Thirty Six for Thirty Six Dollars

double chaiby Sherri W. Morr

Many Jewish organizations have hundreds of annual giving donors at the $36 level. An $18 donation is considered a chai (life) gift. So $36 becomes double chai. It appears to be a popular means for supporting organizations by many people even those capable of giving more. A double chai gift is an affirmation of the organization, or it is a means of endorsing the mission, and saying I care. Such a gift is also a valuable means for people to donate who do not have substantial means, but believe in giving and want to show they can give something, even a little something. For some the little is not even so little!

Some organizations have huge numbers of double chai donors and think a lot about how to increase them to larger donations especially if perhaps they are known to have capacity, or have a ‘good address’. Upgrading a $36 donor to $100 is not so easy especially for people who see $36 as their way to give.

Another feature of some of these donors is that they are anonymous. They are unknown to the organization other than by name or address; most organizations do not have the staff time to investigate who these donors are. Generally they do not attend galas or large events.

Here are some ideas for how to meet and acknowledge such donors and investigate giving capacity without a great deal of staff time. What is most necessary is the motivation of the organization to desire have some sense of who these contributors are. Such an exercise is part of data mining, knowing who is in your data base; it’s also a way to honestly value and honor even the $36 donor.

  • Create a special campaign … 36 for $36: send a letter to all $36 donors, thanking them for their support, and asking them to be one of the organizations key 36 Double Chai donors by agreeing to donate $36 three times a year. The organization can collect credit card information and automatically bill 3 distinct times … Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah and Passover. A thank you event could be held, or a sponsor might even donate a small gift of recognition. In all likelihood the organization will accumulate more than 36 donors because such donors will see the attention they are getting and hopefully be able to increase their giving … especially because it’s so easy, and they are getting a small gift, being invited to a thank you gathering, and having a chance to meet the founders or leadership of the organization.
  • Another aspect of recognizing $36 donors is to advertize in the organization newsletter using the… “What do These People Have in Common” heading. All donors would be listed with a very special message of thank you.
  • Once the “Thirty Six for Thirty Six Dollars” campaign is complete send an email blast or snail mail flyer announcing and thanking donors, telling them the campaign will run again each year so others will have the opportunity to participate.

Such ideas are not rocket science I know; however in order to take advantage of small end donors, thank and recognize them, special, unique, and creative campaigns need to be developed. One would be amazed at the response as well as the increased dollars from smaller donors!

Sherri W. Morr has spent the last several decades working and consulting in the Jewish community as a fundraiser, a teacher, and trainer, most recently as Director of the Western U.S. at the Jewish National Fund for 12 years. She has completed an MA and received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Her work outside of the Jewish world at independent schools, the Baltimore Symphony and Tufts University have given her an awareness beyond practice in the Jewish community. Sherri has 3 grown sons and lives in Los Angeles, California.