The numbers are in and the news is very good. For the second year in a row, Hamilton Jewish Federation’s Annual Community Campaign has met its fundraising goal, generating more than $1.8 million for community needs, a $200,000 increase over last year’s total. As the Hamilton Jewish community’s primary fundraising initiative, the Annual Campaign supports vital programs and services delivered by its beneficiary agencies on which hundreds of community members rely. In recent years, Federation has dramatically increased total fundraising with government grants, foundation support, and designated giving. “This year’s fundraising total is a wonderful achievement for Jewish life in Hamilton,” said Federation CEO Gustavo Rymberg. “The entire community will benefit.” Rymberg said that a combination of outstanding volunteer leadership, a strong marketing campaign, strong relationships with donors, and bringing in other sources of revenue all contributed to this year’s unprecedented success.
“We have a very committed campaign cabinet and 60 campaign canvassers who are doing an excellent job communicating the essential work that Federation does,” he said. “People are aware that there are needs in the community and that we’re fulfilling those needs,” he said.
That awareness grew exponentially during the pandemic, when Federation spearheaded efforts to provide food, emotional counselling and financial aid to the most vulnerable members of the Jewish community. The goodwill generated by those efforts translated into 94 new contributions to the campaign and many long-time donors increasing their donations.
“People stepped up for (last year’s) emergency campaign and then continued to give at that high level,” said Campaign Cabinet member David Loewith.
“The communication that Federation has done under Gustavo’s leadership keeps the community informed as to what’s going on,” he added. “When we set goals and meet them, then people are more willing to participate. and as people contribute more, we’re able to do more for the community.”
Included in this year’s Campaign total were provincial and federal government grants and designated gifts from private family foundations for programs and causes that matter most to them. Among the Federation initiatives that received targeted funding are the new JCentre for Wellbeing, a gathering place that offers informal activities, groups, and drop-in programs focused on enhancing mental and physical health, Camp Kadimah scholarships and an expanded program that’s made it possible for the JCC to offer camps during Chanukah, March Break, Passover and PD days, and moving 60 families from the PJ Library waitlist to subscribers, so that 275 families across Greater Hamilton now receive children’s books with Jewish content mailed to their homes. Other new iniitiatives include JWelcome Home, a partnership with Windsor and London that seeks to attract new immigrants to their respective Jewish communities, an expanded Hamilton Jewish Film Festival, and the introduction of a BBYO Hamilton chapter.
“There are a lot of things we never imagined would be possible,” said Rymberg. “It’s hard to give one reason for our success but I think it’s a combination of better communication, and bringing new opportunities to the table. The most important thing is we’re creating honest relationships. We really know what our donors want, and we have more programs for them to support.”