and maintenance costs.
  4. Identify potential savings by increasing the use of electronic communication and limiting temple mailings to once or twice each month.
  5. Review expense lines for consumables such as coffee and paper goods. Realize savings by asking leaders and members to share in these expenses or contribute snacks for meetings on a rotating basis. Sometimes even small savings in many areas can have a positive impact.


Suggestions for Thinking About Your Congregation Fundraising Efforts   

  1. Communicate and build ownership: Openly communicate with your significant donors as to where the congregation stands fiscally. Don’t wait until November or December to articulate the challenges but instead assign key leadership to discuss year-end giving now.
  2. Connect with your donor’s pain: Just about everyone is feeling personally impacted by the daily news. Likewise it is easy to understand the increased costs associated with running a caring congregation.   It always helps to remind donors of the important role the congregation plays in helping those less fortunate and how they can make a difference during these uncertain times.
  3. Stay focused on the big stuff: Remember that the economy may be in a cyclical downward turn but it is only a matter of time before it will take an upward turn. Therefore, stay focused on the larger congregational development plan while looking for ways to double short-term fundraising efforts.
  4. Rethink your plans: If your congregation is thinking of undergoing a capital campaign, it may be advisable to take the next two months off from asking specific donors for significant gifts, but only as part of a donor-by-donor re-assessment. Whenever possible, do not hesitate to make the ASK!
  5. Rethink the congregation’s calendar: Look at the current calendar of congregational activities from a standpoint of what fundraising opportunities might exist.


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