Communication and Courage
Part of the reimagining also focuses on the relationship that JEWISHcolorado has with the agencies it supports. Previously, it allocated funds to more than 70 organizations. Over the next five to 10 years, it hopes to pare that down considerably so it can work more closely with strategic alliances. Seserman explains that those partnerships benefit the individual agency, allowing it to focus on programming with decreased overhead costs while JEWISHcolorado manages the fundraising efforts. And they allow the community to continue to take advantage of programs that may have otherwise become unavailable.
Communication and courage
The reasoning behind JEWISHcolorado’s reimagining makes sense, but how did the organization pull it off? Anyone who works in the nonprofit world knows supporters can be skittish and that even a new font in a direct-mail package can cause an uptick or downslide in donations.
The two underlying keys, Seserman says, were communication and courage. AJF leadership first vetted the idea for the reimagining to about 300 people at an annual meeting in 2010, addressing the economic downturn and its effect on fundraising, as well as the changes in philanthropy that were looming.
The courage part came, he says, in the form of fearless self-assessment and the ability to actually move forward with the resulting plans.
“We wanted to be on the leading edge of change but not the bleeding edge,” Seserman says. “The change took time; it took brainstorming, looking at options, getting buy-in. In the end, we just had to have the courage to take a shot. We stood a stronger chance of success in the future if we made changes from a position of strength — before our weaknesses made us more vulnerable.”
JEWISHcolorado Marketing Director Danielle Bergstein says one of the biggest challenges was communicating that despite the fact that JEWISHcolorado was taking somewhat of a different direction, it was still the same organization that the community had supported for 67 years.