It may not seem like much -- $26.67 in change -- but 'tweens Alex and Miles Beard proved that it's the thought that counts at The Jewish Federation's Feb. 23 Super Sunday phone-a-thon, during which 2,000 volunteers raised more than $4 million from Federation sites in Los Angeles, West Hills, and Torrance.
At The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, Alex, 12, and Miles, 13, arrived at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus with about $27 in coins collected from the family's tzedakah box, earmarked just for the occasion.
Although they might not be "major donors," the pride with which the children handed over their contribution rivaled that of any big macher bestowing a six-figure check. And the Beard brothers did not stop there. They raised nearly $4,000 more on the phones.
"This will go to help Israel and to help families here so they can get some food," Alex said.
The Federation raised more than $4 million this year on Super Sunday, $1 million less than last year's $5 million tally. But organizers say that a new fundraising strategy this year has rendered the single-day total superficial.
According to Craig Prizant, senior vice president of campaign and marketing, the Federation's telemarketing campaign -- which traditionally follows Super Sunday -- started on Feb. 1, well before the phone-a-thon. As a result, about $300,000 in gifts, which in previous years would be closed by volunteers on Super Sunday, were secured before Super Sunday 2003 began. That totals $4.3 million, which, Prizant claimed, could be measured against last year's total because, in years past, donations reaped from the Federation's King David Society (for donors who contribute $25,000 and above) were also folded into the Super Sunday figure. Since this year's King David Society dinner was scheduled for Feb. 27 -- after Super Sunday -- monies raised from this important fundraiser could not be factored into the Sunday figure.
"The numbers are actually pretty comparable to last year," Prizant said of Super Sunday 2003. "These are real numbers. Last year, more high-end donor solicitations that were taken on that day. This year, they have yet to take place."
Add some other varying factors -- one less fundraising session at 6505; longer phone discussions; a drive to raise donations of returning donors -- and The Federation, Prizant said, is pleased with the results of Super Sunday 2003. He added that this year's King David dinner, at 200 attendees, will include 50 more donors than last year's gala.
As a result of the strategic changes, organizers decided to have 2003's tote board reflect the Federation's combined 46 day campaign-to-date numbers instead of the traditional single-day totals. Thus, the goal was to push the overall campaign to $16 million, which actually occurred by 6:35 p.m. -- well before the 9 p.m. last call, when it surpassed $17 million.
Prizant said combining the single-day totals with the overall campaign numbers provided a more accurate fundraising picture.
"It's a simplistic way to look at it [by comparing Super Sunday figures]," Prizant said. "The goal is the level of commitment and the level of the gift. Card for card, it's actually up from last year. Overall, I'm thrilled at where we're at."
Israel, Argentina and Los Angeles' impoverished communities continued to be fundraising priorities for Super Sunday 2003. At the Valley Alliance, the morning was quieter than previous years, with a handful of dignitaries showing up, including City Councilman Alex Padilla, who made the first "official" call and persuaded people -- as only a politician can -- to increase their gifts by $3,000.
Across town at the Federation's 6505 Wilshire Blvd. headquarters, Mayor James Hahn and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo presented contributions to Federation President John Fishel.
Super Sunday Director Rachel Kaufman, site coordinator Jeffrey Prince and United Jewish Fund's Carol Levy kept 6505's stations -- including a Russian-language room -- adrenalized with good cheer and Hershey's chocolates.
Anja Vyas, The Federation's longtime director of donor services, was energized by 6505's young adults session, where Entertainment division co-chair Scott Einbinder, and a Birthright Israel group, led by Council of Jewish Life's Sara Myers, made calls.
First-timer Meredith Fisher Bushman volunteered because, since moving from New York last year, Federation agencies Jewish Vocational Service and Jewish Family Service have provided her with assistance. An hour after the young adults mixer in the Zimmer Children's Museum, an apprehensive Bushman was confidently manning the phones.
"It's so easy," Bushman said. "I was a phone donor manager for KCRW. We raised more in an hour here today than we did there in a day. People are so generous."
Recent Cleveland transplant David Gitson, who now lives in Orange County, said that Jewish Los Angeles is similar to the 80,000-member Jewish community he left behind.
"It's been frustrating," Gitson said. "I've only gotten three [donations]. I think the evening shift is a lot tougher because of the Grammys, it's Sunday night, people don't want to be disturbed."
But Gitson would rather be making mitzvahs than making pizza bagels and jeering Eminem.
"It's great to see so many people here tonight," Gitson said.
"We want to deepen our involvement," said Danielle Swartz, who participated with husband Michael Swartz.
It was fundraising as usual, as Monica Lozano joined her fellow female professionals at Kolot's phone banks because, "I like to do as much as I can."
Harold Ginsburg, Super Sunday chair, was hopeful that tzedakah would prevail.
Federation Chair Jake Farber remained optimistic, noting that The Federation raised $42.5 million for the capital campaign and $20 million for Jews in Crisis during the fiscally dismal 2002.
More than money, it is the act of helping others that Super Sunday is really about, and Padilla commended Los Angeles' Jewish community for having "one of the best organized efforts, not only in terms of fundraising, but in terms of the quality of the programming.
They are filling needs that city and state government aren't filling,"Padilla said.
"You hear a lot about Los Angeles not being a connected community," said Federation Young Leadership Director Jonathan Shulman. "I don't really see that at all. Today proves that."
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