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Becoming a Better Fundraiser & Manager

It’s incredibly important to me that I do everything in my power to strengthen our Federation’s mission of caring for Jews in need, engaging with the community and ensuring the Jewish future. That means not only becoming a more effective leader, but learning how to foster stronger relationships with donors who deeply understand the impact of our work and can take ownership in the impactful things we accomplish together.  And, of course, it means procuring the kind of gifts that will allow us to continue supporting our work for years to come, by increasing the level of our donors’ financial investment in what we do.

When I was nominated, and later accepted, into Fundraising University, I knew it was a tremendous step toward achieving my professional goals. Offered to a select group of senior development professionals, Fundraising University is a program of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) that provides comprehensive training in leadership, setting goals, fundraising strategies and strategic management.

When the program launched last August in New York, I was one of 18 participants from Jewish Federations across the U.S. uniting for a common cause—to help strengthen the fundraising of our individual organizations in support of the Jewish community and Jewish future we all share. We began our journey together learning about the overall Federation system and how it continues to evolve and change. We also worked on enhancing our leadership skills, examined case studies and assessed our professional presentation abilities. In addition, we discovered the value in making individual monthly fundraising and strategic management goals.  Every month since August, we have touched base with one another to see how our newfound knowledge is taking off and to help each other reach our goals. I am incredibly honored to be a part of this cohort as we challenge one another and rekindle our shared passion for the jobs that we do in our local Federations. 

Just over a week ago, Fundraising University met once again in-person for an “Israel Immersion Experience,” traveling to the Holy Land and touring sites from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the Negev, where we received additional training and learned from some of Israel’s greatest philanthropic leaders, political figures and scholars. Of course, we also got a close-up look at how our Federations have worked together to make a difference in the Jewish State.

Before I arrived in Israel, the group visited Sheatufim (the Israel Center for Civil Society), where they heard from Executive Director Shlomo Dushi and Professional Director Debra London on “Israeli Philanthropy: A Growing Community.” They also heard from representatives from The Lautman Foundation, Committed to Give (a philanthropic-driven initiative to expand private Israeli philanthropy in Israel), and The Gandyr Foundation, to learn about chartering new grounds in social fields and creating new funding partnerships. In addition, the group had the unique opportunity to tour Tel Aviv’s bohemian “Florentine Neighborhood,” where they looked at street signs, graffiti and bumper stickers for insights into contemporary Israeli culture.

One of the highlights of the Israel Immersion Experience was traveling to Yerucham, where we toured Phoenicia Glass Works. The owner, Mort Mandel, is also the author of It’s All About Who You Hire, How they Lead…and other Essential Advice from a Self-Made Leader, a chapter of which Fundraising University participants were encouraged to read before the trip. Mort’s book speaks to the importance of having strong leaders and the difference it makes to the success of an organization. At the glass factory, we were able to see first-hand the olive tree that members of the union planted in Mort’s honor as a thank you for making the glass company a better environment in which to work.

I was similarly moved by our visit to the Shraga Café & Catering Company, which only exists because of a Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) Loan Fund that enabled the cafe’s founders to follow their dream of establishing this company in central Jerusalem. In the last decade, JAFI loan funds have assisted more than 1,000 businesses and have led to the creation of about 5,000 jobs. By supporting our Federation, our donors have essentially played roles in making many people’s career dreams come true.

We also had the opportunity to participate in one of the most moving Shabbat experiences I have ever witnessed at the newly established egalitarian area of the Kotel. After first visiting the Western Wall within the individually designated male and female areas, we joined together as one for an egalitarian Kabbalat Shabbat service. We danced, we sang, we prayed and we made memories that will last a lifetime. I am so fortunate to have welcomed Shabbat with this group from Fundraising University.

While on the trip, we attended lectures and panel discussions at the Shalom Hartman Institute as well, a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people in the goal of elevating the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. In addition, we visited the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, where we looked at text from the Torah to study modern conflict resolution.

My latest visit to Israel with Fundraising University was so unique as I got to share the country with others who deeply understand and connect to the work we do—and it excites me to see what’s going to happen next for all of our Federations locally, and for JFNA on a larger scale.

I look forward to continuing to learn with my other colleagues from across the country as well as implementing what I’ve learned to become a stronger professional and help grow our Federation’s Annual Campaign. Hopefully, as the program culminates this summer, we’ll be able to increase our fundraising and help more people in Los Angeles, Israel and around the world!

John Magoulas is our Federation’s Campaign Director. For more information on this experience, please contact JMagoulas@JewishLA.org.

Fundraising University, a project of the JFNA Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence in partnership with JFNA’s Philanthropic Resources department, was created to inspire, motivate and empower a select community of Jewish Federation professionals. In addition to a year of high-level programming facilitated by JFNA, the program has established a senior fundraising cohort from across the Federation system who regularly collaborate and share strategies to make each other more successful.

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