10 Steps to Build a Campaign

Building a fundraising campaign takes a great deal of intentional planning. After forming the leadership team for a congregational fundraising campaign, the team then needs to plan for the success of the campaign. The fundraising team, both volunteer and professional, knows that the funds are in the community. Their job is to cultivate those funds to support the vision and mission of the synagogue. It might be helpful for the leadership team to think about organizing funds rather than raising funds. Organizing funds makes it seem as if the money is already in the community. Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles suggests that the rabbi does not build the fundraising relationships in the ten-month period of a capital campaign. But that the relationship is built is over 10 or 20 years of watching the family grow through baby namings, b'nai mitzvah, confirmation and weddings. Once the leadership team has recognized the need to organize funds, they can begin working on the 10 steps to building the fundraising campaign.

These 10 steps that we have identified may help in a fundraising campaign at your synagogue.

  1. Contact a fundraising professional
  2. Conduct fundraising feasibility study
  3. Set expectations for the campaign
  4. Set goals and benchmarks along the way
  5. Create a timeline for campaign
  6. Prepare marketing tools, slogan, etc.
  7. Identify giving opportunities
  8. Prepare recognition materials
  9. Identify major donors, including asking for lead gift
  10. Organize the public launch

1. Contact a fundraising professional. The first step in any campaign is providing for the right amount of support from a fundraising professional. A consultant may be helpful when determining the feasibility of the fundraising endeavor with an unbiased eye. Hiring someone might also be helpful when the staff or leadership is new to fundraising, this person can help train congregants in solicitations. Not all fundraising professionals will be adequate for your organization. It is important that the consultant has a clear vision of the organization and that the chemistry between the leadership team and this person is positive. Another thing to keep in mind is whether this person has done synagogue fundraising in the past, because it is different than raising money for the food bank or the art museum. Before hiring a consultant for your campaign, be sure to obtain their references and a track record of successful fundraising efforts in the past. This person may be the key to creating the most successful and fulfilling campaign in your congregation's history.

2. Conduct fundraising feasibility study. "A long range plan serves as a framework for determining goals, objectives, priorities, policies, budgets and programming over a specified period of time" (Zevit 37-38). This is an ongoing dimension to maintaining and growing sacred community. This feasibility study answers such questions as,

  • Is the goal of the fundraising campaign attainable? If not, what would the shortfall be?
  • Is the timing and climate right for the campaign? If not, what needs to be done to create the right conditions? (note: This question may pose a considerable roadblock with the current economy and building renovations may have to be set aside.)
  • What are the factors that would encourage or discourage prospective donors from supporting the campaign?
  • What organizational structure will be required to successful conduct the campaign and how much should be budgeted for it?
  • Which prospective donors are most likely to make the largest contributions? Will these gifts adequately serve as the benchmarks required to reach the fundraising goal?
  • What is a realistic time frame to reach the goal?

Answering these questions with the leadership team and the larger synagogue board will help determine if a fundraising campaign is even possible and would be as productive as possible.

3. Set expectations for the campaign. Create a purpose chart, how current activities and programs and their costs can be related to the congregations mission and values. This sets up the conversation for allocating resources to new programs based on the mission. This exercise should be done in a board setting (Zevit, 47).

4. Set goals and benchmarks along the way. Once the leadership team and board members have come together to create a "wish list" and have completed a feasibility study it is time to set goals in terms of dollars. Congregants who are giving the funds need to know the actual goal in order for them to prepare their gift to the campaign. This goal is also important for major donors to decide how much impact they want to make. The benchmarks can be measured by a visual in the gathering place of the synagogue, so when people come in they can see the progress that is being made. This also allows for the leadership team to solicit funds at the end of the campaign with a concrete goal in mind.

