Archive for the ‘Funding Your Dreams’ Category

 

How to Minimize the Risk of Network Unweaving

Posted on: May 6th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 
 

In continuing to think about conversations related to “network weaving” in organizations, I remembered Homer’s epic classic, The Odyssey. The heroine of the poem is Penelope, who has been separated from her husband, Odysseus for twenty years while he was away at war. Pursued by suitors, Penelope promises to remarry once she completes weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus’s elderly father. She weaves the shroud during the day, but as a stall tactic, every night for three years she undoes a part of her work until her deception is discovered. She’s a weaver by day and an un-weaver by night.

 

“Network weaving” is a term in vogue in Jewish organizations that refers to increasing the quantity and deepening the quality of social relationships. The emergence of this term reflects a paradigm inversion. Don’t expect community to grow top-down from activities, but out of organically fostered social ties. (You can learn more about network weaving by searching eJewishphilanthropy’s website.) But these efforts are likely to be threatened by two significant roadblocks: governance and mission. Why?

 

(more…)

The Charitable Deduction and the Jewish Community

Posted on: November 10th, 2011 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Form 1040 Magnified

From Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images

Note to reader:  Preston Neal is a principal consultant for the Herring Consulting Network.  He is guest-authoring this week’s blog post.

The amount of the charitable deduction allowance in the Federal tax code for high-income taxpayers has been the subject of much debate in recent months.  At the crux of the debate is a conflict of two competing Jewish values:  empowerment of the individual and encouraging tzedakah (righteous giving).

For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, when President Obama introduced his American Jobs Act in September, he proposed paying for the measure, in part, with a 28% cap on itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction, for taxpayers earning over $200,000.  The lower cap on the charitable deduction has already met stiff opposition in congress, but the so-called “Super Committee” of 12 congressmen tasked with reducing the budget deficit may yet decide to include the cap in its recommendations to Congress and the President scheduled for the end of this month.

Even if the cap were to pass Congress and be signed into law (which looks unlikely), does that necessarily mean that there would be a negative impact on giving?  Not necessarily.  According to a survey of 502 American donors by Fidelity Charitable, “Two-thirds of donors (64 percent)…agree that charitable tax deductions have no impact on their giving.­”

Yet philanthropic organizations, including Jewish ones, are staunchly opposed to the capping of the charitable deduction tax at 28% for the fear that it will negatively impact their missions.

Thus, we have a competition of different Jewish values in this debate.  On the one hand, the mitzvah (commandment) of tzedakah is of great importance in our tradition.  On the other hand, the commandment of tzedakah comes from the Torah, which does not say anything about needing tax incentives from the IRS.  Furthermore, the president proposed this cap on the charitable deduction to help pay for his jobs plan, which also includes tax incentives for non-profits who hire long-term unemployed individuals and veterans.  Surely, job creation and the empowering of the individual is a value upheld in our tradition as well.

What do you think about the proposed cap on the charitable deduction?  Should Jewish organizations support the cap for its potential to help create jobs or oppose it for its potential to negatively impact tzedakah in our philanthropic institutions?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

B’shalom,

Preston Neal

Remixing in Your Synagogue

Posted on: July 5th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Unique, break-through inventions are very difficult to achieve. Most innovations are not completely “innovative.” Rather, they build upon and incorporate prior efforts, while adding some new features. In a recent article in Fast Company Magazine by Farhad Manjoo, entitled The Invincible Apple, the author notes that Apple’s claim about making revolutionary projects is somewhat overstated. Manjoo writes,

To use a musical analogy, Apple’s specialty is the remix. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own. It’s also a great fixer, improving on everything that’s wrong with other similar products on the shelves.

Think of some the great big Jewish programs that seem to have burst upon the scene: Taglit-Birthright Israel, PJ Library, Moishe House and most recently, Hebrew Charter Schools. The quote above about “remix” can just as easily apply to these initiatives. Taking young adults to Israel, parents reading books to children, young adults who share something in common living together and acting on their values, charter schools—none of these are completely unique. But, they are conceptually brilliant because they are simple, powerful, elegant and well-executed. (Full disclosure: I have work and continue to consult for some of the philanthropists behind these ideas.)
Now, consider some of the work that your congregation does: adult learning, youth work, prayer. Without new resources, is there some area of congregational life that lends itself to a “remix?” Have a discussion with your staff and volunteer leaders, and see what emerges. Remember—“big ideas” can start with a series of small changes that don’t involve new funding! Please share your thinking with readers of Tools for Shuls. I’m eager to hear from you.
Thank you,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

Courtesy of Apple

Unique, break-through inventions are very difficult to achieve. Most innovations are not completely “innovative.” Rather, they build upon and incorporate prior efforts, while adding some new features. In a recent article in Fast Company Magazine by Farhad Manjoo, entitled The Invincible Apple, the author notes that Apple’s claim about making revolutionary projects is somewhat overstated. Manjoo writes,

“To use a musical analogy, Apple’s specialty is the remix. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own. It’s also a great fixer, improving on everything that’s wrong with other similar products on the shelves.”

