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Weathering the storm

Federation sets second Super Sunday

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UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey will take to the phones on March 29 for Super Sunday II, an impromptu follow-up to its annual fund-raiser, as the organization tries to boost its annual campaign in the wake of the nation’s economic turmoil.

December’s Super Sunday collected $1,115,566, representing 2,400 donations, 500 more donations than the previous year’s campaign fund-raiser, which brought in $1,095,819. Federation leaders called Super Sunday II a smaller version of the fund-raiser and said its success will be measured not by the number of dollars it brings in but rather by the total number of donations. The goal, said Zvi Marans, UJA-NNJ’s vice president and campaign chair, is to receive at least 600 donations.

Super Sunday “was such a successful day that we wanted to build on that success and create an ongoing fund-raising energy for our campaign,” he said.

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Zvi Marans

Super Sunday II will be broken into a morning and an evening shift, with a break in between. Fifty volunteers are expected for the first shift while organizers hope for 60 in the evening.

“This year’s campaign, to date, has shown us that people understand that there is a local crisis and that if they have the capacity to give, they will reach deeper into their pockets,” Marans said. “We’re optimistic that our local community will rise to the challenge and help us help Jews in need, wherever they may be.”

United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of the North American federation movement, has been examining a new trend among potential donors to give directly to charities rather than to the federation, which would then divide the money as it sees fit. UJA-NNJ is aware of the trend, but Super Sunday donors will not be able to earmark their donation to the annual campaign, Marans said. All donations will feed directly into the annual campaign to be distributed at the federation’s discretion.

“The campaign functions as a Jewish community chest,” Marans said. “There are skilled and dedicated volunteers and professionals who are responsible for allocating the funds.”

This method allows for the money to go where it is most needed, rather than where donors think it is most needed, Marans explained.

“If an individual donates directly, he has little way of knowing if that is the best use of his money,” Marans said. “In addition, the donor has less capability to assessing the efficacy of his contribution. UJA has a better ability to hold agencies and programs accountable for the funds that are being spent.”

How to divide resources among local needs and Israel has been a perennial debate in Jewish philanthropy. According to a UJA-NNJ 2007 tax return, obtained through the Website Guidestar.org, the federation allocated $9,340,105 overseas during the year ending in June 2007, while it allocated $4,360,274 locally. That year included the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the federation’s emergency campaign in response.

“The concept of the annual campaign is to put dollars where they’re most needed,” said Howard Charish, UJA-NNJ’s executive vice president. “There’s no question in 2009 that there’s tremendous need locally, but we’re not going to forget about the needs in Israel or [elsewhere overseas].”

The 2008 annual campaign brought in a total of $13,245,336. As of earlier this week, the 2009 annual campaign, which began in the fall, has raised $4,682,521 from 5,475 donations. Although the campaign is lagging compared to this point last year, Marans said there has been a 3 percent increase among donors who had previously given.

“Because of the economic situation the campaign pace is behind last year,” Charish said. “What we’re trying to do is give the boost that the campaign needs to catch up.”

Because the number of donations rather than the amount will measure the success of Super Sunday II, UJA-NNJ’s leaders are aware that the day could bring in 600 small gifts rather than the large donations they need and still be considered a success.

“Then we are that much ahead of where we would have been if we didn’t have Super Sunday II,” Marans said.

The majority of donations the federation receives are under $1,000, said Allison Halpern, director of donor relations. Even without large contributions, a high number of donors would be “a symbol of strength,” she said.

Super Sunday totals 2006-present
Super Sunday 2009 (Dec. 2008) $1,115,566

Super Sunday 2008 $1,095,819

Super Sunday 2007 $1,381,481.57

Super Sunday 2006 $1,514,892.91

Last year, New Jersey’s 12 Jewish federations banded together to hold Super Sunday on the same day in December. Jacob Toporek, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, said he is unaware of any other federations holding a second Super Sunday, but said UJA-NNJ was “on the right track” with the idea.

“It may be hard to go back to some of these donors but it has to be done,” he said.

Those on the federation’s to-call list are people who have not yet contributed to the 2009 campaign, which includes people who declined to donate during the first Super Sunday. Those who already made donations should not expect calls at the end of the month.

Super Sunday II will be held in UJA-NNJ’s Paramus headquarters, which has been the subject of some controversy in the community because of its price tag of $5 million and additional costs of at least $1.5 million for remodeling. The federation also still owns and maintains its former headquarters in River Edge.

Charish said there are several interested buyers and the building has been shown “extensively,” but he noted the country’s lagging real estate market.

“We are doing everything possible to sell the building in River Edge,” he added. The move, he said, was necessary for the federation’s operations.

“The decision to move to a new building was made many years ago,” Marans said. “The building we were in was woefully inadequate, was considered a significant security risk, and was too small to accommodate the type of community interactions that are essential to a functioning federation.”

Expenses for both buildings are paid from the capital campaign and not the annual campaign, Charish emphasized. The annual campaign solely funds “program services and operations of UJA” and its agencies, he said.

“There’s no question that there’s more need in our community today and we want to be responsive,” he said.

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