Judson Biennial Handout 2013


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Judson Biennial Handout 2013

  1. 1. URJ Biennial 2013 Learning Session on Alternative Dues Models Rabbi Dan Judson December 12, 2013 Free Will Congregations Congregation Denom. 1. Temple Beth El, Jersey City, NJ Reform 2. Temple Beth El, Aptos, CA Reform 3. Temple Kol Ami, West Bloomfield, MI Reform 4. Temple Brith Achim, King of Prussia, PA Reform 5. Oak Park Temple, Oak Grove, IL Reform 6. Temple Sukkat Shalom, Wilmette, IL Reform 7. Beth Israel Congregation, Jackson MS Reform 8. Temple Beit Hayam, Stuart, FL Reform 9. Temple Beth Am, Jupiter, FL Reform 10. Temple Israel, Sharon, MA Conservative 11. Temple Beth Tzedek, Amherst, NY Conservative 12. Ahavath Achim, Gloucester, MA Conservative 13. The New Shul, Phoenix, AZ Independent # of Families 150 516 331 276 517 318 203 250 409 620 425 175 145 Year in Place 2012 2010 2012 2010 2003 1995 2012 2012 2013 2009 2012 2011 2002 Synagogue websites: 1. Temple Kol Ami, “T’rumot Halev: Gifts of the Heart” http://www.tkolami.org/ 2. Brith Achim, “Gifts of the Hand/Gifts of the Heart” http://www.brithachim.org/renewal/newmember/ 3. Temple Israel, “A Unique Alternative to Dues” http://www.tisharon.org/a_unique_dues_alternative/ 4. Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Winnewood, PA “Patron System” http://www.tbhbe.org/drupal/sites/all/themes/tbhbe/downloads/TBHBEcommitcir cle13.pdf Articles of Interest 1. Dan Judson, “Scrapping Synagogue Dues: A Case Study” http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/scrapping-synagogue-dues-a-case-study/ 2. Detroit Jewish News, “From The Heart: Kol Ami’s New Pledge System…” http://www.thejewishnews.com/from-the-heart 3. Michael Wasserman, “From Purchase to Partnership: Removing the Price Tag From Synagogue Membership” http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/from-purchase-topartnership-removing-the-price-tag-from-synagogue-membership/ 4. Josh Natan-Kazis, The Jewish Forward, “Synagogue Dues Don’t Raise More Money Than Church Giving” http://forward.com/articles/131095/synagoguedues-dont-raise-more-money-than-church-g/ 5. Beth Cousens, Synergy – UJA Federation of NY, “Connected Congregations: From Dues and Membership to Sustaining Communities of Purpose” http://www.ujafedny.org/synergy-connected-congregations-report/
  2. 2. Congregations Without Dues: How Synagogues are Eliminating Dues, Surviving and Even Thriving Why have congregations made the change? 1. Financial Pressures Related to the Economic Downturn Rob Carver, Temple Israel, Sharon MA: Each year we were raising dues to make our budget numbers, and we reached a point where we were actually losing money when we raised dues. We were on the wrong side of the demand curve. We had reached a price point where families decided they would rather not belong to the synagogue at all, than pay higher dues. Of course families could come to us for an abatement, but everyone finds the abatement process onerous, so some families just leave. And raising dues again, particularly at the height of the recession, just seemed to sow ill will amongst the congregation 2. Jewish Values Rabbi Eric Lazar, Temple Brith Achim, King of Prussia PA: One of the things that gets lost when we tell people about our financial system is that this is very specifically based upon the story in the Torah, where God asks the Israelites in building the Tabernacle, that they should give as their hearts move them. And the whole context of the story is in the creation of the mishkan, the holy space. The idea being that without being billed, invoiced, or a fee schedule, the people’s hearts moved them to give so much to the creation of a holy space, that Moses had to stay stop, you have given enough. I think this is the model for us, we are creating a mishkan here, a community and we want people to give as their hearts move them. And they have. 3. Removing Barriers to Entry & Raising Barriers to Exit Rabbi Debbie Hachen, Temple Beth El, Jersey City, NJ: One of the reasons we made this change is that we already saw an influx of new people coming into the community, we are in an urban setting that is attracting young Jewish families. And they might have joined anyway had we not made this change in dues structure, but we wanted to make it even easier. But we also wanted to make it harder for current members to quit. Its not just about getting new members in the door, its about retention. People finish paying their bar mitzvah fess and synagogue dues, and they want to lower the dues, in our system they don’t have to embarrass themselves by asking for an abatement. Our system says, we trust you. If you need to lower your dues because you have all sorts of other things going on, we trust you. I even think that those people who only come for the high holidays and therefore you are only going to give $500, I would rather have them, and it is up to us to try and involve that person
  3. 3. in the synagogue again, and it cultivates within the synagogue leadership a sense of benevolence, that every pledge is a donation, it’s not due to you, its not payment for services, it is a donation that we should be grateful. 4. This Model Fits with the Zeitgeist Peter Sharp, Beth Israel, Jackson MI: We moved to the system in part because we were kind of doing this anyway. We had lots of people not paying full dues, and we never chased after them, so we figured lets turn this into a positive and promote a system that reflects our values. The results are that the pledges were up about %5 from last year. People are more apt to want to give when they are not pressured into it, like a country club situation. We communicated the process of what we were doing and we stressed the importance of giving to sustain the community, and people rose to the occasion. What Are the Benefits of the System? 1. Better Community Culture Grounded in Trust and Transparency Scott Roseman, Temple Beth El, Aptos CA: At the time of this change, the congregation was losing members and revenues, and the economy was sputtering. We were needing to cut back staffing at all levels, and cut out some of the programming. Change was necessary. After we put this system in place, membership and revenue both increased modestly. This system removed the whole paternalistic system of dues forgiveness. It used to be that the members with less were required to write or speak to an official of the congregation, while it was often the case that people with more never had to justify why they paid what they paid to the synagogue. Now, everyone is treated the same. Everyone is on the same ‘honor’ system. Most people choose to be ‘honorable.’ Some pay less than what is recommended. But, overall membership and revenue are in a good place, and we have moved to a system that honors everyone for whatever they were able to give. The latter is much more compatible with the kind of Judaism that I want to part of.” Cheryl Chaben Friedman, Temple Kol Ami, West Bloomfield, MI: This system has exceeded our expectations. It truly changed the tone for people. When Detroit took a hit, a lot of families faced the decision to resign their membership or face an uncomfortable phone conversation about abatement. Moving to this system changed the whole dynamic. It just really allows people to feel good about what they can do as opposed to feeling badly about what they cannot do. 2. Improved financial management as a result of more accurate congregational budget projections and cash flow.
