A rabbi friend – Josh – told me a story.
Many years ago, Josh’s synagogue was embarking on its first capital campaign to renovate the sanctuary. The goal was $1.5 million. He and the leadership were neophytes in the fundraising process. The synagogue had no fundraising counsel or consultant helping them. In his 10 or so years with the synagogue there never had really been any serious fundraising. There never was a need until they decided to renovate the sanctuary.
Anyway, there was a congregant – Max – who Josh and the synagogue’s leadership knew had a lot of money. They knew he was supportive of other local organizations – the JCC, the local community hospital. They knew he gave large gifts, but had no idea as to the amounts. And they knew he also was supportive of his college. Josh called Max at his office to schedule an appointment to visit with him.
When Josh arrived at Max’s office, after an exchange of pleasantries about their respective families, the conversation turned to the synagogue. Josh shared with Max the plans to renovate the sanctuary and what that will all mean in terms of having better worship space and that it will be attractive to potential congregants. He asked Max what he thinks. Max tells Josh it sounds like a great plan and that he loves the synagogue and all that Josh and the board are doing to help the synagogue be a very vibrant place.
Josh knows he has to ask Max for the lead gift to the capital campaign. But he hadn’t really thought about what amount he should be asking Max for. At that moment, he asks Max for $100,000. This would be not only the largest gift the synagogue has ever received, but also the largest gift that Josh has ever asked for. Within seconds, Max responds that he is happy to do it and commits to the $100,000 gift.
After Josh leaves Max’s office, he has a gut feeling that Max had the capacity for a larger gift and probably would have responded positively to a request for $250,000 or maybe even $500,000.
I often speak about the 4 Rs of fundraising – Research, Romance, Request and Recognition. Today, Josh and his leadership team cold dig a little deeper into Max’s history of philanthropy to determine the actual level of his support to the JCC, local hospital and his university. Some of this information might be available via Google. Or through a telephone call to a congregant who is active at the hospital and JCC, or who went to Max’s college.
Internet research should reveal the financial details of Max’s company. If it is a public company, for sure. Or even the projected annual sales of a private company.
There is software to complete a wealth screening regarding philanthropy, political contributions, stock holdings, real estate values and the like. Today, fundraising counsel might guide Josh and the team to complete a more in-depth research profile before Josh’s meeting with Max.
Such a research profile about Max today costing $500 would guide Josh to ask for that $250,000 or $500,000 gift, and of course have an even greater impact on the synagogue’s fundraising success.
A gift of $100,000 is nothing to sneeze at. And I am sure that in subsequent campaigns at this synagogue, Max has always been generous. This was a learning experience for Josh. Fundraising shouldn’t be by the seat of our pants. Rather, seeking professional assistance will simply enhance the synagogue’s overall campaign effort.