Building a Culture of Philanthropy

Raising money is a fact of congregational life, but many congregations are finding that the tried and true practices that worked for generations no longer resonate with today’s synagogue members. What are the best principles of development for relevant and innovative congregations? How can you transform your transactional fundraising into a relationship-based culture of philanthropy?

The URJ, in collaboration with Rabbi Louis Feldstein, founder and CEO of Dynamic Change Solutions, created materials designed to help your congregation embrace a culture of philanthropy. These materials draw from best principles of development from across the non-profit world. These materials include:

URJ Creating a Culture of Philanthropy Resource

The URJ resource on Creating a Culture of Philanthropy provides congregational leaders with articles, blogs, guides, speeches, and examples of materials that help define what a culture of philanthropy is and explore its roots in the Jewish tradition. It is comprised of the following four volumes:

  1. Transitioning to a Culture of Philanthropy- This volume focuses on understanding what a culture of philanthropy is, how it is different from what’s practiced in many congregations, and why now is the time to start exploring the transition.
  2. Philanthropic Partnerships and Volunteer/Donor Engagement- This volume intends to help congregational leaders recognize the unique qualities and strategies required to develop philanthropically-focused sacred partnerships. It focuses on understanding generational giving trends, developing segmented strategies to increase philanthropic behavior of core populations, and effective steps to help clarify solicitation and stewardship roles. 
  3. Philanthropic Cornerstones- This volume focuses on some of the key elements separating philanthropy from fundraising. It includes strategies for donor appreciation and recognition, philanthropic policies and procedures, an overview of philanthropic software and data analysis, and development plans.
  4. Annual Giving- This volume focuses on annual philanthropic strategies including annual campaigns, phone-a-thons, direct solicitations, and High Holidays campaigns. It also delves into integrated asks and online giving.

URJ Online Learning Series on Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

The URJ online learning series on Creating a Culture of Philanthropy provides congregational leaders with webinar recordings and presentation materials that help shift the focus from a culture of fundraising to a culture of philanthropy. It includes the following sessions:

  1. Philanthropic Partnerships- This session delves into how philanthropy plays a key role in a congregation’s relational engagement strategy and how to move donors through the recruitment-engagement-retention process. It also provides best principles for appreciation and acknowledgment of donors. Listen to the recording of this session in The Tent.
  2. Volunteer Engagement- This session looks at what role the board should play, how to overcome reticence and train volunteers to “make the ask,” and how to track and effectively use giving-related data. Listen to the recording of this session in The Tent.
  3. Planned Giving- This session delineates the major steps of endowment and legacy campaigns. It is designed for leaders of congregations that have not yet started a campaign, have just started a campaign, or are struggling to move past launch. Listen to the recording of this session in The Tent.
  4. Raising Annual Funds- This session looks at dues, events, and general and special campaigns as mission-driven opportunities for engagement. Listen to the recording of this session in The Tent.
  5. Review and Reflection- This session will provide a brief overview of the core principles introduced in the previous four sessions in this series, and offer tips for making the most of your philanthropic perspective. Listen to the recording of this session in The Tent.

An additional session in this series is offered especially for members of small congregations:

  1. Special Session for Small Congregations- This session offers best principles for volunteer-driven philanthropy and frames the learning from the first four sessions for the particular needs of congregations with 150 or fewer member units. Listen to the recording of this session in The Tent.

Looking to Learn More?

For more information, search for #CultureOfPhilanthropyLearningSeries in The Tent or contact the URJ Knowledge Network team (