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From Your Wallet to Their Cause: Getting Them to Give

Binyamin Rose

Once tzedakah meant putting pennies in a pushke. Today it can encompass a glossy brochure, a glitzy night out, or something akin to a business arrangement, where donors are treated as shareholders and demand leverage and regular reports. How has the modern age impacted the Nation of Givers? Two leading fundraising professionals survey the ins, outs, and invariables of the world of philanthropy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

hourglass fundraisingNot all that long ago, tzedakah was delivered through a pushke (remember those?). Or maybe an appeal at Shabbos davening. But black-and-white has been superseded by Technicolor, and the digital age has overtaken even the world of philanthropy. The fundraisers of just a generation ago, who went from shul to shul emptying pushkes or whose main annual “event” consisted of a dinner, would have a hard time understanding the lingo or operations of the modern fundraiser. Auctions, e-mail updates, media presence, DVDs … convincing people to part with their money now requires a wide array of gimmicks, marketing tactics, and public-relations materials. Or does it?

Two leading fundraisers — one who began his career before the modernization of philanthropy, the other newer to the scene — agree that in this industry, some things will never change — and that success ultimately depends on touching hearts.

“The way to go is to spend time with each donor and inspire them,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Polansky, director of development at P’eylim/Lev L’Achim, an organization that provides Torah education to secular Israelis, deals with kids at risk, and does a range of anti-missionary work. “We want to give them the real picture of what we’re doing. We want them to feel the streets ofIsrael— and the way to do it is by going out and telling them our story.”

Rabbi Ephraim Blumenkrantz, vice president for development at Bais Yaakov ofBaltimore, echoes that sentiment. “It’s not about a one-time ask anymore, it’s about building a relationship with your donors, on any level where they might be.”

 

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