By Sherri W. Morr
After volunteering to run a session at the recent NewCAJE conference in Los Angeles, my preparatory conversations led me to believe most religious schools do not have budgets for such items as staff conferences or for emergencies like perhaps a teen not being able to attend a teen Shabbaton. In listening to stories, by some educators I almost felt as though some religious schools were considered the unattractive step child. So I put together a concept of paying it forward as a means to raise money for religious school activities. I called it “Campaign in a Box” and distributed the handouts in a small box. Here’s the plan:
- The school connects with social justice organizations, arranges for students to do mitzvah programs through volunteering.
- Student Volunteer hours are tracked.
- Solicitation letters are sent to prospects and donors asking for contributions to honor the hours volunteered.
- Donated money can be put into a fund that is used for conferences, special speakers or programs, and just to have on hand in case of unexpected school expenses for students.
It’s a completely straightforward campaign, and if desired could be a part of a school’s annual fund campaign. Such a campaign which emphasizes social justice is a terrific way to engage students and their families in Tikkun Olam projects; it’s also a good way to connect to the larger community, or to even create projects in Israel, or even Africa.
In many communities schools reward students or particular grades with pizza parties, or vouchers to movies or climbing walls. Why not reward students not with something material but with something that goes forward to assist others. No matter where you live, you are bound to see homeless people on the streets, so why not know that your religious school students are helping to provide hot meals to them, and that by doing this donations will come in to support their own schools. I personally think it’s a wonderful way to support volunteering, expand tzedekah activities and educate our students to show they can make an impact in their worlds.
A few other tips to insure a good campaign:
- Choose religious school leadership.
- Build support amongst the parent group, synagogue board and of course the rabbi.
- Have students send email blasts to their friends and family announcing this new tikkun olam project.
- Write articles for newsletter, and other periodicals including sending Community Service Announcements (CSA) to local radio and television stations.
- Use Facebook and Twitter to announce accumulated hours and how much money has been raised.
- Have students write stories, including photos, about their volunteer experiences.
This idea is a clever means to engage students and build on their religious school experience as they grow and continue to learn. Further it speaks to the important Jewish value of tikkun olam.
Sherri W. Morr has spent the last several decades working and consulting in and out of the Jewish community as an expert in nonprofit management. Currently she is the Director for the West Coast Region of American Society of University of Haifa. She completed an MA and an honorary doctorate at Hebrew Union College. Sherri has published fundraising articles in technical journals, and had a blog on the Bay Citizen in San Francisco; she has numerous essays in her computer, and is working on several writing projects including: “Captain Kirk Visits the Holy Land” and a memoir called “Canned Fruit, and other Stories of Jewish Identity” Sherri has 3 grown sons, 3 grandchildren and lives in Los Angeles.