Bingo, Rummage Sales & Shalach Manot

The flyer for our synagogue’s annual Shalach Manot fundraising effort tied to Purim came in the mail over the weekend. Which was of course the impetus for today’s blog. Contribute a certain amount of money, and around Purim, a Shalach Manot basket appears at the front doors of congregants – and yours – with a list of friends from the congregation sending you a Purim greeting. The larger the contribution, the more greetings you can send.

Last year, my friend Steve who was on the synagogue’s board told me that he selected the 30 families from the congregation who lived nearest to him and personally delivered each package of treats. He started this trek on a Sunday afternoon, and then came back to the homes where no one was home the following two evenings. His intent was to not only deliver the goodies, but to have a personal interaction.

Our basket was at our front door when we came home one day. Imagine if everyone who was involved in distributing baskets adopted Steve’s action plan striving for personal interaction!

It is the personal interaction with congregants that is perhaps even more important than the $5,000 or $10,000 that will be raised from this effort.

Just for fun, I googled “event fundraising”. There are literally thousands of websites for fundraising event ideas, and even companion software to help you in your efforts. There was one URL for a fundraising firm –– among the first ten listed that immediately caught my eye as it stated that in most fundraising events you will spend $.50 for every dollar that you raise (I wonder what Gail did for such great placement).

And when I went to Gail’s website I saw that she had a post also noting that the costs for personal fundraising, through “face to face” solicitation, are between $.05 and $.10 per dollar raised.

Bit of a difference in the ROI – return on investment!

Maybe the less elaborate events like rummage sales and the Shalach Manot basket effort don’t have a lot of direct costs. But when you figure in the volunteer time that is involved in putting such efforts together, asking volunteers to spend so much time on fundraising projects when there is so little return doesn’t seem like the best use of anyone’s time.

Some congregations have hosted art and antique auctions that are open to the public on the day or evening they are held. In fact they are dependent on the public to come in and buy stuff because that is how the funds are raised. Having a community event at this time of year in the Northeast is chancy. In any geographic area in the Fall and Spring, there is always even a small risk that a rainstorm might impact event attendance.

Synagogue events should be fun. If people have fun, they will feel a stronger sense of community. If there are some dollars raised, that is great and icing on the cake. Too often synagogues arrive at a fundraising goal for events that becomes a part of the synagogue budget. And success is really too difficult to predict. Whether it be weather, or simply the theme of an event has run its course, basing the income projection on an event’s history is a really hard thing to do.

Let’s stick with the fun.

2 Comments on “Bingo, Rummage Sales & Shalach Manot

  1. ok, I completely agree these events cost too much volunteer time and take in too little money, and often the budget depends unrealistically on the money they can bring in. but while “FUN” and community are important, Temples also face budget crises, what do you recommend for this? My temple (suburban and shrinking) is already more expensive than the competition, but dues might be all we can do to fix our budget, as events are only covering about $30,000 not the nearly 100k we need. (And of course we’ve reduced what can be, done better and better on HH appeal, but have no BIG donors, no angels, and no development work) suggestions? or blogs already written?

    • Cantor Alexander,

      Thanks for writing. I wish there was a how-to manual regarding what synagogues and not for profit organizations can and should do when facing fiscal challenges. Blogs and other written resources generate a lot of ideas, and also stimulate many questions. Income streams, mission and vision, expenses, demographics in terms of the congregation – all is important information to know before creating an action plan to tackle such important challenges.

      I am happy to be of help to you and the leadership of Temple Rodef Torah. Please feel free to call or email me so we can schedule a mutually convenient time to speak by telephone.



      David Katowitz
      Synagogue Strategies Group

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