  4. 4. Because congregants are now ultimately deciding what they will give without any sense of coercion, they almost always give their pledge amount, and pay on a more timely basis. Congregations have fewer write-offs, better cash flow, and more precise budget projections. 3. Dues categories are often out of sync with ability to give Rabbi Debbie Hachen, Temple Beth-El, Jersey City, NJ: Many synagogues base their dues on categories of age or marital status, but the categories are artificial, it lumps together singles who are struggling with singles who are very wealthy. Defining people by their age or marital status, doesn’t really cover the range of financial abilities within each status. I think the free will system is more nimble, because there is a certain amount of financial contribution you lose when you have a category system. There is a certain amount you lose when you tell a single young person they don’t need to pay as much, but they may be wealthy. This system maximizes what you receive in dues or pledge income and at the same time it minimizes the stress for the families that have to ask for abatement. 4. Greater Revenue from Those Previously Abated Rob Carver, Temple Israel, Sharon, MA: The synagogue was often losing money on abatements that it otherwise could have had. Everyone found the abatement process so onerous that the committee would often ask families to just pay $500 as a standard abatement fee to speed things along and reduce the amount of grappling over money. But one of the interesting findings we discovered when we moved to this system five years ago was that many families which had been abated to $500 actually were willing to pay more when they were simply given the choice of how much to pay. So there was a surprising gain to the synagogue when they moved to a free will model from this particular cohort.
  5. 5. How Does the System Work? Synagogues that have eliminated their dues have done something which is quite simple but potentially quite radical. They still ask their members for money in the form of pledges, but they have done away with congregational oversight of those pledges. They have eliminated their abatement committees or needing to speak to the executive director or doing whatever it was that they used to do when a member could not pay their dues. These congregations still give guidelines for pledging, typically they divide their total budget by the number of families and this number becomes the congregation’s “sustaining amount.” They then send a yearly note to the congregation letting them know what the sustaining amount is and asking them to contribute this amount. Most of the synagogues also give a figure well over the sustaining amount as an aspirational number, as well as a number which is a break even number, where if everyone in the synagogue gave this amount, the synagogue could keep open their doors but at a reduced operation. The congregations all make clear that these are not dues number, members are free to pay as they will, and there will be no questions asked of them and no one they need to speak with about how much they contribute. The change is ultimately simple but the potential financial and cultural benefit to the synagogue can be tremendous. Case Study Synagogue Torah1 had previously been using a progressive fair share system. Individuals paid increasingly higher membership fees in categories which ranged from $50k up to $250,000k and then leveled out above this number. %25 of synagogue received dues relief under this system. The congregation had seen some drop off in membership and revenue as a result of the recession. Under the leadership of a business owner who was VP for membership, the synagogue conducted some research into other congregations that used a free will model and interviewed its own members to ascertain their commitment levels if they switched to this system. Besides the one-on-one conversations, the move to the plan was preceded by email announcements, board discussion The Results: First three years of the program saw modest increases in total revenue from dues and over the three year period an approximately %9 increase in membership. Membership increased approximately from 475 families in 2009 to 500 when the system was put in place. In 2010 it went up to 525 in 2011 and dipped to 516 in 2012. 2011-2012 1 Case study is a real synagogue and the statistics are real.
  6. 6. Revenue from dues went from $659,605 – $677,579. Previous years saw similar growth pattern. Revenue reflects approximately %65 of total budget. School fees make up roughly %25 with the remaining %10 primarily coming from high holidays [tickets to outsiders, additional seats, parking] Dispersion pattern of commitments - 116 families paid the sustaining amount - $2,200 - 91 families paid less than $200 - 317 families paid between $200 and sustaining amount - 37 families paid between $2500-3000 - 36 paid between $3000-4000 - 7 paid between $4000-5000 - 12 paid over $5000 - average pledge was $1313 median pledge was $1000 %41.9 of membership increased their pledges from previous year %40.1 of membership remained the same %18.2 of membership decreased %1 resigned