The HIAS Membership Department was responsible for running fundraising appeals through the mail. These fundraising appeals were known at the agency as membership campaigns. In today’s blog post, we’ll take a look at what was involved in organizing and executing a campaign, using the records of the 1993 Los Angeles appeal as a kind of case study.
In June of 1993, Carolyn Agress, Director for Membership Services & Women’s Division, wrote to HIAS board member Judith Sommerstein to follow up on their conversation at the recent Annual Meeting. It seems they had discussed membership campaigns, with Sommerstein expressing interest in participating.
In the letter, Agress explained how these campaigns worked:
- The Membership Department would first provide the board member with a copy of the solicitation letter (the “ask”) for that year.
- The board member would edit the solicitation letter if they saw fit, in order to tailor it to the concerns and issues of their community. The final version would be signed by the board member.
- The board member would provide HIAS with the names and addresses of personal and professional contacts they wanted to solicit.
- HIAS would add these names to the list of members in the board member’s geographical region.
- HIAS would have the letters printed and sent out, along with a membership dues form and a return envelope.
Letter from Agress to Sommerstein:
This appears to be the solicitation letter Agress included, sent back with Sommerstein’s comments on front and back:
The records include memos and notes about the logistics of carrying out the campaign, such as this one dated August 18, 1993:
On August 19th, Agress sent Sommerstein another copy of the solicitation letter, which Sommerstein sent back with comments:
(It was not typical that HIAS would request comments on the solicitation twice; this seems to be an aberration, or we may just not have all the information about what happened.)
This appears to be the final draft of the text:
The letters that actually went out included the name and address of the member, as well as a personal salutation, as in the earlier draft. HIAS provided the printing company with a copy of the board member’s signature to place in the closing.
In September, the Membership Department sent Sommerstein an update on the results of the campaign. Many of the campaign files contain computer reports on how the campaign did, and sometimes multiple updates would be sent to the board member, but for Los Angeles in 1993, there’s just this one:
The last step was for the Membership Department to send thank you letters for the donations, whether from a new or renewing member.
Then the next year, the whole process would be repeated, with the board member adding new names to their list, and often crossing out those of any friends who had passed away. Not all board members participated in campaigns year after year, but many did. Those records are very interesting for learning about board members’ devotion to the mission of HIAS, the relationships of mutual respect they developed with Carolyn Agress and other staff, and the tireless efforts to craft the most effective “asks” possible.
Archival documents referenced in this post may be found in the 104 Los Angeles campaign files under Development—Membership—Campaigns. Final box number will most likely be 0297.