Giving Characteristics: How Do We Measure Up?

Synagogue leaders often want to know how they are faring compared to other synagogues. Membership is perhaps the easiest and most public metric. Financial metrics are another story. I haven’t been the only blogger writing about the need for financial transparency. The more people know the better. But let’s drill down even more in terms of a specific financial metric.

Charitable giving.

How do we know how a synagogue’s fundraising program measure’s up? We all know that dues/annual commitment efforts are not enough to sustain synagogue operations and programming. High Holy Day Appeal, special events, an endowment campaign, and even Purim baskets are just some of the pieces that comprise a synagogue’s annual fundraising efforts.

The other day, I read a blog about church giving, and the 7 dominant characteristics that churches with increased giving have. They are noted below with my commentary as to how this might translate to synagogues:

Increased emphasis on belonging to a group.

For churches, it could be a bible study group.

At the synagogue, it could be a Havurah, Adult Torah study, Brotherhood or even the Purim Shpiel. The more engagement, the better!!

Multiple giving venues.

“Passing the plate” has evolved into “Kiosk giving” in churches. But churches also utilize online giving, mailing offering envelopes to members, and even automatic weekly deductions.

For synagogues, we stress the High Holy Day and even end of year mail/email appeals, and many synagogues have “Donate” buttons or “Giving” choices on their website menus. Does every email sent from your synagogue have “donate” button?

Synagogue efforts don’t seem meet the intensity and ongoing nature of church efforts.

Meaningful and motivating goals.

Church members are motivated more when they see that the campaign goal will make a meaningful difference: to better spread the gospel in their community is just one example.

I wonder how many synagogue congregants actually know not only the amount of the synagogue’s fundraising goal, but the reasoning for it. Striving to raise $100,000 to meet the synagogue’s budget is one thing. Raising $100,000 to build a stronger sacred community is something else.

Explaining biblical giving to new members.

Biblical giving should be a clear and unapologetic expectation of church membership, and stressed in the teaching to new members.

The Torah has many references to Tzedakah. Initial synagogue membership documents and even billing statements should always reference Jewish text about community and support.

Willingness of leadership to talk about money.

Church pundits were saying that people didn’t go to church because all church leaders talked about was money. Sound familiar?

Synagogue leaders have intentionality in talking about money with congregants at the High Holy Day Appeal. And maybe tied to the annual meeting where the budget is distributed and when there is a financial crisis. And that is it. Should talking about money be so taboo?

Meaningful Financial Reporting.

Church leaders, synagogue leaders, and all of the people in the pews need ongoing financial reporting in a format that is easy to understand.

Transparent Financial Reporting.

If there is a sense that church or synagogue leaders are hiding something regarding finances, congregants will be hesitant to make contributions.

Technology allows for the periodic posting of the synagogue’s finances on its website for all who want to view. Perhaps the synagogue president should have a paragraph in the monthly newsletter or even a periodic Facebook post on synagogue finances.

With all the talk about transforming synagogue dues and encouraging people to pay what they want, there will certainly be a friction about discussing the need for giving. We still need money, or enough of it anyway to pay the bills.

Synagogue leaders need to find a way to talk about finances and the need for giving as a part o their ongoing communications plan.


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