Despite unseasonal spring-like weather, droves of community volunteers willingly spent last Sunday indoors making telephone calls and raising $232,000, including $25,000 in matching funds, from 419 donors for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Super Sunday, the Federation’s annual mega phone-a-thon, drew more than 200 participants, according to Judi Kanal, chair of the event.
“There was a fabulous energy here all day,” Kanal said. “People were really motivated to raise money for all of our agencies and all other kinds of Jews in need around the country and around the world.”
The daylong campaign at the Squirrel Hill Jewish Community Center, which extended from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., was a departure from the Federation’s previous model of Fun Fest, a weeklong fundraising event, said Matt Cohen, campaign associate of the Federation.
Although the nice weather made it difficult to reach a lot of potential donors who were out and about, the end result was “better than expected,” Kanal said.
The all-day phone-a-thon model worked well, she added, and the Federation is likely to use this model again next year.
The day was divided into three sessions, each running two or two-and-a-half hours. While most volunteers came for one session only, there were several hardcore campaigners who stayed for the entire day.
Volunteers were motivated throughout the day by “Mitzvah Minutes,” brief but inspiring words of Torah delivered by local rabbis, including Danny Schiff (Federation), Aaron Bisno (Rodef Shalom), Chuck Diamond (Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha) Keren Gorban (Temple Sinai), Ron Symons (JCC) and Yaier Lehrer (Adat Shalom).
The phone-a-thon expanded beyond traditional telephones and included a more deliberate use of additional methods of communication, noted Cohen.
“The volunteers used their cellphones instead of landlines this year,” he said. “And they are following up with email and texting. We are using all means of communication to reach out to our donors.” Volunteers included Pittsburgh Diller Teen Fellows, who made solicitation calls while learning a lesson in philanthropy.
The Federation did not set a goal in terms of a dollar amount to be raised this year because of the switch from a weeklong event to one limited to a single day, according to Adam Hertzman, the Federation’s director of marketing. The weeklong Fun Fest of 2015 raised more than $200,000, Hertzman said, but that number was not used as a benchmark for this year.
The Federation will be evaluating all the benefits of the one-day event, including raising community awareness of Federation programs, in deciding a course of action for 2017. Hertzman predicted that the one-day model would be used again next year.
“There was a general acknowledgment that the great weather hurt us in our fundraising efforts,” Hertzman said. “So it is harder for us to project what we would do next year in a one- day Super Sunday.”
In conjunction with Super Sunday, the Federation hosted a blood drive that attracted “more people than expected,” Hertzman said, estimating that about 50 people turned out to donate blood.
Additionally, the Federation registered eight new people into the national bone marrow database at the event.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.