Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024

Raising Spirits by Raising the Bar

One never knows in advance how well an event will turn out that has been in the planning stages for months. In the case of our just-completed, third annual “Raising The Bar” conference for fundraisers, we exceeded even our most optimistic projections. May the main beneficiaries, b'ezras Hashem, be klal Yisrael. We Jews are always careful not to count our fellow Jews by numbers. So I can only tell you that approximately 140 men and women from all parts of the world; Israel, Belgium, the Ukraine, and more than a dozen different US states and two Canadian provinces attended last week's Raising the Bar conference at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tarrytown.

But as HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, the Morah D’asra of Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin noted to all assembled, attendance was really far greater than 140. That’s because each participant was representing organizations and mosdos serving more than 100,000 people worldwide.


As always, when Rav Lieff offers his unique brand of chizuk, he hits the nail right on the head. Under one roof, we had the zechus of bringing together a wide swath of klal Yisrael’s most noted organizations and fundraisers. After the conference, Rabbi Aron Hersh Freund of Satmar’s United Talmudical Academy reminded me of the Mishna in Avos that says the world is kept alive by the three pillars of Torah, Avoda and Gemilas Chasadim. Since organizations who serve each of those three pillars were represented, this means our event helped to uphold the world.


In addition to my unending gratitude to everyone who took time from their overwhelmingly busy schedules to attend, I must express my hakaros hatov to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for affording me the opportunity to ascend the stage and present my experience and knowledge in front of those who toil tirelessly for the klal. I was deeply touched just glancing around the room, seeing our fellow Jews from all streams of Torah Judaism, from Satmar and Belz, to the Litvishe Yeshivos of Lakewood and Sephardi day schools. I was greatly honored by the attendance of a very special guest, HaRav Yaakov Bleich, Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi.


I am not sure, even in this generous space that the Yated allots me, that I can adequately convey my hakaros hatov to all involved, but I thought the best way to do so would be to share, in brief, a few of the great ideas and thoughts that my co-presenters expounded on. Nobody held back. “Trade secrets” flowed freely. Everyone emerged smarter, more empowered and greatly enriched.


I wish to take this opportunity to give a special Yasher koach to my co-host, Rabbi Herschel Leiner, president of H. LEINER & CO, whose great clarity on branding, organization and dealing with his fellow man never ceases to amaze me. What was even more impressive was his willingness to share “trade secrets” drawing on his extensive experience in the fundraising and corporate worlds. (One reason for penning these words was Reb Heshy’s reminder that a sincere please and a thank you go a long, long way!)


In my own initial presentation, we discussed the role of marketing on social networks. This presented a specific challenge, which I approached with a great deal of consternation. I was, Baruch Hashem, able to overcome this after consultation with daas Torah. In my second presentation, I shared my experience on developing successful anniversary and milestone campaigns.


I cannot say enough about Rabbi Yonason Sanders, Dean of Bais Tova in Lakewood. He truly wowed the audience with an abundant mix of personal anecdotes and real-life advice, interweaving it with relevant Chazals to back up his approach on navigating relationships with donors and the hakaros hatov he shows to each and every one.


Great appreciation is due R’ Yakov Engel, the CEO of Yeda LLC, whose grasp of the technical nitty-gritty of relationship building is quite impressive. Listening to Reb Yakov, one obtained clarity in dotting your “I’s” (introverts) and not crossing your “E’s,” (extroverts) if Reb Yakov will allow me the literary license! Understanding the personality of donors is paramount in connecting with them at their comfort level.


One of the seminar’s highlights was the appearance of Bill Grimes, one of America’s leading sales trainers. I thank him from the bottom of my heart, and also to my good friend Michael Fliegelman for introducing me to Mr. Grimes. Bill raised an issue which even the best fundraisers confront from time to time — reluctance to pick up the phone and getting sidetracked from the really pressing issues.


I also want to add a Yasher koach to my good friend and colleague Jonathan Gassman for the positive reinforcement he provided. Jonathan presented at last year’s conference in planned giving, which is just one of his areas of expertise.


Last, but certainly not least, let me give a big l’Chaim to L’Chaim Caterers for their tasty and nutritious food and refreshments and a big tip of the cap to the Tarrytown DoubleTreefor going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that each guest’s accommodations and special needs were well taken care of. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a big Yasher koach to Yaakov Gerber, Yitzi Bohensky, Jeff Deutsch, Avi Revah and Mrs. Naomi Weiss of Bottom Line Marketing Group for the creative marketing campaign and handling of the many programming details — always with a smile.


I know I already said last but not least, but there is one final grosse Yasher koach that is really the most important of all…that is to my aishes chayil, Esther. She handled all of the myriad back-office details surrounding this conference and treated each person with consideration and care, despite the pressures of running a conference of this scope. (I also must thank my mother-in-law Mrs. Weiser, who flew in from Cleveland to take care of the family.)


This may have been only the third 2-day Fundraising Seminar, but it won’t be the last (and may next year’s be in Yerushalayim, bimhera v’yamenu!)




Yitzchok Saftlas is the CEO of Bottom Line Marketing Group, a premier marketing agency recognized for its goal-oriented branding, sales, and recruitment and fundraising techniques. Serving corporate, non-profit and political clientele, Bottom Line’s notable clients include: Mike Bloomberg for Mayor, Dirshu and TeachNYS.


Readers are encouraged to submit their marketing questions to: ys@BottomLineMG.com



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