WINNIPEG — One of Canada’s best-known and most successful fundraisers is taking charge of this year’s Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Combined Jewish Appeal (CJA) campaign.
Gail Asper was originally supposed to chair the annual campaign last year. She had expected to be able to give the federal government a $105-million cheque in April 2011 from the Friends of the Canadian Human Rights Museum, and the “rest would be up to the government,” she said.
But it didn’t quite turn out that way.
So while Asper now takes charge of the CJA campaign, she will also continue to fundraise for the $350-million museum, the last major project launched by her father, Israel, who died in October 2003.
“I have always been good at multi-tasking,” she said.
Asper said that she has been feeling guilty over the years – while fundraising for the museum – about neglecting her home community. “Winnipeg has a wonderful Jewish community,” she said. “My family and I have enjoyed the many benefits the community has to offer.
“I felt that chairing the CJA campaign would be a good way to reconnect with the community. Considering that the Asper Foundation is the largest donor and I am the foundation’s president, as chair of the campaign, I can get to know better the personnel involved in the community’s governance and fundraising as well as the beneficiary agencies.”
As campaign chair, Asper will be sitting on the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg board, as well as its budgets and allocations committee.
“We are excited that Gail accepted our invitation to chair the committee,” said Elaine Goldstine, the federation’s executive director. “When Gail takes on a job, she gives it 100 per cent.”
Asper, in turn, has nothing but praise for the work of the federation. “I am very impressed by the level of transparency and scrutiny at every level,” she says. “The CJA has a crack team and is an incredibly efficient operation. It is rare to find a fundraising operation where expenses are less 10 per cent of the funds raised.”
The money raised from the campaign has been growing steadily for the pasts several years. Last year, the community contributed $5.4 million, Goldstine said.
“We are anticipating raising more this year, but haven’t yet set a target,” she said. “Super Sunday is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 9, while the Women’s Philanthropy kickoff will be Sept. 10.”
One of Gail Asper’s priorities as CJA chair, Asper said, will be growing the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg Leave More Than Memories Endowment Fund, which her father helped initiate in 1989. The fund, administered by the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, currently has a capital base of $3 million.
“I am a huge believer in the importance of endowment funds,” Asper said. “An endowment fund is a permanent source of funding that can serve as a buffer for regular donors who leave our community or pass away. The best time to build on an endowment fund is when the parent organization is financially stable. This is a perfect time in our community to work on increasing the size of our endowment fund.”
Asper helped create an endowment fund for the Manitoba Theatre Centre. That fund now sits at $12 million – the original goal was $10 million – and last year produced $500,000 in interest for the use by Manitoba’s leading theatre company.
The Women’s Campaign chair for 2012-13 is Beth Goldberg, a veteran community fundraiser who co-chaired the Women’s Campaign 10 years ago. She has been a campaign volunteer for 30 years and recently retired from teaching.
“Beth and Gail make a great team,” Goldstine said.