The Associated shares lessons in fund raising

NON-PROFITS INC.

December 21, 1992|By LESTER S. PICKER

For Jews worldwide, Hanukkah is the holiday of miracles. For Baltimore's Jewish community, Hanukkah 1992 offers an opportunity to celebrate another, if somewhat smaller miracle.

Amid one of the worst recessions in modern times, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore raised more money in its annual campaign this year than it has in its long and proud 70-year history.

Because so many nonprofits have set lower fund-raising goals this year, and others have not achieved even modest goals, I sat down with Darrell Friedman, executive director of The Associated, to see if there were lessons in The Associated's success from which other nonprofits could benefit.

"In my opinion, what makes our campaigns work is a strong commitment to purpose, to our fundamental mission," Mr. Friedman told me. "Our volunteers and staff have a deep belief in what we're about . . . to share what we have with those who are less fortunate."

The Baltimore organization is considered a flagship for the approximately 220 Associated Jewish charities across North America. Baltimore's recent record-setting annual campaign of $21.1 million has certainly bolstered that image. Its 1993 goal of $22.5 million will enhance that image even more.

"We put lots of effort and resources into leadership training," reports Mr. Friedman. "We have programs to develop young leaders, which builds a strong infrastructure. When you consider that we're really in the business of building community, investment in leadership is critical."

The Associated's leadership training has had significant impact on Baltimore's non-Jewish community, too -- not surprising when one considers the philosophical orientation of the training program.

"We try to enrich philanthropy for the entire community," Mr. Friedman says. "We want our people to be philanthropic both within the Jewish and non-Jewish community."

Given that orientation, how is The Associated able to nail its fund-raising goals so consistently? For one thing, The Associated views philanthropy as a business. Sophisticated planning ensures that every dollar is well-spent. One example to which Mr. Friedman points is the exceptionally low overhead for the annual campaign -- about 6 percent, 11 percent for all Associated operations.

The Associated also devotes considerable attention to marketing. The organization continually surveys its membership, conducts focus groups and trains its leadership to keep a finger on the pulse of the community.

This attention to philanthropy has produced a culture of caring, which is reinforced by programmatic initiatives. Take, for example, a philanthropy program aimed at youth. Schoolchildren are encouraged to individually pledge funds for specific charitable purposes and raise the funds in a variety of ways.

"The implied message from parents and the community is that you have a responsibility to help the less fortunate," Mr. Friedman emphasizes.

Sandy Baklor, a training consultant to various Jewish fund-raising causes, told me, "People give to people. Much of The Associated's success is due to well-planned, face-to-face solicitations. Solicitors are carefully matched to potential donors. Each solicitor has already made a gift, which makes asking that much easier."

Mr. Friedman says, "I think fund raising is a privilege. Giving is an honor. The entire process is a very noble enterprise, because the end result is helping a third person who is less fortunate."

With such commitment to purpose, the odds are The Associated will achieve a new record for 1993.

(Les Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at 71 Bathon Circle, Elkton, Md. 21921; [410] 392-3160.)

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