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Mes amis, je peux parlez français avec vous tout le temps.

Why, you might ask, am I going to speak French now?

I took French, at my mom’s insistence, from Kindergarten all the way to the University of Pennsylvania. And honestly, I haven’t used it since. (Pardonne-moi, Maman.)

My recently dormant francophonia came about because I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Jewish day school community in Montreal this year. Through the generosity and community support of GEN J and BJEC, seven schools in Montreal are participating in the PEJE Leadership and Fundraising Academy (LFA).  Many times, during my visits to the city, I pulled my French out of the basement, dusted it off, and even dared to exhibit it. Voila!

The ability to translate from one language to another has been a great help in building those ever-important relationships. More importantly: I picked up some new words along the way. Well, new words en anglais. For instance, when talking with the schools about recruiting and training new solicitors for their annual campaigns, I learned that Canadians call solicitors “canvassers.”

And this act of Canadian-in-American English translation has had a serious impact on my work and cultural understanding. Un jour, I was on a trip to Montreal, and I noticed this sign in the lobby of the Federation CJA building where Gen J and BJEC are housed:


Incroyable!” I said—literally said—out loud. (That’s unbelievable! to those of you who were lucky enough to avoid my mother’s influence.)

Now, I’ve seen many signs in Jewish communal spaces—in day schools, federations, synagogues, and JCCs—and am often impressed with the many creative ways we use public space to recognized donors to our community.

But a sign that recognizes Askers? This was a first.

Why exactly it was a first, I don’t know. There’s an old saying: “Work that is recognized is work that gets done”—but if we all believe that, then why don’t we recognize the brave dedicated souls who are out there working their prospects?

How many of you have complained that your Board doesn’t complete assignments or isn’t thrilled to solicit? Now ask yourselves, “Have your recognized their work publicly?”

To answer this, my pal Ken Gordon, PEJE’s social media guy, and I dreamed up five easy ways to recognize the contributions of your solicitors or canvassers:

Un. Give us a sign. Instead of just the campaign thermometer that records dollars raised, add stickers to the thermometer recognized how many solicitations have been done to raise those dollars.

Deux. Thank solicitors weekly in your e-communications. Shine a spotlight on each solicitor once during the year and ask them to answer why they are helping the school this way.

Trois. Party On. Invite all solicitors to a wonderful party in your Board Chair’s home. Exclusivity paired with recognition goes a long way.

Quatre. Call ’em up. Ask 8th graders to call each solicitor once during the campaign and say thank you for all you are doing for our school.

Cinq. Get Clipped. Create a personalized video thanking your solicitor. And if you don’t have an on-staff video person, don’t worry. Some free online tools, such as Animoto, make it easy to create attractive, professional-looking clips for free.

So the French lesson here: while we might all be getting better at thanking our donors, we need to re-evaluate how we are thanking our solicitors/canvassers. Are you doing something creative to thank these good people? Let me know!