Posts Tagged ‘fund development’


Donors: To Publicly Recognize or Not to Publicly Recognize?

Posted on: January 20th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

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

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 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 ( ). 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