Fundraising in a Virtual World


How do you run a marathon in a world where “outside” refers to any space in the house beyond one’s bedroom? The Baltimore Jewish community is managing to adapt to this limited world in order to continue fundraisers, and that includes figuring out how to organize a run during a pandemic. [This article ran in the digital issue May 15]

Temple Isaiah, celebrating its 50th year, will host its 16th Annual MatzohBall 5K & 1 Mile Family Fun Run fundraiser virtually from June 7 at 9 a.m. through June 14 at 5 p.m.

Participants will run or walk a 5K or 1 mile course at any safe location or even treadmill, where they can physically distance.

Rabbi Axler and son Noam in Matzohball, (By Eric McCormick)
Rabbi Axler and son Noam in Matzohball, (By Eric McCormick)

Race times can be tracked with a FitBit, Apple Watch, Strava, or MapMyRun. Though there won’t be awards, participants can log and upload race times, which will be posted on the website.

The synagogue asks members to upload training and run photos, race times, maps, or more on social media. They can tag the synagogue using #VirtualMatzohBall.

Registration is free, but donations are welcome. Proceeds benefit the synagogue and its partners DreamBuilders, Grassroots, and HopeWorks.

Over the last several years, the event raised more than $50,000 for these three Howard County charities, according to Lisa and Brian Jolles of the Race Committee.

The synagogue has 540 families, according to Lisa Jolles, president of Jolles Insurance,
who is helping the synagogue with marketing.

“Rabbi [Craig] Axler is a big supporter, and maybe he and Rabbi [Daniel] Plotkin will still do their famous Running of the Rabbis, albeit virtual,” Lisa Jolles said.

Bolton Street Synagogue pivoted its evening fundraiser to a virtual private concert May 9 with about 150 guests.

Daniel Horowitz, chef and owner of The Pantry Catering, created a menu of gourmet meals, which participants picked up, contact-free, at the synagogue. Tom Hall of WYPR emceed the night of entertainment with four professional Baltimore-based musicians ranging in genres from klezmer to folk rock, and the Baltimore Improv Group performed. The evening concluded with an online auction, with procedes benefiting the synagogue.

This event continues a pattern of Bolton Street Synagogue’s switch to online services,
learning, and social programs.

“Bolton Street Synagogue tagline is ‘Doors Wide Open’ and we’ve continued to keep our virtual doors open as we gather in community, comfort each other, and be a presence during this difficult time,” said Rabbi Andy Gordon. “We’ve seen tremendous participation over Zoom, which has deepened our sense of community.”

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was looking forward to its 10th Night of the Stars, an annual fundraiser to support its youth education programs and the E. B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center.

Kevin Pollack from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” would have been the star at the fundraiser.

However, “We were selling tickets,” Annette G. Saxon, director of development, said, “and then we realized, wait, we can’t do this.”

Instead, BHC decided to transform the festive evening into a virtual event, which will include a special surprise.

“Later this month we will send out and email with a flipbook. It’s like a catalogue
that when you click the next page it makes that page turning sound,” she said. “We’ll be
sending that out in a few weeks.” The idea was initiated mid-March. The content of the flipbook is a secret. “There’s some things that I can’t say, but there will be some surprises in this virtual tribute. May the 6th, 2021, will have a nice surprise [we announce] in the virtual tribute,” Saxon said.

In the meantime, the majority of their supporters turned their ticket purchases into donations — nearly 99%, in fact.

“It does your heart good to know these people are stepping up,” said Saxon.

CHANA will move its Mother’s Day Race fundraiser to a platform like Temple Isaiah’s.

Dayna Leder, operations manager, expects 150 people to participate in the virtual race.

Because of the socially distanced remodel, there is not a race packet as usual. However,
everyone who registers will receive a shirt. These will be distributed sometime after the race when it is safe to do so. The shirts are long-sleeved moisture-wicking shirts with the race logo, according to Leder.

The transition to a virtual platform was made early on because Goucher College — CHANA’s original race location — had closed its campus.

“By moving to a virtual platform, we are still able to collect needed funds for our organization and create community for those who are participating,” said Leder. “This race has grown so much over the past few years that we didn’t want to lose the momentum and
our community has been amazingly generous and supportive.”

This is particularly important in a time where, Leder confirmed, CHANA has seen an uptick in people who need its services.

Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School usually comes together to support Spotlight, an annual scholarship fundraiser.

The fundraiser usually provides financial aid for more than 50% of the student population. Unable to gather, BT is asking the community to support the Beth Tfiloh Scholarship Relief Fund instead.

“We were well underway with this year’s event plans until the COVID-19 crisis hit,” said Mandi Miller, director of institutional advancement. BT decided to go forward with its fundraising efforts because the school is dependent on these funds, particularly this year.

“What’s really unique is we also need to fund the unexpected financial needs of families hit by COVID-19, families who never needed financial aid will need it,” Miller said. “We also realized the community needs an uplifting event at this time.”

So BT decided to host Spotlight at Home on June 4 at 8 p.m. Director of Education Zipora Schorr and Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg will speak before BT premieres its Spotlight school video. There will also be a surprise student musical performance and a featured entertainer.

“It will look as close to Spotlight as possible, with inspirational speeches, a highly anticipated highlight of school [footage] to show the feel and flavor of the school, and then a compilation of student performances, and then professional entertainment,” Miller said.

There will also be live fundraising with something like a thermometer to track the night’s fundraising.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and caring of our community,” Miller said.

“We’ve received donations from people removed from BT by several steps but want to keep people healthy and connected, and we are so grateful.”

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