Think of some the great big Jewish programs that seem to have burst upon the scene: Taglit-Birthright Israel, The PJ Library, Moishe House and most recently, Hebrew Charter Schools. The quote above about “remix” can just as easily apply to these initiatives. Taking young adults to Israel, parents reading books to children, young adults who share something in common living together and acting on their values, charter schools—none of these are completely unique. But, they are conceptually brilliant because they are simple, powerful, elegant and well-executed. (Full disclosure: I have worked and continue to consult for some of the philanthropists behind these ideas.)

Now, consider some of the work that your congregation does: adult learning, youth work, prayer. Without new resources, is there some area of congregational life that lends itself to a “remix?” Have a discussion with your staff and volunteer leaders, and see what emerges. Remember—“big ideas” can start with a series of small changes that don’t involve new funding! Please share your thinking with readers of Tools for Shuls. I’m eager to hear from you.

Thank you,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Collaboration: Myths and Realities

Posted on: March 31st, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”
Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?
In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.
Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.
I’ve learned that donors and staff often understood understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.
Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.
I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?
Thanks,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”

Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?

In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.

Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.

I’ve learned that donors and staff often understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.

Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.

I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?

Thanks,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Donors: To Publicly Recognize or Not to Publicly Recognize?

Posted on: January 20th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Difficult issues, those which involve competing values, can be argued persuasively from either point of view. In this post, I want to raise one of those issues: should congregations specially recognize donors who contribute significant funds or should all financial gifts be treated equally? In the former case, there are many different forms of public recognition, ranging from permanent naming opportunities to publicity in a synagogue publication. In the latter case, where all gifts are treated equally, that would mean that donations of any amount are either recognized the same way or not recognized at all. 

When it comes to giving philanthropy or tzedakah to a needy person, an authoritative Jewish source ranks completely anonymous giving—where neither the donor nor the recipient know one another—as one of the highest forms of philanthropy/ tzedakah (Rambam, Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Tzedakah 10:7-14). Yet, while this source preferences anonymous giving, it doesn’t dismiss the value of giving in cases where the donor knows who the recipient is, the recipient knows who the donor is, or in which they both know who is the giver and who is the receiver. The issue at stake is preserving the dignity of the recipient. Clearly, when the donor is at arm’s length from the recipient, the recipient’s dignity is better-respected. But even if this condition can’t be met, giving tzedakah is still considered a noble and required act. And this is one of the sources that has more generally influenced the way in which people should ideally donate money, if not anonymously, then at least quietly.

Ideally, synagogue leaders try to embody the highest level of values. While in most of the synagogues that I know the preferred notion of anonymous giving is preferable, publicly recognizing donors is more practical.  Some of the arguments against public recognition are:

On the other hand, there are strong arguments in favor of public recognition of significant gifts:

I know colleagues who have educated their volunteer leaders about not specially acknowledging major contributions to their synagogues. But they are in the minority. While we’re trying to puzzle through these tough financial times and we’re assessing and revising what the new “normal” is in giving, what do you think about this issue? Should congregations acknowledge major gifts, or avoid doing so? Also, share your stories about how congregations have made this decision.

Thanks for helping to create a rich discussion (pun intended).

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Where’s the Game Changer in Fundraising?

Posted on: January 10th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments

The proliferation of social media tools has fundamentally changed organizations. (Not all organizations have grasped this reality!) Specifically, sites like Google, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr have enabled and empowered individuals to deeply influence organizations-to highlight their relevance or their superfluity, to engage with them or to bypass them. (For more about this, see http://tinyurl.com/n7sx7e). Individuals can organize in, through, around and across organizations in ways which were unimaginable only a decade ago.

While I’m not a professional fundraiser, my impression is that non-profit fundraising has not caught up with the Web 2.0 era. And there’s special opportunity for churches and synagogues to benefit from social media tools. Even in this environment, where public charities have seen a decline, the one sector that hasn’t felt this impact relative to other causes is religion (http://tinyurl.com/m889b8 ). True, many faith-based organizations allow members and supporters to donate funds online. They may even announce special campaigns and provide updates on them through their websites, Twitter and Facebook. Maybe some are even using video testimonials to promote fund development. But, the underlying methods of fund development appear to have remained the same: dues for synagogues and donations for churches, special appeals or campaigns, endowments and bequests, annual fundraisers, etc.

What would be some game changers for congregations?
• Within the mission of the congregation, allowing groups or individuals within congregations to determine what they want to contribute to (perhaps once a minimum amount of funds was raised for operations).
• Inviting people who are not members to financially support a cause in which they believe.
• Creating a flash fundraising campaign to support an emergency need (like a flash mob) and then disbanding when the goal is met.
• Providing congregants with opportunities all-year long to offer ideas about how to maintain the financial health of the congregation.
• Adding an on-line component to all ongoing fundraising activities.
• Involving those who are more tech-savvy in discussions about social media fund development.

