Ten Tips for Enhancing Your High Holiday Campaign


For many synagogues one of the largest fundraising programs and a significant revenue source, is the annual High Holiday appeal. It makes sense that synagogue leadership would try to capitalize on the largest crowds of the year in attendance at the synagogue and the emphasis on giving Tzedakah at that time of year. These appeals often were included in a speech by the president or rabbi on Kol Nidre night in front of a packed sanctuary. The congregation would hear about the needs or dreams of the congregation and its leadership and how the money from this appeal was critical to meeting those needs and dreams. This speech was usually followed by ushers collecting pull down tab pledge cards, or in many congregations, families and individuals committing money and having those pledges announced from the bimah. While this practice still continues in some congregations across the Jewish world, the majority of communities have gravitated away from this high intensity, high pressure approach to fundraising to more of a strategic longer-term Kol Nidre campaign. Here are ten tips for success.

  • Start early. Successful High Holiday appeals don’t begin Rosh Hashanah or Kol Nidre night. You should already be preparing now in May/June if not earlier. In many congregations, the Kol Nidre/High Holiday campaign represents one of the most significant fundraisers of the year and it warrants significant time and effort to maximize its success. You can’t just roll out the same campaign and do the same thing or make the same speech every year and assume you will maintain or grow your numbers.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. What works in one kehilla won’t necessarily work in another. You need to design a campaign based on the culture and values of your specific congregation. Does your synagogue publicly recognize different levels of giving, or is mentioning specific families or gifts frowned upon? Are major gifts recognized as major gifts or are all gifts treated equally whether they are for $18 or $18,000? Do you prominently display names and dedication plaques throughout the building or are few if any on display? Knowing how your community gives and responds to requests for philanthropy is very important.
  • Be strategic. Successful High Holiday appeal campaigns should be mapped out with timelines and plans for each step. When does the first letter go out? How many different letters will be used? Will calls be made? When will they be made? Don’t leave these things to chance. Consider:
    • What is the time frame for your campaign?
    • What different modes of communication will be used?
    • Will letters be sent to all members?
    • Will phone calls be made to major donors or will there be a phone-a-thon clean up campaign?
    • Is social media part of the plan?
    • Will you follow up the fundraising campaign letters with emails to build excitement and energy?
    • Will you use pull down tab cards for those people inspired over the holiday itself?
    • Will you have chair people for the campaign or is the campaign more passive?
    • Can people make gifts to your campaign online? Is your campaign featured on your website?

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