A new approach to fundraising helped the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington raise $900,000 more in 2018 than in the previous year.
Altogether, the Federation’s annual campaign raised $21,177,043, according to an email that Federation CEO Gil Preuss sent on Monday.
Of that sum, $1,340,653 was raised under what Preuss described in an interview as a “new strategy” to target specific areas for support. The strategy incorporates current trends in fundraising, findings from last year’s demographic study of Greater Washington’s Jewish community funded by the Morningstar Foundation, and a strategic plan developed by the Federation.
Those targeted funds will be used to support community growth in three areas: Northern Virginia; Next Generation Jews, including young adults and young married couples; and adult Jewish learning, Preuss said.
The Federation will not deliver the funds directly to programs or agencies. Instead, Federation task forces will decide where the money will go, he said.
“It seems like a small shift, but it’s actually a significant change,” Preuss said.
In addition, in 2018, the Federation raised $10,887,300 for the United Jewish Endowment Fund.
A total of 8,632 people gave to the Federation in 2018, up from 8,397 donors in 2017.
In his email, Preuss wrote: “The momentum built this year following the launch of our strategic planning process has been incredible and sets our community up for future success in the years to come.”
In the interview, he said there is room to expand on the momentum. The Federation needs to make “a better case” to potential donors of “the importance of having a large unrestricted pool” of funds.
The vast majority of pledges this year — a total of $19,836,390 — were for Federation’s traditional unrestricted giving program. The figure was essentially flat over the previous year, Preuss said.
Unrestricted giving has also been flat for several years.
Preuss said that donations to the three targeted areas largely came from 100 people, “existing donors who got more excited about participating with us.”
He said it is unclear if the new tax law contributed to the increase in donations, and that it may take several years to conclude the effect of the new tax code.
Preuss said that the Federation will next focus on two additional target areas: the most vulnerable and Israel.
“We want to tackle a series of these major issues in a different way, on top of the core unrestricted funds,” he said.
Released in February 2018, the demographic study found that the Jewish community of Greater Washington saw an overall 37 percent population gain since 2003.
The study contained the bombshell that Northern Virginia has surpassed suburban Maryland as the home to the most Jews in the Washington region. It found that of the nearly 300,000 Jews in the area, 41 percent are in Northern Virginia, 39 percent in suburban Maryland and 19 percent in the District.
The study described a community that is young, diverse and overwhelmingly Democratic, often more so than the national average.
And despite the perception of Washington as a region of transients, 94 percent of area Jews say the Washington area is their home base.
The community is less classically affiliated, with fewer Jews belonging to synagogues and other Jewish organizations — what Preuss and other Jewish community professionals call “engaged.”