These are the transition weeks of summer. Facebook friends who live in Southern states are already posting pictures of their children on the first day of school. Our daughter who has been working at Camp Harlam will be coming home on Monday – laundry bag in hand – for a few days before she heads back to college.
This is also a transition time for synagogues. Summer gives pause from religious school and intense adult programming, as everyone seems to be on vacation at some point. When schools start, congregants are back and its time to engage people through personal contact, programmatic offerings and worship experiences.
This year, the High Holy Days begin late in September – Rosh Hashanah starts on the evening of September 24th. I have written about how during the weeks prior and after the High Holy Days people are in a “synagogue frame of mind”. You know they will be at High Holy Day Worship and that they are thinking about family, the start of the New Year, and even in some small way, about the synagogue.
Now is the time to think about your fundraising plan for the next 10 weeks. Here are some ideas for you to consider:
1. The rabbi and president should visit in person with the synagogue’s top 10 donors. This should be happening with some regularity anyway. But checking in with them over a meal or coffee at this time of year is a very good thing to do.
2. Invite those congregants who have given a contribution of $1,000 over and above yearly dues/commitments, or who have the capability to give such a gift, to a special reception in someone’s home. Use the weeks in between when the invitation goes out to when the reception is held to meet with people, or call them as a last resort, and ask them in person for an increased gift – or a first time gift – to this year’s High Holy Day Appeal.
3. On September 15th, send a personalized mail appeal to the entire membership. If someone gave a contribution in the past to the High Holy Day Appeal, be sure to acknowledge their past support and the amount, and ask them in the letter for an increased gift. Here is a sample letter that I have shared before that you might use as a reference.
I often suggest considering using three versions of the same letter. There is the version for people who have made contributions in the past. Then you should think about those in the congregation who have not given to such an appeal who have the capacity to give a make a gift of $500 over and above their dues/annual commitment, and those for whom you know such a gift would be a struggle. Ask the group of congregants with capacity that has never made a High Holy Day gift for $500. For everyone else, ask for $100.
4. You should send follow up emails to those who have not yet made a contribution right after Rosh Hashanah, after Yom Kippur, and then right before Simchat Torah.
5. You might think about a telethon for board members on the night of a board meeting where together they can call everyone and thank those personally who have already made a gift, and remind those who have yet to make a contribution to the High Holy Day Appeal of the importance of their participation. Here is a sample telephone script for reference.
If you need help, please call or email me.