TORONTO | Excellence in Intergenerational Philanthropy

Dec 14, 2020

This is a spotlight on Toronto’s Chief Development Officer, Sara Lefton, an inspiring representative of a dynamic cross-functional team of dedicated lay and professionals who are not shying away from asking the challenging questions, experimentation, evaluation and iteration.

Tell us about a problem you have been facing in your fundraising efforts as of late:

We found that donors have not been feeling inspired to increase their giving, and that we have a donor pipeline which is not robust enough. In turn it places the Federation's prospect of long-term and sustainable growth and vitality at risk. While these challenges exist at all levels of the giving continuum, they are especially worrisome at the middle and major donor range. At the middle range, many donors are not being stewarded effectively. At the upper range, there are intergenerational risks in regard to the next generation's support of the Jewish community through the work of the Federation.

What was your process in trying to solve this problem?

First, we took a step back and analyzed our current data, used focus groups to consult with donors and consulted with other Federations. We found that the root cause of the problem lies in our continuous pursuit of programs (over 200 on a yearly basis) that connect and educate but don't always move participants to authentically engage in building community. Requests for philanthropic investments are made on a regular basis and oftentimes they lack  proper priming for inspired increases. Our stakeholders may be considered loyalists rather than inspired partners. And there are likely to be many more stakeholders that we are not yet reaching. We thought about what our fundraising efforts might look like if we continue the programs that inspire our donors and add a new kind of innovative program with an  aim of reaching existing and new stakeholders in a deeper and more meaningful way that compels deeper and more inspired participation and giving.

What an interesting revelation! What did you do with this new insight?

We created the UJA Genesis platform. Genesis is an ethos, a practice, and a platform through which our team designs and executes compelling programs to spark the interest of individuals seeking deeper meaning and connections and love of community building through UJA. 

A couple of examples of how this platform was utilized includes:

A Magnet for Prominent Millennials

We leveraged the UJA Genesis platform to engage millennials in new and inspiring ways, all under the call to action: "Falling in love with helping the community to thrive."  The innovation and momentum continued to grow with prominent millennial and CEOs of major companies asking for a seat at the table. The modality of Genesis attracted all.

Exceptional Stewardship for Multi-generational Families: The Littlest Volunteer

Prominent major donors are feeling reconnected through UJA Genesis.  For one example, the Genesis team co-created a program to build intergenerational volunteerism. Recently, 1,000 people of all ages from all types of personal and family dynamics engaged in service projects via zoom to meet the communal needs in these times. One grandfather and grandchild sold hot chocolate at a stand and raised $15,000! The grandfather was so inspired he matched the gifts of what his grandchild sold.

Relationships with Agencies

Unintended benefits of these activities are the strengthened relationships with agencies in and outside the Federation's purview, as hundreds of volunteers throughout the community provide moral support and in-kind donations to meet growing health and human service needs. It creates deeper connections for the 21st century multigenerational family to the Federation.

Have you seen any other benefits that came with this new program?

Yes – this program has been an incredible opportunity to reinvigorate our pipeline development and donor stewardship efforts. Behavior science analytics and prospect research is being used to determine the right timing and approach for effective solicitation and we are stepping up the cultivation of our mid-range donors. To this end, new tools have been created so that post compelling programs, effective fundraising is put into action. Some of these tools include: Hand written notes with specific first time asks for COVID relief funds, personalized proposals that have been delivered to the homes of middle tier donors with increased asks and special follow up from major gift officers.

Could this concept be utilized in other communities?

Absolutely! The creation and implementation of the UJA Genesis allowed us to step back, look at the makeup of our community and how we can use data and find new ways to fundraise. This can happen in any community of any size.

Sara Lefton will join us for a zoom session to talk about UJA Genesis on FEBRUARY 16TH at 1:00 PM (ET) // 10:00 AM (PT). Register below.