Do You Know Who Your Donors Are II

The Temple—Congregation Ohabai Sholom wasn’t sure they did. As the oldest and largest Jewish congregation in Nashville, they had facilities that had last been rebuilt in the 1950s. By the end of the century, with a membership which had doubled, a booming Nashville economy, and an aging building which didn’t match the physical standards and amenities of newer suburban temples, congregational leadership felt the need to consider possible paths forward. Could they really afford to renovate their facilities? Were members of the congregation supportive of the current programs? Would they financially support the undertaking? Looking for guidance in making their plans for the future, they reached out to Mersky, Jaffe & Associates.

They engaged MJA to conduct a feasibility study—an objective survey of fund-raising potential. The study would demonstrate the strength of the congregation’s case and the availability of people to lead a campaign and solicit the gifts of others. The most important outcome of the feasibility study would identify how much could be raised and from whom the funds would come.

MJA interviewed eighty-five people representing a cross-section of the congregation’s membership and gathered extensive information on their attitudes, interests, and willingness to contribute to a major building project. The report indicated who could lead such a campaign and even uncovered fifty-three donor prospects, people who would make and influence large gifts.

One of the major findings of the feasibility study was that the leadership had significantly underestimated the level of commitment within the congregation. Although considering a campaign for $8.5 million when they approached MJA, the research found strong support for the project and estimated contributions of $9.9 million.

Heartened by these findings and valuing the relationship created by MJA consultants and members of the congregation, The Temple then engaged Mersky, Jaffe and Associates to manage the advanced gifts phase of the campaign. Principals of the firm trained leadership in the process of fundraising and the art of solicitation. MJA created and implemented a fundraising management system to track relationships and contributions.

In the end, Congregation Ohabai Sholom raised in excess of $12 million, more than enough to fund both the renovation and construction as well as an endowment for maintenance and operations of the vastly expanded facilities. Since the completion of the building campaign, The Temple has reached out for MJA’s counsel on two additional major fundraising initiatives.

By really getting to know their donors, Congregation Ohabai Sholom has assured its continuation as a vibrant force in Jewish communal life in Nashville.