Jewish day schools currently have three main revenue streams: tuition, Federation allocations and annual fundraising. I think we can all agree that it is not enough. So PEJE has just announced the launch of Generations, in partnership with AVI CHAI and local federations or central Jewish education agencies, to build a fourth stream of revenue – Day School Endowments.
The pilot program is being launched in Baltimore and Los Angeles with seven schools in each region, and discussions are underway with UJA Federation – New York for a NY cohort. The ultimate goal is to help each school build an endowment of at least $20,000 per enrolled student. ($2 million for a school of 100 or $20 million for a school of 1,000.) Participating day schools will receive extensive training in fundraising for endowments, with federation endowment departments managing the investments.
We, at AVI CHAI, believe that Generations has great promise for the day school field, not because it is a particularly new idea – endowments have been around forever – but because a properly resourced, sustained effort can be transformative. This is the time to invest in the long-term sustainability of Jewish day schools and Generations is timely, critical, and within the Jewish community’s control.
We did our homework and this is what we learned:
Jewish day schools can become sufficiently sophisticated to approach the industry standards already set by secular private schools. We collected endowment data from 20 day schools all at varying levels of success with their endowment building initiatives, and we learned that day schools—with the proper resources and disciplined, sustained effort—are ready to take the next step in making endowments a key development strategy. We also learned from the experience of The Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy, which has focused its attention almost exclusively on Jewish overnight camps. Their results are impressive. In only a few years, tens of camps have raised tens of millions of dollars.
The previous generation of Jewish day school families is at a prime age for legacy giving. Experts in the field of philanthropy claim that over the next two decades, the number of Americans 65 and older will double; there is also an expected transfer of wealth, likely to exceed $45 trillion, of which an estimated $21 trillion will be earmarked for charitable giving and bequests. Day school parents and grandparents, some of whom were intimately involved in building their local day schools, clearly fit into this demographic.
The federation system is equipped to manage Jewish day school endowments. Many federations and their partners, Jewish Community Foundations, manage the funds of various agencies, and a number of day schools currently have endowment funds at federations. More importantly, most major federations already have in place highly trained planned giving and endowment staff, as well as lay leaders with expertise in this area who can work with day schools on building their endowments.
Many schools have already indicated considerable interest in this project. We spoke with day school professionals. We held focus groups with leaders from more than 70 schools from across the country to market test this strategy and we learned that this was a strategy worth pursuing. A summary comment, from one of the focus group participants, captured the overall tone of the focus groups. “For AVI CHAI to pursue and encourage endowment development as a piece of its lasting legacy makes a lot of sense. This is possibly the most important thing you can do for us.”
Well, I am not sure if this is the most important thing we can do and it is certainly not the solution to the day school affordability challenge. But I do know that without strong endowments, it will be even harder to ensure that our day schools will be around for future Generations.
Tell us how you think this would work in your community.
Deena K. Fuchs
Director of Strategic Partnerships
AVI CHAI concluded its general grant making on December 31, 2019.