A Short Brief by Barry

Introduction

President Barry Deutsch has so much to say and not always the forum to do so. Please visit his blog from time to time and see what he has to say on a variety of topics.

Other Posts
Temple Menorah President's Weekly Message
It takes a significant number of Shekels to keep the doors open in a Synagogue
07/26/17

A Congregation Requires A Lot of Shekels I’ve been thinking a lot about fundraising lately. It’s taken me a few years, but I’ve come to recognize that raising funds to support our congregation is the Number ONE job of the President. As my Father’s Yahrzeit approaches this Shabbat, I keep thinking about how important belonging to our congregation in Dayton, Ohio was to him when I was growing up.

My dad did not have a lot of discretionary money, but I know he gave to that congregation in Dayton as much as was humanly possible after taking care of our basic needs of our family. He cared deeply about our congregation. My congregation growing up was what Rabbi Lewis visualizes for Temple Menorah - an extended family or second home. This reflection as my Father’s Yahrzeit approaches makes me question whether I am financially doing enough personally for our congregation and whether I am working hard enough as President in talking with congregants about financially supporting our community.

I’m going to ramble a little bit as I share with you some of the thoughts and raging internal conflict I’m having about fundraising in our congregation. I hope this becomes a conversation we engage in together over the next few years. I would welcome your emails, texts, and calls to talk about how we as a congregation can climb this mountain together to build a more secure financial future for our community.

I wake up in the middle of the night stressed over how I can help to move us to a new level of engagement around philanthropy and giving. I am one person who tries to make as many calls as possible on a weekly basis to ask for contributions and gifts. Can one person really accomplish that much? I dream of having a group of congregants that feel so passionate about how much Temple Menorah means to them – that they are willing to join me in this most important part of congregational life – asking others to make gifts.

It’s a well-accepted fact that there is not a synagogue in the world that supports itself just by membership dues and school fees. Some level of fundraising is required to offset the gap between what is collected through dues and school fees, and the escalating costs of keeping the doors open. Who should make these calls to congregants asking for help, support, and to build a secure financial foundation for the future? Should the Rabbi ask directly for money? Should it fall on the shoulders of all our Board members?

Can you blame your President for wanting to overcome the gap of balancing our budget? Can you blame your President for wanting to pay for all the wonderful programs, teachers, and activities we’ve come to expect as the standard for Temple Menorah? The most successful congregations in the United States raise 20-25% of their annual budget through direct giving (not including events and programs like Purim, or the Gala). We’re in the 10-12% range this year.

Many of our congregants experience dread when they see my caller ID pop up on their phones – Oh No – it’s the President again with his hand out asking for another donation, acceleration of paying dues, or some other program that needs funding like our Burn the Mortgage Campaign. Why do we shy away from these calls, refuse to respond, or get angry?  What would happen if congregants felt honored to receive a call asking if they would support our community?

Here’s the funny side of asking others to give: For the vast majority of congregants who I asked to make a gift – when asked why they had not given before, answered with “No one ever asked me directly before.” I want to slap myself in the forehead. How is it possible that we’ve never asked before?

Why is there a widespread refusal to talk transparently about our needs as a community, and what our individual roles are in sustaining this community? Why do many congregants tell me – that’s not my responsibility to financially support the congregation – that’s for “the other group of congregants” to step up. The comment I frequently hear is “I do enough by paying for being a member and for pre-school/religious school education”.

When does our communal need, value, and urgency, reach a point in which everyone in our community makes a mindset shift from giving to a congregation is something other families do or a perspective that the fees I pay to belong and educate my children are all that should be required of me, to a framework of we give because it is my obligation to ensure the viability of my congregation and community?

Over the next few weeks, I would like to explore in greater detail with you the concept that giving is a privilege, honor, and obligation for a member belonging a sacred religious community.  I’ll pull Rabbi Lewis into this conversation to share some of the sacred texts related to giving. I’ll share some of the benchmarking that is going on in the Reform movement as it relates to congregational giving. I will also keep a high visibility to the conversation of how we can together community build a secure future by having a strong financial foundation.

This dialogue about fundraising, giving, and philanthropy is a work in progress. My sincerest hope is that we start to engage in this conversation together, much like Rabbis study with partners in Rabbinical School. This partnership of communication, this Chevruta style of back-and-forth questioning, dialogue, and challenges can help us become much stronger in the future – particularly around fundraising.

Barry Deutsch

President

Temple Menorah Board of Trustees

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