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Jewish Federation targeting more donors

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Raleigh-Cary Jewish Federation is positioning its fundraising for growth and change.

After raising $650,000 last year, its most successful year ever, the federation this year has set a goal of $750,000.

The federation also has completed its first-ever telemarketing drive and is embarking in a new effort to solicit support from the professional sector, starting with the health-care industry.

And in April it will hold its first-ever community-wide fundraising gala and publish its first-ever advertising journal that aims to generate revenue from the business community.

The initiatives are part of a larger effort by Jodie Gisser, the federation’s new director of financial resource development, to equip the organization with fundraising strategies widely used by other federations.

Now 20 years old, but still the youngest Jewish federation in the U.S., Gisser says, the Wake-Cary group includes the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Services, and the Community Relations Council, and also raises money for the Jewish Community Foundation, which invests its assets of over $800,000 with the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro,

The Jewish population in Wake County totals an estimated 9,000 individuals, but most of them do not give to the federation, says Gisser, former campaign director for the Jewish Federation of Rockland County, N.Y.

To begin to reach more donors, she says, the federation recently hired IDT, a telemarketing firm based in Newark, N.J., with a call center in Jerusalem.

With the names of 1,000 prospects it received from the federation, the firm reached roughly half of them, and recruited 60 new donors who gave a total of $3,500.

That “yield” of just over 10 percent exceeds the industry average of roughly 4 percent, Gisser says.

In addition to asking for funds, she says, IDT callers also asked questions to generate information about any change in donors’ status.

“It’s a way to maximize the human resources we have here by outsourcing it,” she says.

She says she plans to engage the telemarketing firm again in the future to solicit people, referred to as “skips,” who may give one year but not another.

A big new initiative is the gala, scheduled for April 22 at The State Club on Centennial Campus at N.C. State University, that Gisser expects will attract 200 to 250 people.

In addition to a cover charge, guests who would like to attend a private cocktail reception before the gala will be asked to contribute at least $3,600 per family, and those attending the gala will be asked to contribute $613, representing the number of “mitzvot” — commandments or good deeds — in Judaism.

But the major fundraising effort for the dinner will be publication of an advertising journal, Gisser says.

“Until now, the Jewish community has only raised dollars from within,” she says. “This is a vehicle that will enable the community to reach out and solicit money from the business community.”

Her goal is to generate $100,000 in revenue from the ad journal, which will be distributed to everyone attending the gala and to all local Jewish agencies and organizations, and will be included in a packet for newcomers and in the monthly newspaper published by the federation, which also will list all advertisers on its website.

Gisser also says she hopes eventually to create a new campaign division at the federation which would coordinate and support separate fundraising efforts for which each of the federation’s existing three divisions will continue to be responsible.

“People here are embracing change,” she says.

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