Are You Raising Money or Objections?

Kehillath Israel imageA rising young religious leader was confronted with this dilemma when facing the task of rebuilding a venerable congregation.

Once the premier Conservative congregation in the Boston area, Kehillath Israel fell victim to the continuous population shift to the western suburbs. Kehillath Israel found itself with an aging population, a membership base that had decreased from more than 1000 to less than 400, endeavoring to support a large and increasingly expensive infrastructure of buildings, programs and staff.

Driven to reverse the trend, several lay leaders moved boldly to resurrect Kehillath Israel. These board members attracted a young, vibrant rabbi committed to breathing new life into the congregation. With strong support, KI’s new religious leader was given a mandate to raise the financial resources needed to mount new programs to attract new members. Personable and charismatic, the new rabbi was willing but ill at ease. He had never played the part of fundraiser and was anxious and self-conscious in the role. After some initial efforts, he had succeeded in raising objections but no new funds. He needed expert direction from someone knowledgeable of both his task and his community.

One board member of the congregation reached out to Mersky, Jaffe & Associates to provide the new rabbi with executive coaching in the art and science of fundraising. Over the course of several months, a consultant from MJA met with KI’s new leader to help him develop the skills to be an effective solicitor of funds. Gaining an understanding of the process of fundraising and how to implement a development strategy, the rabbi learned to articulate a vision for KI’s future and to ask for support in attaining it.

One-on-one, the rabbi and the consultant assessed the needs of the congregation, discussed readings to deepen his understanding of fundraising theory, and role-played the solicitation meeting to gain actual experience in the “art of asking.” After the rabbi met potential donors, they met to debrief and analyze the successes and problems. Through this executive coaching process, the rabbi learned the skills that have allowed him to pursue KI’s mission with vigor.

Today, the congregation has rebounded to over 700 members with a panoply of vibrant programs. Kehillath Israel is once again financially strong and has begun to plan, with Mersky, Jaffe & Associates’ active involvement, a multi-million dollar capital and endowment campaign.