5. Create a timeline for campaign. It is important to have a timeline for a fundraising campaign in order to keep everyone involved focused on the goals created for the project. The timeline should begin with the beginning steps in order that all details are handled correctly. The Jewish calendar is a helpful tool for creating this timeline, for example if you start the campaign right before the High Holy Days then it can be a major topic of conversation during sermons for the season. By Passover, the congregation might need some reinvigoration with project and sermons can be based on Shabbat Shekalim and creating a home for the Jewish people after the Exodus from Egypt.

6. Prepare marketing tools, slogan, etc. Living in a world where we can hear three notes and recognize the company by the jingle, it is of the utmost importance to develop a slogan or name the campaign. A slogan for the campaign has the ability to emphasize the values of the synagogue. One example is to name the campaign, "The tree of life," which then can be connected to the value of the study of Torah. The values of chiddur mitzvah and study can also be a meaningful connection to a fundraising campaign. The season and subsequent holiday, in which the synagogue may start or end the campaign, can be another way to name your campaign. For instance, a Sukkot campaign can include study sessions in the Sukkah about tzedakah and serve as a fundraising event all in one.

7. Identify giving opportunities. "Philanthropy is a creative expression of that part of yourself that care about and believe in the potential for change" (Inspired giving, Gary, 11). After creating the theme or slogan for the campaign then it is necessary to delineate the levels of giving. A menu of giving opportunities allows all members of the synagogue to see what their options are for giving. Endowments, facility dedications, dedication of religious items as well as furnishings and equipment may be on this menu, depending on the type of campaign. Another way of listing giving levels may be in dollar form using words related to the slogan of the campaign. An example is this for the Tree of Life campaign may be, "lower branches" and "upper branches." Click here for more information on menus for giving.

8. Prepare recognition materials. This may one of the greatest motivations for a giver to donate to the campaign. "Recognition is one of the most effective ways of acknowledging and reinforcing the value Jews and your community can place on giving." (Miller, 62). It may seem obvious but spelling the donor's name correctly is of extreme importance. If it is spelled incorrectly the donor will not think he or she is important and may not donate again. Always ask the donors to approve working that will be used on any plaque before it is made public (Miller, 63). All gifts are precious during a campaign, whether it is a multi-million dollar gift to a collection of tzedakah from a religious school class, each person must be recognized. A way to do this is by having a special Shabbat celebration to recognize all of the donors. For more ideas on recognition and liturgy, please see our liturgy on the ethics of money.

9. Identify major donors, including asking for lead gift. The leadership team should come together at this stage in the process and identify those members in the congregation who they think might be able to offer the lead gift. All gifts are appreciated and necessary to a fundraising campaign and for working toward building community through fundraising. However, a campaign needs large gifts to encourage others to give by showing them that the campaign is legitimate and valuable. In effect, the lead gift helps raise the most money possible for the success of the campaign. Identifying these donors may take place in collaboration with the Temple board as well as with the leadership so that the committee and the rabbis eventually ask them to contribute.

10. Organize the public launch. When creating the public launch, it is important to keep in mind the words of Rabbi Isaac Klein that, "A donor's experience of giving away money must be positive in order for them to want to repeat it. The donor needs to feel that he or she is supporting useful work and that the donor's gift is important to making that work succeed" (Klein, 73-74). The public launch should embody this statement. A way to do this is to teach and preach about tzedakah as a community building activity, maybe as a Shabbaton for the congregation. Other ways to publicly launch the campaign are through sermons, a special feature in the monthly bulletin that includes the logo or slogan and other pertinent information for the key contact person, menus of giving and strategic giving for tax purposes, a modestly sized brochure with a personal letter from the president and/or rabbi to all of the members.


Klein, Isaac. A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, NY, 1992.

Leder, Rabbi Steven. Personal Interview. 11 September 2008.

Miller, Lorne S. Ensure the Future: How Synagogues and Day Schools Can Compete in the Philanthropic Marketplace. Lorne Miller and Associates, Toronto, Canada, 2001.

Zevit, Shawn Israel. Offerings of the Heart: Money and Values in Faith Communities. Alban Institute, Herndon, VA, 2005.

(Developed By: Lisa Delson, HUC-JIR, Cincinnati)