JCC MetroWest hosts gala without a gala

JCC MetroWest hosts gala without a gala

No dinner or speeches, but a request to stay home and write a check

JCC MetroWest board chair Larry Rein suggested that this year’s major fund-raiser be a cost-cutting stay-at-home affair.
JCC MetroWest board chair Larry Rein suggested that this year’s major fund-raiser be a cost-cutting stay-at-home affair.

In this season of galas and fund-raisers and, for some community activists, a gathering every night of the week, JCC MetroWest decided to offer a different approach.

Instead of munching on appetizers, listening to a speech (or three), and handing out awards, the JCC is encouraging members to stay home — and write a check.

In a mailing to members, the leadership wrote, “To avoid the expense of a traditional gala, we ask you to please stay home, dress comfortably, and ‘attend’ our No-Show Gala by making a valuable contribution” to the JCC or one of its programs. 

The no-tux, no-fuss event continues through June.

It was unfamiliar territory for Larry Rein, who is in his second year as chair of the JCC MetroWest board.

“I said, ‘Let’s do something different this year,” said Rein, who has played a leadership role in a number of community organizations. “I’ve heard about other organizations doing it, but for us it’s unique — something we’ve never done before.”

He; event cochairs Barbara Birnbaum, Toby Cooperman, and Amelia Perlstein; and the other organizers working with the JCC staff have had to feel their way, shaping the message as they go.

They acknowledge the approach leaves out the pleasure (and perhaps pressure) of socializing with fellow supporters of a cause, but — in addition to meeting up at the JCC for their usual activities — they have been seeing a lot of each other. As Rein said, “This time of the year, there is event after event, for organization after organization.”

Supporters are invited to earmark their gifts for the programs they value most, from $5,000 for five Camp Deeny Riback scholarships to $36 for six Jewish books at the JCC’s Early Childhood lending library.

Rein pointed out that this tailored approach is a trend in fund-raising. The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, of which JCC MetroWest is a partner agency, and many of its other affiliates provide a range of opportunities for individuals to target their giving. 

The JCC is already involved in another version of this concept. The annual UJA Campaign Benefit Concert, traditionally at NJ Performing Arts Center in Newark — the last one was held May 17 — is being replaced with smaller concerts designed to support individual agencies. JCC MetroWest was chosen as one of the first three agencies to hold such benefits, in 2016.

“Obviously, there’s a great value in coming together to celebrate face to face, but sometimes — every now and then — it makes lots of sense to take a different approach,” said Alan Feldman, the JCC’s chief executive officer. “This way, you know that 100 percent of your contribution will go to supporting whatever is special to you. Our programmatic bandwidth is very broad, and every gift is significant.”

Rein said he doesn’t expect to raise as much as last year, but with all the expense spared, organizers are hoping it’s enough to validate the approach. “It could be half what we brought in last year. If it’s more, I’ll be thrilled,” he said. “And maybe next year, we’ll go back to the face-to-face way.”

For more information, call Pam Santos at 973-530-3991, or go to jccmetrowest.org/noshowgala. Checks can also be mailed to JCC MetroWest, 760 Northfield Ave., West Orange, NJ 07052.

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