During the 1980s and 1990s, the HIAS Membership department conducted a variety of mailings every year to solicit contributions from new and existing members.
Membership campaigns are important because they are a source of revenue and because a strong membership base strengthens our voice.
-from a Membership committee report
There were two different types of campaigns:
- Board member / Membership department joint campaigns
- Membership department-only campaigns
Let’s take a closer look.
Board member / Membership department joint campaigns
These types of campaigns were commonly referred to at HIAS as “Board member campaigns,” but that name is a little misleading because it implies the board member ran the campaign or was in charge of the campaign. In fact, these campaigns were run by the Membership department with the assistance of a board member. The Membership department would get the campaign going, draft a solicitation letter, work with a printing firm on the letter and inserts, manage the mailing list, send out thank yous, and bear the costs.
Board members varied in terms of how much assistance they provided for their campaigns. Some got very involved, running through multiple drafts of the campaign letter, weighing in on various details of the mailing, strategizing with staff on how to get better returns, passing valuable information to HIAS, requesting regular updates on how the campaign was doing, and analyzing the results. Other board members did little more than provide their signature for the bottom of the letter.
There were four kinds of Board member / Membership department joint campaigns:
- Trade / Professional
In 1994, a committee of the board described the campaigns in a report:
- “Running a Federation membership campaign is not difficult; basically it involves encouraging your local federation to allow a campaign – the [HIAS] office does all the work. If it is not possible to do a federation campaign,
- A personal campaign can also be effective – you just need to submit a list of names to the [HIAS] office – again, most of the work is done there.
- Trade or business: Almost all of us are involved in a profession or business – obtaining a list of colleagues really should not be too hard, and is very productive.
- A campaign through your Synagogue, asking permission of the Rabbi and generally following the same procedure as the other kinds of campaigns, is also very productive.”
Membership department-only campaigns
The Membership department also ran mailings on its own, without the involvement of board members. Here are some of the kinds of campaigns they ran:
- HIAS clients
- Lapsed members
- Big Givers (over $250)
- Holidays: Chanukah, Passover, Purim, Rosh Hashana
- National Council
- New York UJA
- Gift Membership
These campaigns tended to be larger and more lucrative than Board member / Membership department joint campaigns.
Archival documents referenced in this post may be found under Development—Membership—Subjects in the folder “Membership Campaign Reports and Records, 1976-1996.”