Maybe I’m off-base, but it seems like we’re still at the stage where we’re using unconventional tools in conventional ways when it comes to fundraising. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Rabbi Hayim Herring, PhD

Rabbis: Fundraising is about Inspiration and Conversation, So Be Involved!

Posted on: December 26th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

I only vaguely remember a Chasidic story that influenced my feelings about fundraising (and if you’re aware of the citation, please let me know!).  The gist of it is that a certain rabbi has a relationship with a wealthy donor.  One day, the rabbi sees the donor learning in the study hall (beit ha-midrash). The rabbi is surprised because this individual doesn’t usually visit the study hall. So, the rabbi approaches him and asks why he is studying.  The donor replies that he is trying to become more learned.  But the rabbi responds that there are those whose job it is to sit and study and those whose calling is to give tzedakah, to fulfill communal needs through their philanthropy. And, the rabbi states, this individual’s specialty is philanthropy.

This story makes a profound point (although I would never discourage any individual from learning Jewish texts).  Being philanthropic should never be taken for granted or assumed to be any less a deep spiritual act then Jewish learning, which is accorded high status in Jewish culture. Some will disagree with me on this point, but especially when donors literally have thousands of choices, we had better treat donating to Jewish causes with great appreciation.

Additionally, when I first began working as a congregational rabbi, I had an outstanding Senior Rabbi and mentor, Rabbi Kass Abelson (still my rabbi to this day!) who was actively involved in fundraising.  Among the many things which I learned from him was that the rabbi is in a unique position to help sustain the congregation financially (Also, see Rabbi Kipnes’s comment on my last post for additional reasons for rabbinic involvement). It was usual for him to solicit funds from a congregant along with another synagogue member who had already “given to the cause.”

So I’ve always enjoyed engaging in conversations about dreams for a better Jewish future and positively changing Jewish lives with existing and potential donors. For me, those conversations are about inspiring someone to do more good, listening to their aspirations about the Jewish future, sharing my own vision about Jewish life and creating a partnership around those hopes. I’ve grown in that process and I hope that I’ve helped many generous individuals grow in their connection to the Jewish community and its potential for ongoing great achievement.

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Asking for Money and Not Feeling Any Shame

Posted on: December 14th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

The word for money in modern in day Hebrew is kesef. This word appears in the Bible and Rabbinic Hebrew as well. Interestingly, in those strata of Hebrew, kesef means both silver and shame. I’m guessing that the connection is that silver is a pale color and when we feel shame, blood drains from our faces, giving us a pale appearance.

Perhaps there’s a deeper connection as well, namely some feel shame or embarrassment in soliciting funds from others for congregational needs. Let’s face it—you’re more likely to get someone to volunteer to paint the congregation’s bathrooms than to get someone to volunteer to solicit funds from congregants!

But we know that money is an essential part of congregational life, and we’re acutely reminded of this financial reality during an economic crunch. So what I want to do in the next series of posts is use the network that we’ve created through this blog to:

I’m going to invite some fund development experts to share their ideas as well.

So, let’s kick off the discussion by hearing from those who really do not like soliciting funds and also from those who tolerate or even look forward to the challenge of raising money for the congregation. Thanks!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Synagogues, Though Feeling Distress, Provide Support

Posted on: February 27th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

I’m taking a brief break from writing about rabbis to report on how synagogues are coping in these stressful financial times. As I speak with colleagues across the country, I’m generally hearing the same story:

“Dues revenue is down, while we are providing more dues relief to congregants who can no longer afford to pay what they were paying”

“We’re freezing or reducing staff salaries”

“We’re moving some people from full-time to part-time, eliminating staff or not replacing staff when a staff member leaves”

“We’ve shortened our weekday hours and are having one day a week when the building is closed….”

Anecdotally, these are the kinds of stories that I’m hearing and I expect the situation to deteriorate during the summer, when cash flow in congregations is low. And, I wonder how many people will request dues relief before the High Holy Days or even drop synagogue membership because of feelings of embarrassed because of the inability to pay.

At the same time, many synagogues are doing an exceptional job of reaching out to members and the community. Here is a sampling of the kinds of creative efforts that congregations are making to support members:

These steps will help people make sure that they do not confuse their financial worth with their human value.

These efforts are clearly laudable but beg the question of how many congregations will be able to remain viable in the long term future. I’ll be writing more about that later. For now, please respond to these two questions:

  1. What is your congregation doing to support members in these times of need?
  2. What short-term measures is your congregation implementing to be sure that it steers clear of deep financial trouble?

If you have some insights to offer about these critical questions, please share them so that others in the community can benefit.

Thanks,

Rabbi Hayim Herring