The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles had a super Super Sunday, ringing up pledges of $4.5 million, or $800,000 more than last year.
"The volunteers were amazing, and, to tell you the truth, it was raining and more people were at home," said Craig Prizant, senior vice president of financial resource development for The Federation. "I think people are really feeling positive about what we're doing."
Super Sunday's strong showing comes on the heels of The Federation raising $1 million more in the 2003 General Campaign than one year earlier, he said.
In both instances, the improving economy made people more willing to open their wallets, Prizant said. But changes in the way The Federation raises money also has helped.
During Super Sunday, volunteers and staff spent more time on the phone discussing, in depth, The Federation's various programs, Prizant said. Armed with the information, potential donors felt more comfortable as they knew the ways the money would benefit Jews both here and abroad, he said.
Prizant also credited the new lay leadership at The Federation for Super Sunday's success. Federation chair Harriet Hochman, General Campaign chair Laurie Konheim and Women's Campaign chair Sharon Janks worked tirelessly, personally greeting volunteers and making everyone feel at home. The trio also knows many of the big machers in the community and leveraged their contacts to help raise additional money, Prizant said.
An estimated 400 volunteers worked at The Federation's office in midtown, another 400 staffed phones in the San Fernando Valley and 300 participated in the South Bay.
In Los Angeles, a coffee cart from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf was wheeled around so volunteers could take a break, catch up with friends and network. The mood was festive, but focused.
In the Valley calling stations circled three rows deep around the George Gregory Family Gymnasium at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills. Teens ran completed pledge sheets from volunteers placing calls to those entering the donations on laptops set up around the gym, dodging brimming food carts along the way.
At 11:30 a.m., the scoreboard high above the crowded gym floor flashed the day's first tally of more than $200,000. At 9 p.m., The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance closed Super Sunday with $1.7 million in donations, exceeding last year's total of $1.58 million.
Many of the 1,000 volunteers who braved the rain throughout the day were pleased to discover that the inclement weather ensured more people were home to take the call.
"Rain is good," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who was among four public officials placing calls at the Valley location. "Maybe that's the contribution from a higher power to The Jewish Federation."
City Councilman Dennis Zine, whose 3rd District is home to both the Valley Alliance and Jewish Home for the Aging, scored a substantial gift for The Federation early on.
"A donor who had given $1,000 in 2003 gave $10,000 this year," he said.
Sitting next to Zine, 2nd District City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel took pledges while her newborn son, Thomas, sat in her lap chewing on the phone cord.
"This is my first time. I'm so impressed with the number of people here," she said. "My son is going to be raised Jewish and I'm looking forward to being part of this community."
"Super Sunday has become not just a fundraising enterprise, it's really the community reconnecting with itself in a fundamental way," said 3rd District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was doing double duty after opening the day at 6505 Wilshire. "This is the organized Jewish community reaching out and touching individual Jews and Jewish families in our community."
For Carole Koransky, this year marks her 20th Super Sunday and her first as the Valley Alliance's new executive director, having started the position on Feb. 2.
"We finished a really great campaign in the Valley in 2003, and we're just primed to jump even higher," she said. "We know how much is needed and how much we have to do, and we feel we are in really good shape to be doing it."
"Our general campaign last year was $7.2 million from the Valley Alliance," Valley Alliance President Ken Warner said. "We're hoping to beat that, to get to an $8 million figure, which we'll be thrilled with."
With the state facing a budget shortfall this year, Warner expects that the increase will likely go toward helping to make up for cuts in social service funding.
"We're trying the best we can to pick up as much of that slack as possible," he said.