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Since April this Blog has laid out a very clear case for why the Jewish Community Association (JCA) has been and continues to be a worst-case example of how a Jewish communal organization should be managed, governed and how it should conduct its business.  There can be little doubt that the JCA is one of the most underperforming organizations of its kind in the country.  The evidence was illustrated in our recent Post: “The JCA’s Report Card – Full of Embarrassingly Failed Grades” https://tinyurl.com/kk38hex.   The JCA continues to reach new lows in its mission of engaging Jews in the Valley.  And while the evidence of our case has been made repeatedly we will continue to make it as new information is brought to our attention.

But at the same time, if the JCA is an example of the worst-case we acknowledge and appreciate that there are other organizations and communities that represent the best-case examples of how Jewish leadership can exemplify the best in communal service.

Beginning with this Post our Blog will, from time to time, illustrate examples of communities, organizations and processes which have distinguished themselves through their excellence and positive impact.  And by offering these examples it should be clear to all that the JCA’s dreadful performance is not the standard and by no means is it a model for other agencies to follow.

The best way to make use of articles such as the one below is to read them carefully and along the way ask yourself if what you are reading sounds anything like our JCA.  If the answers are “no” then ask yourself “why not”.  The answer to “why not” is because volunteer leaders and executives of the JCA have no idea how to lead their organization or how to generate enthusiastic support for their agenda.

The following article will be the first in a series of whitepapers written by national authorities on Jewish communal affairs.  With the help of these excellent writings you can now be the judge of whether your JCA reflects a commitment to excellence.  And if you, like us, judge the JCA to be an abject failure, then we hope you will send a loud and clear message that it is time for the management and board of the JCA to go and it may even be time for this irrelevant organization to shut its doors.


The “Call to Action:” What Do Jewish Philanthropists Want to Hear?


Many nonprofits throughout the Jewish community still see the organization, not the donor, as the epicenter of the communal experience, and refuse to share. Bringing the donor into the life of the organization and making him or her a partner will greatly advance the organization’s appeal and its reach.

by Avrum Lapin

Visit the website of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies and seek out its page on Women’s Philanthropy. You will find the following statement:

“Together as women, we’re making a difference. Through fundraising, volunteer work and the collective strength of our voice, we’re addressing the issues closest to our hearts – from education and literacy to women’s welfare and social justice. Broaden your circle, add your strength and discover how you can make a difference.”

This pronouncement, framing the CJP’s call to women in their community, appeals to their personal sense of purpose and motivation. The traditional draw to the Jewish philanthropist of the Jewish Federation – help the Jewish community meet Jewish needs here, in Israel, and around the world – is not resonating as it may have in generations gone by.

Aside from the growing and increasingly significant role today of women in philanthropy, the conventional “call to action” focused only on the work of the organization is being replaced by an appeal to one’s sense of self, personal Jewish identity, and a commitment to the values of a democratic and pluralistic society. “Serve yourself while helping others” is a compelling and increasingly used draw to the emerging Jewish philanthropist today.

I believe that the entire Federation arena, indeed the entire Jewish philanthropic marketplace, must advance to meet the needs and expectations of today’s up and coming Jewish donor. Many nonprofits throughout the Jewish community still see the organization, not the donor, as the epicenter of the communal experience, and refuse to share. Bringing the donor into the life of the organization and making him or her a partner will greatly advance the organization’s appeal and its reach.

In “7 Golden Rules for Nonprofit Fundraising Success,” an article featured in the August 18, 2010 edition of Entrepreneur.com, excerpted from Guerilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, the authors follow largely the same pathway by setting forth a series of simple concepts that, while seemingly obvious to many, remain elusive in the pronouncements and practices of many nonprofits today. They recommend the following:

  • Know your donors – research and listen, understand what they are looking for in their volunteer activity and how to match those expectations with the organization’s work
  • Educate your donors – Educate, build trust and let donors know the results that they have created
  • Help donors find personal fulfillment – connect the needs of the donor to the needs of the nonprofit
  • Build trust in donor relationships – the article notes that that 53% of Americans say they sense a “feeling of deception” about marketing … hence the need for transparency and trust in information
  • Respect your donors – vest your supporters in the principle of what your nonprofit does
  • Focus on current supporters – a happy and satisfied current donor is the straightest path to a new donor…keep them informed and happy
  • Make giving fun – make it pleasurable to be involved in raising money while still respecting the seriousness of the enterprise

Despite being veterans of the fundraising world, my team and I continue to and welcome learning from our colleagues and clients. We value that ongoing education and development as it makes it possible for us to always stay a step ahead of the marketplace. The central lesson that continues to resonate and gain traction every day is that the donor today is firmly moored at the center of the nonprofit dynamic. So, in that context, what does the donor want to hear? They want to hear that:

  • Your cause is just and that services are justly and economically delivered.
  • The mission is real, needed and achieves results.
  • They can learn and improve their own lives through their involvement.
  • The nonprofit is open and accountable.
  • The values of the nonprofit sync with theirs.

This sounds very simple but is actually a daunting challenge facing our Jewish philanthropic arena today. The nonprofits that invest the effort in engaging the donor on these terms will find greater success in today’s unruly world.

Avrum Lapin is the President at The Lapin Group, LLC, a prominent fundraising consulting firm located in suburban Philadelphia. The Lapin Group inspires and leads US-based and international nonprofits with contemporary approaches and solutions to fund, organizational, and leadership development, as well as nonprofit business planning and growth strategies. Avrum is a frequent contributor to eJewishPhilanthropy.com and speaker in the US and in Israel on opportunities and challenges in today’s nonprofit marketplace.

The Lapin Group on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thelapingroup

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