My name is Ken Karp. I am your 2006 Pledge Chair. Thank you Val, Dan and Sue for your inspiring words. Valarie, you spoke on the meaningfulness of the Ethical Culture Sunday School program. Your perspective is simultaneously one of a Sunday school parent and our Sunday School Director. You put tremendous energy into the Society. Just as you help sustain the Society, you told us tonight how the Society sustains you and your family. Dan, you imparted a passion for social justice that resonates with many of our members. Social action and social justice are hallmarks of the Bergen Society and the larger Ethical Culture movement. The Social Action Committee is invigorated by your chairmanship. Sue, as the mother of two third-generation Ethical Culturists, you shared with us – your extended family – stories of nurture, support and joy that have often been repeated in our 52-year history as a Society. You and your family ARE the very personification of Ethical Culture.
You all reminded us of some of the definitions of “community”. Thank you all for sharing your feelings and participating so personally in tonight’s event. The three of you have provided the perfect introduction to tonight’s Commitment Dinner theme: Living Your Values with Ethical Culture.
Recap from last year
Before we get to that, let me give you a quick review of last year’s campaign and its results, which I informally refer to as the “jump up” campaign. In preparation last year, we analyzed the distribution of our member pledges across the seven levels you see on this graph. The blue bar at the far left shows that 49 members pledged at the $250 minimum level or lower in 2004; this bar shows that 28 pledged between $250 and $375; and so on, all the way up to 11 extremely generous members who pledged more than $1000 in 2004. These are, by the way, as always, individual member pledges, not combined for a couple. We showed this pledge distribution graph (with 2004 numbers only) at this event last year and included it in last year’s pledge packet. We then challenged the membership to “jump up” to the next level.
The results are in, and they show much generosity. The teal colored bars show the 2005 pledge distribution. You can see that while 49 members pledged at or below minimum in 2004, only 32 members pledged at that level in 2005. Where did they go? They went UP. Look at the next three levels, which represent $251 through $625. Combined, these three levels increased by a count of 19 members. In other words, the first 2004 bar dropped by 17; the next three bars increased by 19 members in 2005. Minimum pledgers met the challenge and jumped to the next level. Folks at the middle and higher levels of giving also rose to the occasion. The decrease of 10 here became an increase of 10 here. And note that the number of fortunate members in our generous over-$1000 club increased by 2. Wow!
Three generous members jumped two levels, and one truly inspired member jumped 3 levels! I tip my hat to you especially. Our average pledge nudged up to over the $500 mark. You, the membership, responded to our appeal. You all deserve a round of applause.
Theme for this year
This year’s pledge campaign theme is living your values through Ethical Culture. As we heard from our three esteemed members who spoke earlier, the Bergen Ethical Culture Society is a community. Many of us are members of, or contribute to, worthy causes around the world: friends of the library, local or major museums, public broadcasting, disaster, medical and poverty relief locally and abroad. Most are excellent and deserving charities, and continued support is to be encouraged.
Keep in mind as you plan your year’s contributions that you and those near you also deserve relief. You and yours may not be impoverished and may not have suffered a natural disaster. But you worked hard; you raised a family in trying times and among a sometimes ethically perilous landscape; you continue to struggle to follow your moral compass. You, too, get sick, physically and otherwise, and need emotional succor.
The Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County plays this role in your life. On the one hand, you may snooze through committee meetings. You may suffer the incessant solicitations to perform small duties … greeter, envelope stuffer, phone caller. You may toss a partially read Focus on the recycling pile once in a while. As we heard earlier, though, you are in a community here at Ethical.
This Society provides nurture and sustenance.
10% – Why we need it
Here are our familiar budget pie charts, refreshed for 2006. The top chart shows our cost of doing business as a Society. Most of the pie represents things we NEED to pay for, infrastructure items, if you will. Because we need a leader, we need to compensate that leader, so one slice is Leader Compensation. Because we need to meet for Platforms, Sunday School, social events and the like, we need a building; there’s a slice that represents the annual cost of building maintenance. Because we need to be part of a national organization we pay AEU dues. Because we need to stay in contact with each other, we incur Focus expenses such as printing and distribution costs. Because we need to develop our children as moral, ethical social contributors, we pay a Director of Religious Education and incur other associated Sunday School expenses. Because we need to expand our programs and improve our internal communication and coordination, we need an Administrative Director who, by the way, draws a salary.
