This article originally appeared on ejewishphilanthropy.com.
Strange Bedfellows? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Ahhh, Rosh Hashanah, the holiday of new beginnings, festive meals, and well-wishes from friends. And how about Yom Kippur? Who doesn’t love fasting for 25 hours and fixating on all our wrongdoings and infringements from the past year?
These two are certainly an odd pairing. But they actually work well together.
Day-to-day life can wear us down – it can be monotonous, exhausting, and imperfect. Rosh Hashanah is a fresh start, a shot of optimism, a glimpse of inspiration.
However, after we’ve been uplifted, we need to get real. Yom Kippur is about cold, hard reality. On Yom Kippur, we have no choice but to pause our busy lives and do nothing but sit and reflect on the sometimes uncomfortable reality of who we are and what our shortcomings have been. Yom Kippur is about recognizing and acknowledging that we have room to improve. It is about accountability.
When we boil the High Holidays down to their very core, the magic words are inspiration (Rosh Hashanah) and accountability (Yom Kippur).
Interestingly, this combination is the essence of fundraising – make a case that moves people (inspiration), and then compel them to do something about it (accountability). The high holidays are about being inspired, but then taking specific steps to fulfill that moment of inspiration. In the spirit of the high holidays, let’s take a few minutes to reflect on these factors at play in our work and how we can do better at both in the coming year.
Inspiration (Rosh Hashanah)
It’s what drew us to this line of work in the first place. It’s our job to inspire our donors so they give, partner with us, and feel great about it. All good nonprofit work should trace back to mission and vision, because that is the source of inspiration. Whether it’s a strategic plan, a board training or a donor meeting, focusing on what the organization does (mission) and where it wants to go (vision) as the foundation for all work will motivate and generate buy-in.
How can we inspire our donors?
Accountability (Yom Kippur)
Optimism is important in our line of work, but so is acknowledging reality. Most new years’ resolutions fail; how do you ensure that yours do not?
Many people assume that inspiration alone builds an organization and that donations miraculously pour in. In reality, inspiration leads, but – in order to ensure that you engage people and sustain your mission – hard work follows. Once you have inspired your donors to care about your cause, you must then address accountability – whether your organization is seeking funds, fundraising partnership, or some other form of participation. Keeping your staff and lay leaders on track, setting and communicating clear expectations both within your organization and to your donors, and fulfilling your mission all require strong accountability. Fundraising is no different.
Accountability is about reflection and assessment. It includes but also extends beyond making good on the tasks we said we were going to do this week to advance our goals. It is about asking tough questions like:
Let’s allow the Jewish calendar and ritual to inspire not only our spiritual lives but also our work, which is critical to the core infrastructure of the Jewish community. Take this time to think strategically and critically about why we do what we do and, perhaps more importantly as it relates to our stakeholders, how we do it. This is a moment in time to reflect on our own inspiration, drive, and passion, as well as our relationships and tending to them. What will you do to ensure that you are inspired and proud of your accomplishments in one year’s time?