They may not have won the Powerball in a day, but they raised millions in a year.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia announced its 2015 campaign results, raising $27.8 million — an increase of $1.6 million, or 6 percent, from the previous year.
The money raised includes unrestricted gifts and field of interest gifts, as well as designated, pass-through and sponsorship gifts, according to the Jewish Federation.
Of that total, donations increased within the Jewish Community Fund — essentially the communal pot — by about $500,000.
The funds benefit everything from local safety nets and senior services in the area to Israel and overseas, as well as other programming that enriches Jewish life locally and globally.
Gail Norry, campaign chair, said the campaign succeeded because they were able to bring in both new and former donors in 2015.
“I think this shows that there has been a new commitment,” she said. “We also really made an effort to show appreciation to all of our donors.”
The Jewish Federation used several initiatives to bring in the big bucks, such as the Joshua Society — a national initiative that recognizes a family’s total giving in addition to individual giving — for families or individuals who have given $10,000 or more.
There was also a larger emphasis put on more organized structure within the campaign.
For instance, organizers proposed more face-to-face conversations with donors. The result: About 130 people met with more than 1,500 donors.
“We have been really making a huge effort to rebuild community,” said Norry, “and to really reach out across all affiliations, agencies, neighborhoods and affinities, and to really let people know that the Jewish Federation has changed. We are really focused on rebuilding this community.”
Connie Smukler has been giving in some way or another since 1973, whether that’s through donations or through her time.
She and her late husband, Joseph, who was a past chairman, have been involved with the Jewish Federation since they started helping Jews get out of the Soviet Union. They turned to the Jewish Federation to help them with this cause because they had the resources and hadvebeen involved ever since.
Though she was not on the receiving end of a phone call about donating, she tries to give as much as she can each year to give back.
“They never have to reach out to me about donating — it’s in my DNA,” said Smukler, 77, who is on the Board of Trustees.
She was excited about the total number of dollars raised this year, and said that the Jewish Federation has “some fabulous volunteers and staff this year. Maybe all the stars are in alignment and that’s what happened, but it’s very exciting.”
Norry added that the Women’s Philanthropy group raised more than $6 million in 2015 and added 37 new Lions of Judah — the name bestowed upon women who donate $5,000 or more annually.
The Renaissance Group, made up of 21- to 45-year-olds, raised $749,000 for the Jewish Community Fund.
The Jewish Federation raised $4.3 million in December alone, thanks mainly to year-end donors.
Following last year’s theme of “Stronger Together,” Norry was thrilled to surpass this year’s goal, raising $15.1 million in 2014 and increasing that to $15.6 million in 2015 for the Jewish Community Fund.
“I think this is the first time in many years that we as a community have shown this kind of commitment to the Jewish Community Fund,” she said. “I think that it’s a testament to that fact that people recognize that the Jewish Federation is a community convener, and that many of us have our own individual passions, but when we come together we really are that much stronger.”
Bud Newman, president of the Jewish Federation, said the increased success is due to a continual increase in the amount of people who are involved in the Federation campaign, whether through an increase in solicitors or leadership positions.
“It takes a lot of people with a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “More than anything else, after all is said and done, I believe it’s the result of a lot of emotion that’s rendered very positively.”
Newman noted that there are more people at the higher end who are giving more and also more people at the younger end who are giving more.
“We have less people who are giving this year than last, but the percentage increase” in the amount that people are giving “is quite good,” he said.
“There’s a level of energy that gets infused into a campaign that’s hard to analyze or assess, except to say that the numbers of campaign calls, the numbers of people who inspire others — those who we talk to, recognize that the need is fully there, that it’s viable and that we are trying to do all the things that are necessarily appropriate for that which is going to make it work.”
Newman added that he hopes there is a domino effect when the community at large hears about the campaign and is inspired as much as he is.
He hopes people will notice that the Jewish Federation is back on top of its game compared to more recent years in terms of reaching out to members and donors.
The Jewish Federation raised approximately $15.2 million for the Jewish Community Fund in 2013, up 1.4 percent from 2012, and about $27.3 million total in 2013 compared to $26 million in 2012.
“It’s turned the corner and it’s coming back,” Newman said, speaking of the Jewish Federation’s fundraising efforts. “It’s resisting a lot of trends in a number of places where it’s gone down. Through the infusion of this energy, more people are coming back to be involved in Jewish Federation, and we feel as if Jewish Federation — which we view certainly as the central focal point for Jewish activity in the city — really is the magnet that we say it is, and people are abiding by that.”
There were a few trends CEO Naomi Adler noticed during this campaign season, including that many more people gave online throughout the year.
Something she noticed in the past that she changed this year was that donors would give to very specific programs — the Israel Emergency Fund, for instance — and she encouraged these donors to give to the Jewish Community Fund, which also includes work the Federation does in Israel and overseas.
The Jewish Community Fund has continued to grow, she said, and it “will keep growing.”
According to Adler, programs and organizations the Jewish Federation supports will submit proposals for projects that need funding starting around this time.
The process of allocation takes a few months, with the decisions announced in May after being put before the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.
Some proposals are for brand-new programs, while others are well-known programs that “have great outcomes.”
“We take the time to ensure that the right programs are going to get funded and we use every single dollar to help those who are in need,” she said. “Need can be defined as enhancing Jewish continuity, addressing food insecurity, as well as helping global Jewish peoplehood.”
For Adler, fundraising this year needed a personal touch.
“We have spent a lot of time reaching out to people who give to the campaign on every level,” Adler said, “and truly expressing how honored we are that they’ve invested in the Jewish Federation.”
Personally reaching the donors was a key goal for the campaign this year, she said.
She wanted to ensure that every donor had the opportunity to ask where the money was going and what the need was in the community.
While they didn’t reach everyone they wanted to reach this year, Adler commented that that is one of their goals for the 2016 fundraising season.
“We were very focused on ensuring everyone had the opportunity to discuss their level of giving with us,” she said. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to talk to their Jewish Federation about their gift. That’s my philosophy.
“I think most people would agree with that.”
As it is too soon to tell which strategies worked or didn’t work, planning for the 2016 season hasn’t picked up too much speed just yet.
Super Sunday, set to take place this year on Feb. 21, is the kickoff for the next campaign, Adler said, and it sets the pace for the rest of the year. Before that, happens, they will be able to better understand the fundraising strategies employed this year that were successful or unsuccessful.
One thing that will not change between this year’s fundraising campaign and that of 2016 is the commitment to reaching every donor — no matter the giving level — and giving them the opportunity to have a conversation about their donations.
“From our president and campaign leadership to our staff,” Adler said, “our goal is that every single person who gives to Federation feels positive and understands how important it is no matter how many dollars are involved — that will never change.”
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