Federation turns to radio to amplify its public profile

In an attempt to reach more Jews, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation is riding the radio waves.

"You can't keep a low profile anymore. We don't have to. We don't want to," 1998 campaign chair Carol Saal said last week.

It's believed to be the first time the federation has forayed into radio advertising.

The 60-second spots specifically showcase Super Sunday — the annual fund-raising phonathon that will take place on Feb. 1. But the ads are also meant to simply spread the federation's name and priorities.

"Every day in the Bay Area and in communities around the world," the ad says in part, "the federation sponsors services like hot meals for seniors, family counseling, and vocational training and English classes for new immigrants.

"Other programs include feeding elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union, working for peace and tolerance in Israel and providing Jewish culture and education."

The publicity isn't cheap, though.

The two-week blitz on KCBS, KGO and KDFC will cost the federation $18,000 — nearly one-third of the fund-raising campaign's advertising budget of $60,000 this year.

Seth Moskowitz, the federation's assistant executive director who runs the annual campaign, said he believes the price tag is worth it.

"For what we're paying, it's very good coverage on good stations," he said. "On Feb. 1, our guess is that the money spent at this time will more than pay for itself."

About 150 ads are running during daytime hours over the two-week period, which began Jan. 18 and ends tomorrow. KCBS and KGO are news stations on the AM dial. KDFC is an FM station that plays classical music.

In the past, the federation has relied almost exclusively on direct mail and ads in the Jewish Bulletin to promote itself. But those methods only reach Jews already connected to the community, Moskowitz said.

"We need to get to the other people," he said. "We do great work and nobody knows what we're doing."

The federation's name already shows up sporadically on radio and television stations that run public service announcements at no cost to nonprofits. The federation also has occasionally received space on radio and TV community calendars.

But federation leaders wanted a more controlled, consistent and intense advertising run.

"I have personally felt for a very long time that going to the mainstream media gave us much more exposure to the Jewish community that isn't already plugged in," Saal said.

"People aren't necessarily automatically connected to the Jewish community like the last generation was. Radio is a very cost-effective way to reach into the general Jewish community."

Despite the move to radio, television isn't next. The cost is considered prohibitive.

The S.F.-based federation plans to use indirect and anecdotal evidence to decide if its radio ads are worthwhile.

On Wednesday of last week, for example, the federation received 73 responses to a campaign letter it had sent out in December. The pledges totaled $20,000.

Such an "abnormally high" response rate more than a month after the mailing, Moskowitz said, may be attributable to greater awareness due to the recent radio ads.

The cost of the radio ad would have been higher if two local federation donors hadn't help assemble it free of charge.

Betsy Rosenberg, who produces "Trash Talk" on KCBS, donated her voice for the spot. George Youngerman, who runs Tuna Productions, volunteered his time to create it.

Rosenberg said she felt honored to be asked. "I care so deeply about issues of concern to the Jewish community," she said.

Super Sunday primarily targets past donors who haven't responded yet to the 1998 campaign's direct mailing that seeks a pledge. Super Sunday is expected to raise at least $1.5 million this year.