By Charles Bernsen
Mailings to thousands of past and potential donors went out last month as the 2017 annual campaign of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee kicked off with the goal of raising a record $2.77 million to fund almost 80 institutions and programs in Nashville, Israel and around the world.
That represents a 10 percent increase over the the 2016 total of $2.5 million, but Dr. Frank Boehm, who chairs the 2017 campaign, has even bigger ambitions.
“Ten percent is the starting point,” he said. “I’d like to see us to do better than that.”
The Federation has identified a number of needs the increase could address – boosting outreach to more Jewish newcomers to Nashville, providing incentive grants for as many as 25 more area youngsters to attend overnight Jewish camp for the first-time, sending more high school students on an immersion trip to Israel through the Get Connected program, providing as many as 1,000 more vouchers to seniors for the Shalom Taxi program, and implementing a new program to aid disadvantaged youth in Hadera-Eiron, Nashville’s Partnership2Gether region in Israel.
“With the Jewish community in this town expanding, all of these are important needs,” Boehm said. “And the Federation is uniquely positioned to meet them.”
Aside from its ambitious goal, the 2017 campaign will be different in another way. In the previous four campaigns, the Federation used a fundraising concept in which up to 80 volunteers were divided into eight to 10 teams who engaged in a friendly competition as they solicited pledges from Bonim Society members, donors whose previous annual gifts range from $1,000 to more than $100,000. The team model developed by the Nashville Federation helped to inject fun and camaraderie into the campaign while increasing commitments and the pace of fundraising. It was one of several local innovations showcased two years ago at the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.
But this year the Federation board felt it was important for its 25 officers and members to take a more active role in the fundraising effort, said Boehm and Naomi Sedek, the Federation’s assistant executive director who oversees all fundraising and development. So for the 2017 campaign, the face-to-face solicitation of the more than 400 Bonim Society members will be done in large part by the board members themselves along with the Federation’s professional staff.
“The participation of leadership sets an example, so we’re asking the board members to step up and make the ask,” Boehm said.
Boehm, vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Vanderbilt University Medical School, is stepping up himself to take on the position of campaign chair despite a busy schedule of volunteer work that includes serving on the Metro Nashville Social Services Board and helping on the endowment drive at The Temple, where he is also chairing a series of town hall meetings this fall.
“That’s what people do in this community. They step up,” said Boehm, who chairs the editorial board of The Jewish Observer and has previously served as Federation president and chair of its Community Relations Committee as well as chair of the Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
In all, the Federation is expecting to receive annual campaign gifts from more than 1,100 donors, including those made on Feb. 12 during the annual Tzedakah Tzunday phone-a-thon, which typically accounts for more than 20 percent of the total number of annual pledges. •