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August 31, 2015 | 16th Elul 5775

Fun or Fundraising?

Rob Berkovitz

Is it fun or fundraising? Synagogue leaders often ask about ideas for raising much needed funds. While there are many successful programs that congregations have implemented over the years (look at our online program database, Communicate, for ideas), one thing to think about when planning your program is the fundraiser's intended outcome.

Sometimes, it is the Finance Committee's goal to increase the congregation's bottom line. Other times, the goal may be to create a community-building event (which may also raise funds, though typically less than a dedicated fund raising event; of course even a few hundred dollars can help the budget of a small congregation). The most effective approach, it would seem, is a combination of a community-building and financially-supportive event.

As with any other program, you have to consider what will work best for your congregation. Do fun-raisers (community-building events) generate enough extra revenue to help support the budget? If they do, then you are doing great! If they don't quite help support the budget, but work at creating an engaged and connected community, you are still doing great, but you may want to consider some additional fundraising.

In planning ahead for next year's fundraising efforts, consider a High Holy Days appeal. It doesn't need to be a high-pressure push for money. Consider sending a letter about a month before the High Holy Days as a way to introduce the appeal. You might even use that as the appeal and not address the need for money during the actual High Holy Days services. Include an addressed return-envelope with the letter so people can send in a donation. The letter should focus on the accomplishments of the synagogue and how it has had a positive impact on those who are a part of this special, sacred community.

We know that congregants are more likely to give to people rather than to the plumbing system, so you might consider including a personal note from a congregant or perhaps a religious school student about what the synagogue means to them. Then, ask the individual to speak about the letter s/he wrote. This way, you will have asked for a donation in the initial letter, and you won't be making a direct appeal during the High Holy Days.

Since the High Holy Days have passed and your congregation may be looking for ways to make a more immediate appeal, considering using the above as a model for an end-of -year appeal, which can also be a successful approach to fundraising.

In the end, whatever you do you can't forget the fun-raising part. What is most important is that you develop an engaged, committed and connected extended family, and that people feel that the synagogue is a sacred place in their lives. Taking care of the fun-raising is a great way to help you meet your fundraising goals.

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