2016 JFed Annual Campaign reached $9.56 million

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

Jewish Federation of St. Louis raised $9.56 million during its 2016 fundraising campaign, according to the organization.

That represents a 2.3 percent increase from 2015, when it raised $9.33 million. 

The nonprofit last year shortened its Annual Campaign from more than 16 months to 100 days in part because of a decrease in the number of donors over the past two decades, leaders of the organization said.

Despite the fact that the number of donors went down this time after having increased slightly the year before — 4,390 donors in 2016; 4,614 donors in 2015; 4,493 in 2014 —  the chair of the campaign said he thinks changing the duration of the campaign was the right move and that the organization plans to stick with it.

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“It allows us to really keep our eye on the ball, to keep our energy levels up, and focus on reaching our goals,” said Tim Stern, who chaired the Federation campaign. “When you shorten that time frame, you are able to focus that much more.”

He also pointed to an increase in the number of first-time donors — 192 to 222 — as reason for deeming the campaign a success. The organization also nearly reached its goal of $9.7 million.

Federation supports a variety of local Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council and the St. Louis Jewish Light, as well as Jewish day schools and organizations that help abroad such as the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

“We have a lot to be proud of. We are happy but not satisfied” with the fundraising campaign, said Stern. “We have got some work to do to continue moving the momentum in the right direction.”

Stern attributes the decrease in the number of donors to the fact that the organization may have missed people who usually give in the first quarter of the year. Last year, the 100 days campaign did not start until August.

In response, the organization has already sent out mailers about the organization, made thank you calls and is holding a donor appreciation event this week.

Federation President and CEO Andrew Rehfeld emphasized that the growth of the annual campaign had beaten the inflation rate for the past two years — something he said had not happened in decades.

As to the decrease in the total number of donors, he pointed to the increase in the number of donors from younger generations but he also acknowledged the aging donor base. In 2013, he said, Federation had 320 donors from the “Greatest Generation,” who were born before 1925; this year, there were 140 donors from that group.

“If you just look at the total number of donors, we are losing the luminaries of our community, people that have devoted their lives to giving significantly,” he said.

But he is optimistic about the growing number of Generation X and millennial donors, the 100-day campaign approach and Federation’s work in the community.

“Every one of those numbers links to an individual: a meal that is served to someone who couldn’t eat; a roof that is put over the head of someone who otherwise wouldn’t have it, a connection to a senior here” in the Federation’s Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) program “or in Ukraine or Eastern Europe or investing in the security of the Jewish people, either through our support of Israel or through the [local] communal security,” he said.