Lofty Goal Setting: Why Not Dream Big?

by Liza Levy and Avital Ingber

In the secular world, January is a month of new beginnings, reflections and goal setting for the coming year. As Jews living in this secular world, we have the distinct privilege of being able to do self-reflection and goal setting in both January and Tishri. Often by February, many of those New Year’s resolutions are already broken. So one might ask, “what is the real value of setting goals and do they really work?”

In the Mishnah, it is written that Ben Zoma used to say “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with what he has.” While this advice is surely appropriate for personal goal setting, a community on the other hand cannot rest on finding satisfaction in what it has. As a community, we must set goals as a vehicle to always aspire to do more and achieve more on behalf of its citizens.

One year ago, the lay and professional campaign leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, sat together to create ambitious goals. As we embarked on our first campaign as Vice President for Financial Resource Development (FRD) and Chief Development Officer, we had to work with our professional and lay counterparts to create a bold vision and determine where we wanted to go. When we announced our goals for the year in a newly created dashboard to track our progress, most were skeptical that it was possible to raise $1 million more in unrestricted funding through the annual campaign to achieve a goal of $19.5 million. And people were even more skeptical as we began to implement a new Total Financial Resource Development Plan which aims to increase both the restricted and unrestricted funding at the same time.

At a time when the philanthropic landscape is changing and more and more people are giving directly to a cause they care about and not through umbrella organizations like The Federation or the United Way, we have found a way to remain relevant and promote the value of the annual campaign. We exceeded our unrestricted fundraising goal, raising more than $1 million than the previous year, and at the same time increased our restricted designated giving by more than $1.4 million and when we factor in a capital campaign, it skyrockets to a total of $9 million more than the previous year. So how was this success achieved? We believe there are five key secrets to our success.

  1. Dream Big and Create a Vision: Once you dream that anything is possible, set a vision to achieve those lofty goals. Believing that it is achievable is the first step to success!
  2. Build a Team: It truly takes a village to achieve great success. Create a team of professionals and volunteers that stand behind the vision of the leaders and want to work together as a team. Invest in professional and leadership development – it really helps build a culture of teamwork.
  3. Hold Everyone Accountable: Each member of the team both lay and professional need to consistently hold each other accountable. Metrics should be put in place for each divisional team so everyone can be held accountable to ensure progress.
  4. Stay Focused and Measure Progress: Put the goals on paper in an easy to track dashboard so that progress can be tracked on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Tracking quarterly targets helps ensure you are on track to hit goals at year-end.
  5. Be Strategic: Remember that you cannot do everything in one year. It requires saying no to certain opportunities and recognizing that if it does not help achieve your goals on the dashboard for that specific year, you should not do it!

One year later, we stand a little taller and with much pride that we exceeded our fundraising goals. While we did not hit every metric on our dashboard and still have more work to do, we continue to dream big and set lofty goals. We have proven the importance and value of bold and ambitious thinking and shown that when the team is clear on what they are trying to accomplish, even lofty goals can be met.

Ben Zoma surely would have challenged us to do more than to just be satisfied. We can and should do more to improve the quality of our community’s Jewish education offerings while making it affordable for every Jewish family in Greater Washington. We can and should do more to ensure that every elderly member of our community lives in dignity and with accessibility to basic services enabling them to live out their lives Jewishly and with dignity. We can and should do more to ensure that our young people have every opportunity to engage with our organized Jewish way of life and feel welcomed and respected for the energy and enthusiasm they bring to it.

These values come not only from our Jewish tradition but from our American tradition; from Jewish values and democratic values. Now more than ever, the American Jewish community has successfully blended the core Jewish and American values and traditions. While our community is built with existing organizational and leadership structures and a limited number of available resources, we have worked hard to ensure that every voice can still be heard and every offer of participation can still be embraced. We have enlarged the size of our tented community while driving our stakes ever more firmly into the ground of tradition and Jewish history.

In Chapter Four of Pirkei Avot Ben Zoma continued, “Who is wise? One who learns from every human being.” The commitment of The Federation is not only to be “rich” but also to be “wise” and learn from and listen to our community voices. As we continue to work together, we now know we can chart a successful course and achieve the goals we set for our community. May the advent of this New Year bring us new riches and new wisdom.

Liza Levy is Vice President for Financial Resource Development at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and Avital Ingber is Federation’s Chief Development Officer.