Bazar Bazaar

Concerts. Deli Night. Art Auctions. Casino Night. Bingo.

These are just some of the fundraising event ideas that have become a staple for several synagogues, and local community organizations across North America.

And there was the annual bazaar at the local Armenian Church that was down the street from us that had the best Shish Kebab I ever tasted.

I have been reading several Blogs that have been discussing fundraising events. Which reminded me of a blog I wrote last year at this time.  Last year’s blog was inspired by our synagogue’s Mishloach Manot project for Purim, which continues this year as well. Two weeks ago, I filled out the contribution form ($10 a greeting, with graduated amounts for increasing the number of greetings). The Purim package should be at our door early next week.

After last year’s effort, I asked my friend who is responsible for organizing everything what the results were in terms of income for the synagogue: $11,000 in gross income with $4,000-$5000 in expenses. And a lot of volunteer time on a Sunday to put together the packages, as well as for delivery.

So the return on investment (“ROI”) from this effort was $.45 – the synagogue spent $.45 for every dollar raised. In addition to volunteer and staff time.

People like receiving the packages. You see who sent you a greeting. There is candy and Hamentashen. This gives people good feelings, but doesn’t raise a ton of money.

I have to wonder if the synagogue would be better off in terms of fundraising by asking one person to give a gift of $10,000 to underwrite the costs of this program.

I received an email yesterday from Ken asking me what I thought about peer to peer fundraising. Ken’s synagogue has an enhanced dues program and like many synagogues, they are low key in the approach to asking congregants to participate – mailings, emails, occasional gatherings with a pitch with “soft-sell” emails as follow up.

Whether it is called peer to peer, or face to face, the more personalized – and in person -fundraising approach, the more effective it will be. Such personalized efforts should not be seen as a one shot deal. You don’t want the congregant who gave you $1000 or $5000 to participate in an enhanced dues effort to not hear from anyone at the synagogue about this special support until you approach them again next year. Calls from and meetings with clergy and synagogue leaders, special emails targeting those participating in the enhanced dues program, and even “by invitation only” thank you events should also be a part of this overall strategy.

As I have written before, events should be fun, and should be about building community. When preparing the budget 15 months before the end of the next fiscal year, the fundraising number you plug in for events will always just be a projection.

A donor, congregant centered approach where congregants are asked for in person for specific support is not only more predictable, the ROI will be far less than an approach reliant on events.



5 Comments on “Bazar Bazaar

  1. Thanks for a great piece on fundraising, I am sending it to my development committee chairs! My favorite fundraising story is one where a development director (Bill) flies to Florida to ask this couple for a gift for a new wing of a hospital. At dinner the wife talks about selling bricks for $100, the husband leans in and sayes, “Dear, Bill didn’t come all this way for us to buy a brick, he is looking for $20 million for our name to be on the wing not on a brick”. The trip was a small price to pay for a gift to cover the entire cost of a new wing.

    I am working on getting my committee to understand that selling baskets of goodies is a community builder and not a fundraiser, both are extremely important, but have different purposes.

    As always I love reading your blog – Thanks again.

    • As always, John, thanks for your comments and for reading my blog. I often think that because we stress so much how egalitarian synagogue life is, fundraising becomes a dirty word. As you say so succinctly, community building and fundraising are both very important. And I think good old school fundraising, with a focus on major gifts, can be a community building experience as well.



  2. David,

    Writing you directly as I am not sure if my comments are on point about your blog, or more about the realities of having In N Out Burger. Feel free to move this to the comments section of your blog.

    In N Out has mobile trucks and Temple Beth Hillel of Valley Village on at least one occasion had them out. Quite a few issues. The trucks don’t have deep fryers, so instead of getting their fabulous French fries you get potato chips. Like 95% of my fellow congregants I don’t keep kosher and when I go to In N Out I order a cheeseburger. (I only get the single, too old to handle the double double.) In accordance with the Temple’s policy we did not offer cheese burgers. They charge more than the restaurants for the meal and we have one about two miles away so it was nothing special and everyone pays more that they would at the restaurant.

    On the bottom of their cups they have a quote from John 3:16, the bibles we use at Temple Beth Hillel do not include that section in them. (See text below) Because of this we have a few members that do not eat at In N Out.

    Having said all this, if you could get them to come to your location it would be a winner. For TBH we do better and everyone has a better experience using other food trucks, because the experience to us is nothing special or even as good as the experience of going to the restaurant.


    David Reff

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    • In and Out is a little far from Bloomfield, NJ.

      Thanks for taking the time to write and I will share on my blog. You are right – perhaps much like how we view Italian food in NJ is how you all view In and Out. It is not such a big deal.

      My point, too, although not directly enough, was to also make the connection to how some synagogues see Deli Nights. I know that, too is not such a big deal for your guys (I think Brent’s is not too far away). And that whatever they do involving food involves a lot of work.

      Thanks again.



  3. I agree with your point but with all due respect I think the example used is a poor one. Mishloach Manot is a mitzvah. Building community and raising funds are great things for sure but they are surely secondary to actually getting people to perform the mitzvah of Mishloach Manot for Purim.

    I would think that getting people to do mitzvos would be the most important goal of the synagogue , or at least MORE important than whether the fundraiser was the best ROI or not. Frankly to my thinking even if they broke even it would be worth it. If the only way to get people to do the mitzvah is that they think they are fundraising for the temple that is fine, and if it actually DOES raise money all the better!!
    I have noticed that some people in leadership seem to get so wrapped up in fundraising it almost seems to become and end in itself. I assume the point of fundraising is to have a place where Jews can come to do mitzvos and connect with Hashem , its not like the shul is a business!

    warmest regards

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