The Synagogue Healing Campaign Plan
Installment IV
Designing and Implementing the “Campaign”

By Eileen Aroesti

The Healing Campaign can be a stand-alone campaign or an additional tier to a present campaign or ask. There are several ways to design and implement The Healing Campaign as it has its own “Case for Giving.” Each campaign you embark on this year must be as personal an ask as possible. Whether it be a very personal handwritten note, a phone call from the Rabbi, President or Chair(s) of the Healing Campaign Committee, or a lay or staff person who has a personal relationship with each potential donor, this year, more than ever, the word RELATIONAL is paramount to assure the success of your fundraising.


Quiet Campaigns – Quiet Campaigns are exactly that – quiet. The facts presented in a manner exclusively tailored for each individual group or single donor. They are often done one-on-one and very personal:

  • Quiet Campaign – Leadership Gifts – Beginning with the Healing Campaign Committee, the boards, leadership and past presidents, a quiet campaign can be started to spearhead the private arsenal needed to support the synagogue. These groups, unless they are major donors, can be encouraged collectively in a zoom meeting, a video or a conference call by the appropriate leader of each group. They should be asked to make their gift within a given time frame. Where appropriate, a suggested gift and designation will help in the success with these esteemed leaders.
  • Quiet Campaign – Major Donors – These donors, who have previously been updated on the needs of the synagogue, may already be prepared to give a gift. This group understands the circumstances and only need to be asked by the right person, for the right gift designation in the right amount.
  • Quiet Campaign – Clergy and Senior Staff – A large portion of synagogue dollars goes to salaries. A wonderful show of faith in the institution is to have clergy and senior staff, who can make a gift, do so. When there is 100% participation at the clergy and senior staff level, the community feels that their investment is matched. The size of the gift is irrelevant – what’s important is the sentiment.

End of the Synagogue Fiscal Year Campaign – We are now in May and for the most part have been in quarantine since mid-March. In many states, large group gatherings will not be allowed for a long time. Most certainly we won’t go back to any semblance of business as usual within this synagogue fiscal year ending June 30. By all accounts, synagogues will have lost revenue from cancelled weddings, B’nai Mitzvah fees, catering, galas, affiliates, and building rentals from outside organizations, to name a few. If membership fees or school tuition are on a monthly or quarterly payment program, in many instances those payments have been cancelled and lost. If synagogues provide camps or summer programs that would have been paid by now, those revenue streams may also be lost this year. What is the dollar value to these losses and what percentage of the losses is needed to be recouped to ensure some semblance of wholeness?

2020-21 Salaries andOverhead Campaign – No matter what the outcome of this year and next, the work of the synagogue is important and must continue. What is the cost to do that work, what employees to keep on, all the insurances, building maintenance …t his list goes on and needs to be considered when looking at an overall Healing Campaign that addresses salaries and overhead. This actual cost does not need to be made public but the percentage of these costs need to be transparent in designing this campaign.


Membership Renewal plus Healing Campaign – Now – Under normal circumstances, at this time of year, we are/have reviewed, prepared and planned for membership renewal. There are years of projections to guide these decisions to make well-educated budget decisions based on these items. Yet this year it will look different. If the work has been done in Installment 1, Step 1, you’ll have assessed and understood the damage to the congregation and what to expect from membership. You will have addressed best and worst-case scenarios in Installment 2, Step 6, and have allocated for both instances. You’ll have some idea what is lost and what is needed to carry on the important work of your synagogue through the next fiscal year. Here you can ask for membership renewal AND to support the Healing Campaign.

School Enrollment and Tuition plus Healing Campaign – Now Through Late August – Religious and Day Schools all have the ability to teach remotely. Some of the questions will be who can still afford it, how many teachers, how many hours and how do you charge for a remote platform. Also, how do you incorporate two models, remote, and physical attendance, once the go-ahead is given for schools to reconvene in a group format. What is the cost to take temperatures each morning, have more teachers to provide for smaller classrooms that may be staggered throughout the day and a host of challenges that are particular to your synagogue. You can address these needs through a double ask of tuition and new additional costs through The Healing Campaign.- Adjunct Campaigns plus Healing Campaign – June Through Mid to Late Summer – Many synagogue communities are used to participating in an adjunct campaign often called Pillars, Guardians or AGB. The adjunct campaign may offer scholarships or assistance to families who cannot pay full membership. Here you can offer the opportunity to designate to both the Adjunct and Healing Campaigns.


High Holiday Appeal plus Healing Campaign – August Through October – The High Holiday Appeal, usually begins in late summer with direct mail pieces, sometimes a video, often a parlor meeting with donors of a certain giving level and culminates with an appeal from the bimah on either Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur. More often than not the appeal from the bimah brings in the greatest amount of funds, yet this year there may be no congregation praying together or an opportunity for an appeal from the bimah. We may Zoom our services but it isn’t the same as gathering as a community. But is there another way to gather and still be safe?

As a previous Synagogue Development Director and present Synagogue Fundraising Consultant, I look at the High Holidays through both a sacred and philanthropic lens. During the holidays I know that the community that prays together, laughs together, learns together and gives together is a winning synergy that will provide the best outcome for the High Holiday appeal. There is nothing more powerful than a meaningful address to the congregation followed by an ask and then a call to action for everyone to take out their pledge card, pull down the tabs and raise your hand so it can be picked up by a fellow congregant. The safest way to solve the issue of safely gathering together and being able to experience the holidays as a community AND having an in-person appeal with pledge cards is in our cars!

In Los Angeles County there is drive-through COVID-19 testing afforded to everyone, with or without symptoms. Food Banks are drive through. Food pick-up is in our cars. Our cars are the little bubble that protect us and allow us to be together. In another time we all went to the movies at the Drive-In. We can utilize that same drive-in premise for High Holiday services or the “Drive-In Sanctuary.”

The particulars are no more complicated than High Holidays are now – which are very complicated. But the logistics translate easily from a walk-in to a drive-in format.

  • Security, ticket check and pledge card delivery happen all at once prior to entering the “Drive-In Sanctuary,” at the registration gate.
  • The bimah with its portable Aron HaKodesh is placed in front of the giant screen that has cameras transmitting the service onto it. Good for Zoom and evening services.
  • If an actual Drive-In Theatre is rented, they already have a sound system which can be utilized.
  • Cars can easily be assigned a minimum of 6 feet (2meters) apart.
  • Synagogues can still charge for High Holiday tickets only.
  • The novelty will be attractive.
  • There can be a proper High Holiday Appeal with a plea for “The Healing Campaign” to an attentive audience.
  • Most important…


I hope this 4-part Synagogue Crisis Campaign Plan will help you in thinking of innovative ways to raise needed funds as we traverse this new, uncharted time in synagogue life. I particularly want to thank Dan Brown and the staff at eJewish Philanthropy for giving me the opportunity to give back to the Jewish community by publishing all four installments.

*Philanthropy Rising – Synagogue Fundraising Consulting – is headed by its principal, Eileen Aroesti, who has been fundraising in the Jewish Community for 30 years – 20 of which have been as a Development Director in both conservative and reform synagogues.  She has successfully worked on Synagogue Crisis Campaigns including the 2008/09 Great Recession.