John Friedson was at his office in Rockville last Sunday when the phone rang. As soon as he realized it was from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, he waited for the pitch for a donation.
It never came.
“I was taken back. I was stunned.” The woman on the phone said she wasn’t asking for money. “I almost fell off my chair. I never encountered that before.”
Friedson, and about 5,000 others, were called during the Federation’s first-ever “Sayin’ Thanks” day. Two hundred volunteers telephoned Federation donors, not to ask for money but to thank them for giving in the past. Call it Super Sunday Not or Super Sunday 2.0.
This new approach is “a fundamental shift,” Federation President Liza Levy said. The goal is to both express appreciation and to educate donors as to how their donations are spent.
“Whoever came up with the idea, my kudos to them,” Friedson said, adding the thank-you he received probably will make him give more.
Super Sunday, a national program that began in 1980, is a day of mass phone calling to ask for donations. In cities throughout the country, Federation volunteers gather in a room filled with phones and take turns calling potential donors from lists generated by the Federation.
Though very successful in the past – in 2103, the Federation raised $41 million with much of that resulting from Super Sunday calls – the event just isn’t working anymore, Levy said. It no longer brings in as much money as it used to, she said, adding, Super Sunday “was becoming irrelevant.”
Part of the problem is that most people have cell phones and caller ID, and a call from the Federation often is ignored, Levy said.
Kevin Fishkind, who sits on boards with the Federation and Capital Camps, knows all about that. He has been helping out at the Federation’s Super Sundays and Dial-a-Thons for years and has been reaching fewer and fewer donors. Leaving a voice mail asking for money is a waste of time, he said.
But leaving a thank you on a voice mail is something Fishkind did often Jan. 25.
“Every time I left a voice mail, I had a smile on my face. The good will that this should build up is huge,” he said.
“I think everyone appreciated it. Everyone I spoke to was almost caught off guard,” he said.
However, the Federation will still be asking, and still needs, donations from the community. “Our annual campaign will go on,” Levy said.
But most likely, Super Sunday will not return. “While we will continue to reach out to donors through personal meetings, phone calls and mailings, we believe the time has come to move away from the one-day dial-a-thon known as Super Sunday,” said Steven Rakitt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
That is fine with Larry Sidman, a Bethesda resident who has been donating “for quite a number of years.”
“I was delighted by the approach the federation took,” he said. “It was a splendid idea” that he believes will “make people more willing to contribute in the future.”
Sidman said it was “nice to hear ‘thank you’. I think it is a Jewish value and a universal value.”