Developing your Leadership Team

Raising money is a collaborative effort. The rabbi cannot do it alone, nor should he or she. There are four key players in the leadership of a fundraising campaign. A campaign team should include volunteers as well as professionals. A chairperson and development board usually characterizes the volunteer aspect of the team. The professional leadership team includes the rabbi and possibly a professional fundraiser or least a consultant for the board. Both aspects of this team must have a deep understanding of and vision for the project. They must be willing to work together to make sure the outcome of the campaign is positive.

The chairperson of the volunteer arm should be a well-known member of the congregation who personally believes in the cause and the organization. Since this project is time consuming, this person must have the time and the motivation to make this effort a priority. They must also be free from other fundraising activities in other communities. The most important part for the chairperson is their willingness to set a standard of giving for the campaign.

The members of the development board play a key role in the campaign because they are the ones who represent the constituents of the synagogue or organization. They must be seen by the membership as trustworthy and credible stewards for the voluntary donations. This group of people is going to ask members for funds for the campaign. All of the members of this board must have a real connection to the cause because it is time consuming. This group should be expected set the standard in terms of giving toward to the campaign.

The professional members of the leadership have different roles than the volunteers. The rabbi must be prepared to promote the case for raising funds to the congregation from the pulpit, in writing, and in personal contacts. The rabbi must participate in the strategic planning of the campaign, which includes offering names of congregants who may be willing to give large amounts of money to the campaign. The rabbi is most important player when it comes to gaining access to congregants with large sums of money. During an interview, Rabbi Steven Leder suggests that a rabbi does not raise the funds in ten months of a campaign but over ten or twenty years of their relationship at the synagogue. Balance is the key for the rabbi because he or she must be willing to open doors and have conversations, but at the same time doing so without jeopardizing the sacred relationship between congregant and rabbi.

Finally, the professional fundraiser comes into the situation with most knowledge of how to cultivate funds from a group, but his or her challenge and responsibility lies with doing so within the confines of an existing community. The professional fundraiser must be comfortable with the parameters of the community and the systems that allow it to function. Oftentimes, the fundraiser or development director comes from within the professional staff of a synagogue and that person must be allowed enough time to fully prepare and achieve the goals of the campaign. The fundraising professional person must have appropriate administrative support so that his or her knowledge and skills are used to their best advantage.

Building this team of volunteers and professionals is an essential piece of a successful fundraising campaign. This team needs to be in place and establish a strategic plan for the duration of the campaign before even beginning to raise funds. After a plan is in place then the team will be able to present it to the entire community and begin the task at hand. For the next step in embarking on a fundraising venture, please see 10 Steps to Building a Campaign.


Leder, 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.

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