There’s a s thin blue slice of $9,800 for 2006. This represents our Committee expenses. Things like adult education, family programming, festivals, Platforms, membership drives, promotions, publications, social actions, social affairs and youth activities. These are the things that truly cement our community. Look at how thin that slice is compared to the rest of the pie … it’s less than 6%. This is the slice where we really want to pack some extra whallop.
The bottom chart shows how we expect to pay for these things in 2006. Because we maintain our building so well, we’re able to realize significant income from it. Thanks to some very dedicated members like Gus and Azar, who contributed enormously to putting together tonight’s event, and many others at different times, we bring in a pretty good amount of money in Fund Raisers. We have a few additional smaller sources of revenue, but far and away the largest source of income comes from you, our membership, in the form of pledges. Our lofty goal for 2006 is $85,900, which reflects about 4% over what we expect to collect for the 2005 campaign just ending.
A special thanks to Perry Stein, husband of member Beth Stein, and his partner David of P & D Display Graphics of Ridgefield. They donated both the time and materials for these effective graphics.
In a few minutes the table captains will hand out your pledge packets, including a 2006 pledge form for each member. Please fill it out, sign it and return it to your table captain before you leave tonight. The captains will provide return envelopes as required. Pledges received tonight and before the end of this month are vital, both to our cash flow and our ability to gauge how we will fare fiscally in our upcoming budget year. If necessary, you may take home your pledge forms and return them before our end-of-February deadline. For the convenience of those who need to do this, ask your table captains for self addressed stamped envelopes, which they have ready. But all members are urged to return the form tonight.
As you ponder your pledge amount, consider all that was said tonight regarding community, nurture and support, and how Ethical Culture gives back to its members. Here is this year’s challenge: For those in a financial position to do so, we are asking you to raise your pledge by 10%. If you’re currently a minimum pledger, 10% comes to $25 per year; less than the minimum membership amount for many cultural charities. If you’re at $500, 10% is $50. This is still not a lofty sum, and for those on firm financial footing, surely it is affordable. For those at $1000, the additional $100 will be put to excellent use.
I said earlier that our 2006 goal is 4% above last year, so why are we asking for 10%? Because the reality is, a number of members are not in a position to meet this challenge. When we consider members we’ve spoken with and seen around the Society, or heard news of throughout the year, we know that some of us can’t afford to raise pledges. Some are ill, unemployed or insolvent. A small number of our members are given a hardship allowance due to their personal financial situations. Another number, not on hardship, still can’t afford to raise their pledge. We can’t ask those folks to make a greater sacrifice. By raising our pledge by 10%, those of use who can afford to, will sustain those who can’t, while at the same time allowing our community to flourish and grow.
That said how much do you think the average synagogue or church family in Bergen County gives in membership dues? It’s hard to find out such information, but can pass along some hear-say for you to consider. A Cliffside Park synagogue, I heard through a friend, has a minimum pledge of $400 per member, with expectations up from there. I found a specific synagogue in west-central Massachusetts that has published its dues on its internet site: their fixed dues are $770 for an individual, $1100 for a family. Also, I found some churches with dues that are lower than our average. We’re not at the bottom, but we’re certainly not at the top.
So, how do we know, how do you know, how to set a pledge amount. It’s a very personal question. First of all, if you truly can’t afford to pay more than the $250 minimum, don’t. If you truly can’t afford to pay anything, don’t. The Board of Trustee policy is to not consider a person’s ability to pledge as a condition for membership. It’s those of us who can afford it, who are financially secure, who must consider meeting the 10% challenge.
YOU are the people I’m addressing tonight. Weigh the value you derive, have derived and will derive from this community. Think about the value to the greater community of programs like B-RAY and our efforts with the Elizabeth Detention Center resulting in the Bergen County Temporary Sanctuary Committee. Think about how we want to continue to attract new members. Think about what you heard tonight regarding family and youth, nurture, support and joy. Think about how the Social Action Committee makes it easy for the powers in government to hear concerns through bus trips and letter writing campaigns. As this community sustains you, help sustain your community. If you can see your way to doing it, raise your pledge by 10%. If that’s too much of a stretch, do what you can … raise your pledge some portion of that. But no matter where you fall on the graph, use your pledge form tonight to pledge to the value of this Society.
Thank you … it’s been an honor to address you. And now, table captains … the envelopes please ….
 Temple Israel Community Center, Cliffside Park, NJ
 Beit Ahavah Reform Congregation of Northampton, MA: http://www.beitahavah.org/member.htm