Posts Tagged ‘Fundraising; synagogues; funding; fund development; philanthropy’


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

Posted on: December 26th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

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

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