When it comes to promoting financial sustainability for Jewish day schools — an issue on the front burner for many schools in a time of economic uncertainty — one player is putting cash on the table.
The Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (www.peje.org) announced last week at the North American Jewish Day School Conference that it would award a total of $625,000 to 25 day schools that demonstrate innovative ways of boosting their bottom lines.
One example of success would be a day school that achieves 100 percent parental participation in its annual campaign. “For a day school that never pushed past 60 percent, that’s a big change; it’s a cultural change in the school,” says PEJE Executive Director Rabbi Joshua Elkin.
For another school, success may be defined as encouraging a not-so-active board to not only give a minimum gift but to also give a “quality gift” of time, resources and connections.
A day school that had previously done a poor job of reaching out to its alumni may want to launch an alumni campaign that results in many new gifts to the school.
While the impact of these financial sustainability initiatives are easy to quantify, each school will be judged based on its own past performance — so that larger day schools do not enjoy an unfair advantage.
A smaller school, for example, may want to start a preschool that would create a pipeline of new students and increased tuition revenue. Other schools with room to grow may turn to social networking tools to increase tours of the school and, ultimately, enrollments.
In December, the 25 day schools that demonstrate the best results as a result of an innovative approach will each be awarded with a $25,000 award that they can use for whatever purpose they’d like.
“Twenty-five thousand dollars is $25,000; we believe it’s a good catalyst,” says Elkin. “We want to help to capitalize the field.”
This bottom-up approach is new for PEJE, an organization that has focused on disseminating its knowledge and best practices through conferences and webinars, as well as its long-term program of coaching day school professionals and volunteers.
PEJE will host two webinars in March to answer questions about the Challenge Award. Call 617-367-0001 ext. 162 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.