Baltimore took the lead in a project to shore up Jewish day schools with the six local participants of the Russel Family Generations Day School Endow- ment Project raising approximately $15 million in cash and commitments for their endowment funds.
Baltimore’s institutions raised more than those in Boston, Los Angeles and New York, the three other pilot cities to participate in the joint Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE), AVI CHAI Foundation and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore project. All told, 30 schools raised $33 million in the three-year effort.
“The largest wealth transfer in the history of the world is happening right now,” said Jill Goldenberg, strategy manager for endowment and legacy at PEJE. “Our schools, up to now, haven’t had the tools to ask for legacy gifts. At PEJE, we look at how to make change happen so schools will have the tools they need to raise endowment money.”
The six Baltimore schools that participated are the Bais Yaakov School for Girls, the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Bnos Yisroel of Baltimore, Krieger Schechter Day School, the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore and the Torah Institute of Baltimore.
Goldenberg said that institutional success depends on schools’ “readiness” to conduct philanthropic activities as opposed to transactional fundraising activities.
“Endowment building must be one of the school’s top three priorities in order for a school to succeed. There must be a robust annual campaign,” she explained. “Though some day schools have done well with other types of fundraising, until now, they have not had the tools to consider the need for endowment building. This is relational-based philanthropy; it’s conversations with donors, forming relationships, not about selling tickets or selling tables to an event.
“The Generations Project teaches school administrators and board members how to develop these relationships so prospective donors want to invest in the long-term sustainability of schools,” she added. “We say it’s like planning for the grandchildren of today’s kindergartners.”
According to the PEJE program description, the organization helps school communities to reach their goals by providing “individual coaching on how to build endowment campaigns, local and national training on solicitation and stewardship, marketing, prospect identification, endowment best practices” and access to a national resource center. Each school develops its own benchmarks, but the goal after three years is to raise between $4,000 and $6,000 per student.
After 10 years, officials hope, schools should be able to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 per student.
Goldenberg singled out The Associated for praise.
“They are spectacular collaborators and partners,” she said.