Development vs Fundraising

Putting the Develop into Development and the Raising into Fundraising

By Kerry Leaf

After a year that catalyzed reflection about pivoting, priorities, reimagination, and focus, our Jewish community did not just survive but rather discovered how to thrive. As congregations live-streamed services, classes, and virtual field trips, as camps presented videoconferencing opportunities for arts, crafts, games, and bonding, as our social justice and advocacy work mobilized thousands through texts, calls, postcards, and other forms of activism, we also assessed how to best maximize the positive work of Development and Fundraising during unusual times.

Certain truths remain evident even as we continue to innovate. One is that in Judaism, asking questions is encouraged.

Where does develop fit into development?

Charity blesses the giver even more than the recipient. Tractate Gittin

  1. Develop a strategic plan.

Beyond financial goals, how will you increase your pipeline of donors? Do you want to enlist your executive board members to help cultivate and steward relationships with their board member colleagues? Have you established a system for cultivators and stewards to share a written report of each peer conversation? Have you talked about the value of sacred partnerships? Are your donation expectations clear to all incoming board members?

  1. Develop a communication plan.

How many touchpoints have worked best in your organization? Have you received more positive results from calls, emails, snail mail, or videoconferences? Have you assessed the impact of each approach? Is the marketing of your organization’s offerings strong and readily apparent?

  1. Develop alternatives to in-person meetings.

Have you considered monthly informal videoconference gatherings for a few organizational updates mixed with less structured relational conversations? Do you offer special quarterly video high-level senior-leadership facilitated study sessions or timely topic-centered gatherings for targeted donor groups? Have you held invitation-only video parlor meetings to inspire and engage potential new donors?

  1. Develop a training guide.

Have your board members received training lately about the ins and outs of relational development work? Can they articulate the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of your mission and your most relevant priorities? Do they understand how the dollars received are spent to align with your organization’s values? Have you connected giving with Jewish values?

  1. Develop a cadre of champions.

Have you identified board members who can easily express the most significant messaging you would like imparted? Do you have a mentor program which encourages ongoing support and education about your organization through peer-to-peer communication? Do you encourage this cohort to regularly meet so they feel the importance of belonging to this community? Have you established a mechanism to assess how the messaging is being received?

And where does raising fit into fundraising?

We rise by raising others, and he who bends over to aid the fallen, stands erect.” – Rabbi Jacob Weinstein

  1. Raising awareness.

Too often, our organizations’ goals and accomplishments are more of a secret than an invitation. Have you evaluated who really knows why you exist? Have you considered who you should prioritize to market the essence of your impact? Do you engage your board members in reaching out to their personal networks to explore what they do or do not know about your organization?

  1. Raising up your volunteers.

The heart of a vital Jewish nonprofit organization beats more strongly through lay leader-professional staff partnerships. How and how frequently do you recognize your volunteers? Do you nurture those relationships with as much care as you do your other donors? Do you actively listen and act upon their feedback?

  1. Raising up your donors.

Especially during these unusually trying times, honoring your donors is critical. Do you have a regular schedule of times for someone, the same person, to check in with each donor? Have you worked on establishing personal relationships with individual donors, as appropriate, and recognizing milestones in their lives? Have you considered, as a donor yourself, when you have been wowed by the types of gratitude that have been expressed to you?

  1. Raising enthusiasm

Are your front-line Development professionals and their partners excited about the work of your organization? Do you take time to ask what motivates their interest in raising money for the organization? Have you tried to quantify what generates inspiration and the desire for engagement about what you do?

As we seek to raise necessary funding to implement the critical impactful goals of our nonprofit organizations, we must elevate the importance of relationship building.

In Ron Wolfson’s words, What really matters is that we care about the people we seek to engage. When we genuinely care about people, we will not only welcome them; we will listen to their stories, we will share ours, and we will join together to build a Jewish community that enriches our lives.

In this first quarter of 2021, possibilities are endless. We have a sacred responsibility and privilege to develop a culture of philanthropy, to raise the importance of our goals, and to offer our donors a sense of fulfillment and liberation.

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. – Maya Angelou

Kerry Leaf is the director of North American board engagement and development for the Union for Reform Judaism. She partners with exceptional lay leadership from congregations throughout the United States and Canada, facilitating their work with URJ staff, partners, and affiliates to strengthen congregations, promote audacious hospitality, engage our youth, and work towards tikkun olam (repairing the world). Kerry also served as past president of five nonprofit boards, but her most challenging and rewarding volunteer presidency was of her former synagogue. She is currently a member of Am Shalom and Congregation Hakafa, both located in Glencoe, IL.