The rubber balls were flying at him.
David Kirschtel couldn’t have been happier.
It was his first game of dodgeball in decades, and while Mr. Kirschtel wasn’t long for the game, and his team wasn’t long for the tournament, all was going according to plan.
He had brought together eleven local Rockland nonprofit organizations for this dodgeball tournament. The goal: To highlight the fact that these organizations all were running capital fundraising campaigns.
(For those of you who aren’t active board members, closely related to a nonprofit professional, or otherwise intimately involved in how nonprofit organizations raise their money, a capital campaign is when an organization sets out to raise a specific amount of money for a specific cause. You’re welcome.)
Mr. Kirschtel wanted to draw attention to the community’s capital campaigns because the JCC is running one. Not the Jewish Community Center, which he heads, but the separate Jewish Community Campus organization, which he also heads. That organization is the landlord for community center programming as well as for the Jewish Federation of Rockland County. The Community Campus is raising money for perhaps the least-sexy (donor-wise, at any rate) goal of all: Paying down the debt on the building it bought and renovated 10 years ago.
By comparison, Rockland’s Holocaust Museum and Center for Tolerance and Education is raising money for a yet-to-be-built new building, including an exhibition hall.
And Rockland County Pride Center just bought its building in downtown Nyack last year.
Other organizations that fielded teams were Dominican College in Orangeburg; Hi Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona; Islamic Center of Rockland in Valley Cottage; Jawonio in New City, which provides services for people with special needs; Nyack Hospital; the People to People food pantry in Nanuet; Rockland Community College, and St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill.
The dodgeball tournament came about because the Community Campus is an organization that enables other organizations. That led Mr. Kirschtel to think about how his organizations fit in with the 600 to 800 nonprofits in the broader Rockland community — and in particular, with the ten other organizations also trying to raise large sums of money for capital campaigns right now.
“What can we do to bring all of these organizations together with us as the facilitator, showing the value of who we are?” he asked himself. “We’ve got a gym. Maybe some kind of a basketball tournament?”
But basketball only fields five people, he realized. Volleyball, perhaps? “Dodgeball is a game that anyone can play,” he thought.
And so it was.
The tournament charged $75 a player; it raised $20,000, split equally among the participating organizations.
“It wasn’t about the money,” Mr. Kirschtel said. “It was about showing the community how we could all work together, and demonstrating the importance of each organization.”
Each team had at least 25 players. Which led to some intergroup cooperation, with the larger organizations helping pad the teams of some of the smaller ones. The Islamic Center was proud to get more than 20 members to join the team — but played with a couple of outsiders, among them Paul Adler, who is a former JCC president and is running the campaign for Rockland Pride, and Rabbi Craig Scheff of the Orangetown Jewish Center.
In fact, it was Rabbi Scheff who got Mr. Kirschtel out, catching the ball he threw. But while the augmented Islamic Center was able to defeat the JCC, it fell before the ultimate victor: Rockland Community College.
“Rockland Community College put its entire baseball team on its dodgeball team,” Mr. Kirschtel said. “I’ve got 45- and 50-year-old people playing dodgeball, and they have 20- and 21-year-olds. We didn’t set tight enough rules” about who could be on the teams.
So what about the JCC’s capital campaign?
Mr. Kirschtel said it began with the JCC’s buying and renovating its present building a decade ago. The JCC had been in a 26,000 square foot building. The new building, which opened its doors in December 2007, was more than five times larger. Counting the renovations, it cost $24 million. At the time, the JCC raised about half of that, and since then “we’ve been able to whittle that down to just about $8.5 million.” As the debt has dropped, the JCC’s operating budget has gone from $2 million to $6 million annually. “We’ve grown in lots of different ways,” Mr. Kirschtel said.
“We need to raise $3 or $4 million,” he said. “In a perfect world, if you can find me a $10 million donor we can say we’re done.”
While fundraising is harder for an already completed building, “we’ve had 10 years to show the value of what we are to the community,” Mr. Kirschtel said. “We’ve got lots of good stuff going on here.
“We have almost 2,600 membership units — call it around 4,000 members,” he said. “Four years ago we started our early childhood full-day program with 18 kids. We crossed the hundred kids line.”