Cover Story: All for One
The effects of attrition finally came to a head last year when, at the demand of its member federations, the umbrella group implemented an 8 percent budget cut, followed in April by an 18 percent cut, which included staff layoffs and an accompanying reduction in dues for most federations.
Executive Vice President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington Misha Galperin had noticed the effects of attrition in his locality for years.
"Our population in particular is very mobile … because we have a very significant influx of people here all the time," Galperin says. "Only about 15 percent of our donors are native Washingtonians."
He hired Marsha Sussman as managing director of marketing, communications and direct response to address the issue.
Sussman, now an independent consultant for the federation and president of Response Concepts in Bethesda, Md., is an expert in building donor bases, and acquisition and retention. She hit the ground running and built models to look at the attrition rate of donors and the impact of acquisition over one year, two years, etc., to analyze what the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington needed to do to turn the pattern of attrition over and grow its base. One thing she found out was that a declining donor base wasn't an issue in D.C. alone but rather a major problem for all of the North American federations.
"This is not an isolated problem," Sussman says. "It is a real problem for many organizations, that people are moving nationally. They're really great, they're a dedicated donor and then they move to another city. The question is what do you put in place so that when someone moves to this new city, you don't lose them out of your system. You don't lose them as a donor.