I love my public radio station. Really. It is just about the only station on the FM dial that I can tolerate. They play great music, new music, even somewhat cool music, to the point where I knew about Fountains of Wayne before my then-college-age son did.
(Son: “Mom! How do you know who the Fountains of Wayne are??” Me: “WFUV. Why is this so surprising?” Moral of the story — Mom is not supposed to be cool, or at least not supposed to know about the same bands he does.). So once a year, I make a pledge during one of the station’s fund drives. Every year, I give the same amount, because I value the service they provide and want to be sure that they stay on the air.
Here’s an interesting thing, though, about my relationship with my public radio station: I don’t feel compelled to increase my gift — I’ve been giving the same amount for the last several years. I am sure their costs and their salaries go up, just like at any other nonprofit organization.
On the other hand, in the 20 years since I became a donor to the annual UJA Campaign, I have increased my gift by some amount every single year. In years where our income went up and when it didn’t. In years when we renovated kitchens and in years when there were two kids in college.
What’s the difference? Why one and not the other?
Because while I might enjoy my radio station, my increased gift to Federation isn’t connected to what I enjoy or any service I receive. I make an increase in my gift to Federation because I want to be part of something bigger than my own personal interests. I increase my gift to Federation every year because I can make the biggest impact on the most lives with my dollars. And by increasing my gift every year, I can make sure that the Jewish community can address more needs, be more creative in creating Jewish community, and be ready for any emergency we face.
I give an increased gift to Federation because taking care of the Jewish community is an obligation I feel deeply, and I believe that the Federation is the best vehicle for making my dollars matter the most. I don’t have enough money on my own such that giving it to one Jewish cause would make a difference. Even if I did, I would still believe in making an increased gift to the Annual Campaign.
Why? Because I believe in the power of the collective. I believe in the strength that comes from caring people sitting together to envision what is best for our community — whether we mean community here in Greater MetroWest, in Israel, or wherever Jews are found.
I believe that we are responsible not only for the innovative and the interesting, but for keeping the lights on. This only happens through the allocation of dollars raised by the community, by the annual UJA Campaign. And it only happens when we can grow the amount the campaign raises, so that we are ready, ready for crises, ready for those in need, and ready for those who can see new heights for us to reach in creating community.
So, when you meet with a donor, ask for the increase. When you consider your own gift, ask yourself for the increase. Help Jews in need. Help create Jewish community. Help.