In addition to prayer and festive meals, the Jewish high holidays are a peak season of tzedakah – charity – where appeals are made, honors are auctioned off, and volunteer time is committed. At CCS, we believe in the power of the high holidays to position nonprofits for future success. Over the past month, members of the Jewish community worldwide dedicated themselves to introspection, assessing priorities, and connecting with one another. At this point, they are likely motivated, focused on community, and accessible for conversation.
Here are three steps to help you leverage the post-holiday feelings and set the table for a successful year ahead.
One: Go on a listening tour.
On Rosh Hashana, we make a blessing before blowing the symbolic shofar. It’s interesting to note that the blessing is not made on blowing the shofar but rather listening to the shofar. The shofar reminds us that listening is a critical element in personal growth and relationship building.
Schedule time to speak to your prospects – new and old – without an agenda to pitch an idea, sell something, or present information. Make an effort to actively listen and learn: What are their interests? What are their hopes for the new year? What motivates them to action?
A listening exercise will provide you with both micro- and macro-intelligence. On the micro-level, you will understand your prospects and how to activate their passions. On the macro-scale, you will be able to piece together trends from your conversations. What messages and types of programs resonate with donors? What opportunities lie before you and the organization in this new year?
Two: Provide value.
A new year often conjures up aspirational feelings and a desire to be better. As a nonprofit leader, you have the ability to support community members in this effort and provide them with meaningful opportunities. Once you have listened and determined individuals’ passions, it’s time to start connecting the dots. Ask yourself: how can I partner with donors to help them feel connected to the organization and actualize their aspirations? Identify or develop opportunities for involvement within the organization that are tailored to donors’ specific interests.
It’s key to note that the standard opportunities you have for engaging with your donors may not align with what you heard on your listening tour. Don’t be afraid to develop new ideas to provide the value that your prospects have indicated they are looking for.
Additionally, embrace virtual opportunities. With many people still shying away from traditional avenues of involvement due to the pandemic, leverage virtual technology to widen your audience and reach people during moments that were previously not feasible (for example, during work hours).
Three: Be persistent.
The repetitive nature of the high holiday prayers, in particular Selichot – The Prayers of Repentance – teaches us the need to try, try, and try again. It often takes more than one attempt to improve and excel, particularly when it comes to forming relationships.
Are there community members in your orbit that you have gently cultivated in the past, but nothing came of it? Or are there passive current volunteers or donors with the potential for greater engagement? Perhaps when you last connected the timing was not right. Now is the time to engage, especially as donors are thinking about their new year resolutions.
Successful fundraising certainly requires more than one touchpoint, so remain persistent. You can use the cadence of the Jewish holidays (Hanukkah is right around the corner!) as an opportunity to consistently follow up.
By following this playbook, next year, the high holiday season will ring in a culmination of a year-long concerted effort to better understand, connect, and provide value to your community!
About the Author
Dana Zeitz is an Assistant Vice President at CCS Fundraising. An active member of the Jewish community, she began her career supporting Jewish nonprofits. At CCS, she has partnered with dozens of organizations across all sectors to strategically plan and execute transformative fundraising efforts to elevate their impact. She received her M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.