Friday, February 4, 2000 | return to: news & features


Federation’s Super Sunday is now CyberSunday, too

by andy altman-ohr, Bulletin Staff

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The first Super Sunday of the new century is going where no Super Sunday has gone before -- into cyberspace.

For the first time ever, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's annual fund-raiser, which is set for this Sunday, is going to have its own Web site.

But please note: The address for the site is -- with the emphasis on dot-org. Those who mistakenly type in a dot-com ending will end up on a site for sports fans who like to gamble on football games.

And since the NFL season culminated with Super Bowl Sunday last weekend, the football site will be virtually useless, whereas the JCF's site will be on the ball and up-to-the-minute.

"Our goal at federation is to reach out to as many people as possible in the community -- and this is the next tool for us to make that possible," said Cindy Rogaway, the JCF's associate campaign director. "It's a whole new venture for us and we're really excited about it."

As approximately 1,000 volunteers -- about 80 percent of them stationed at Super Sunday headquarters in the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco -- seek donations by phoning thousands of Jews around the Bay Area, those online at home can participate in several ways:

*Viewing Webcam photos of Super Sunday volunteers and JCF staff workers that will change every 2 to 10 seconds. Photos taken by someone roaming around with a digital camera will also be placed on the site.

*Getting continual updates on the total amount of money that has been raised. The goal is to surpass last year's total of $1.7 million and maybe even hit the $2 million mark.

*Making a contribution to the JCF online by using a credit card or phoning the Super Sunday call-in number, (415) 345-0061.

*Reading quotes from volunteers working the phones, and other anecdotes about what is happening at what organizers call the biggest single-day fund-raiser in the Bay Area.

"Having a live Web site is quite a big step," said Larry Kluger, a Super Sunday volunteer and a technical consultant who helped set up the site. "It's something that is a whole new area for the federation, and we really believe we're taking the lead [nationally] in this area."

Organizers also toyed with the idea of putting a few hours of the JCF's 19th annual Super Sunday on live TV this year but negotiations with Channel 36 in San Jose were only exploratory.

"We looked into it but there were a lot of complications. It takes more time to plan and costs a lot of money," Rogaway said. "We'll still look at it for next year, though."

Organizers also explored doing a Webcast, producing a picture that changes at least once per second and gives the impression of a continuous motion picture, albeit a slow-moving, frame-by-frame one. That, however, cost "tens of thousands of dollars," according to one consultant, so the organization settled on a Webcam -- at least for this year.

"Next year, I'd look for something more elaborate," said Nick Allen, a Super Sunday volunteer and Web camera consultant. "But this year will be great, too. People will be able to go to the site and see pictures of their friends and family making phone calls. Plus it'll be good quality. We're using the Rolls Royce of Webcams."

The Webcam -- which can zoom, tilt, pan and create special effects -- will take pictures automatically about every five seconds.

"It's very effective in giving people a sense of what's going on because it's live and it's being updated," Kluger said. "The page will automatically refresh to show the latest pictures and the latest totals."

Those interested -- be they friends or relatives of volunteers, curious onlookers, or volunteers themselves who either haven't worked their shifts yet or are back at home -- can go to any time during Super Sunday, which lasts from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Kluger and others are eagerly anticipating measuring the number of hits.

Volunteers -- more than 100 of whom signed up on the Web site -- are divided into five shifts, and the goal is to call 10,000 Jews in the federation's service areas of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.

The most vital shift is the final one from 5 to 9 p.m., a time when a lot of potential donors are expected to be at home.

Many of those phoned will have already donated to JCF's campaign 2000, which had raised $11.9 million through Jan. 26. The overall goal for this year's campaign, which concludes at the end of June, is $21.65 million.

The 1999 campaign raised a record $21 million, of which about 8 percent flowed in on Super Sunday. Money raised goes to Jewish agencies, programs and services in the Bay Area and overseas.

"A lot of [donors] wait for their call on Super Sunday, which sounds corny, but it's really true," Rogaway said. "When we reach them, they say, 'Oh, I figured you'd call today.'"

Last year, about 7,200 people out of the 10,000 people solicited on Super Sunday made donations, which is an impressive 72 percent. In addition to the JCC of S.F., volunteers also staff the phones at the Albert L. Schultz JCC in Palo Alto.

And when people make pledges, they almost always follow through. "We have one of the lowest default rates in the country, not just on Super Sunday but all year long," Rogaway said. "It's less than 1 percent. People are serious about their commitments to us."

Meanwhile, JCF's army of volunteers and staffers is serious about Super Sunday. Rogaway said she and several others have been working from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. most nights the past several weeks.

"There has been a lot of excitement and a lot of tired faces," she said.

And thanks to modern technology, some of those tired (but smiling) faces will be pictured on the Web Sunday.

Other Bay Area Stories:

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