Helping Day Schools Build For The Future
Tue, 08/21/2012
Associate Editor

When the leadership of Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan found out earlier this year about Generations, a pilot project training Jewish day schools in endowments and planned giving, it felt “perfectly timed,” said Liz Freirich, the school’s director of developmentt.

The 140-student Conservative school, long crowded into rented and borrowed space on two separate campuses, had recently moved into its own Upper West Side facility, for which it had successfully completed a capital campaign. But, although an endowment — a corpus of money that accumulates interest income each year — is increasingly considered key to assuring a private school’s long-term financial sustainability, Schechter Manhattan had only a $130,000 fund established by a single family.

“We know we’re here for the long term, and building an endowment will enable us to ensure long-term excellence and accessibility,” Freirich said.

Schechter Manhattan is one of seven area day schools that have been selected to receive three years of endowment training, coaching and other assistance through Generations, a pilot project run by the Boston-based Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education in partnership with UJA-Federation of New York’s department of planned giving and endowments.

(Funded with a $3.1 million grant from the Avi Chai Foundation, Generations is also operating in Los Angeles and Baltimore, in collaboration with local Jewish institutions.)

The project’s goal: for each school to raise $4,000-$6,000 in endowment dollars per student after three years and up to $20,000-$30,000 in endowment dollars per student after 10 years.

The project focuses on a handpicked group of relatively established schools, all of whom were required to have “an experienced professional development director,” a “respected and inspiring lay-professional team” and a “track record of successful face-to-face solicitations.”

In tandem with the project, UJA-Federation also recently launched a yearlong “Leadership and Fundraising Academy” for six other day schools, which will be matched with consultants and participate in five daylong training sessions.

“These schools are not at the same stage of development as the schools in the Generations program, but we’re trying to get them to the point where they eventually could” launch successful endowment campaigns, said Bill Samers, UJA-Federation’s vice president of planned giving and endowments.

While schools had to apply and be selected for Generations and LFA, the federation is also offering one-time training sessions open to all interested schools, including an introduction to planned giving that was held last week.

The Generations participants are in varying stages of development —some, like the 900-student Solomon Schechter of Westchester, which already has a $15 million endowment, are looking to grow existing endowments, while others are starting from scratch. Still others, according to Diane Scherer, the program manager, “tried to start endowment campaigns a few years ago and then stagnated.”

Launched in May, the group has convened once so far; over the summer participants have been creating endowment committees and developing endowment and planned-giving “case statements” and other materials.

In addition to Schechter Manhattan and Schechter Westchester, both Conservative, the schools participating in Generations are Carmel Academy (nondenominational) in Greenwich, Conn.; Westchester Day School (Orthodox) in Mamaroneck; Hannah Senesh Community Day School (nondenominational) and Yeshivah of Flatbush (Orthodox) in Brooklyn and Solomon Schechter of Nassau County (Conservative), on Long Island.

The schools chosen for LFA are Beit Rabban (nondenominational) and Park East Day School (Orthodox) in Manhattan; Mazel Day School (Orthodox), Masores Bais Yaacov (Orthodox) and Luria Academy (nondenominational) in Brooklyn; and Yeshiva of South Shore (Orthodox) on Long Island.