Last week, amidst all the Purim celebrations and hijinks, we also opened our wallets or checkbooks to fulfill the mitzvah of “matanot l’evyonim,” gifts to the poor, as mandated in Megillat Esther itself. When we paused to ensure that all members of the community could share in the festivities, we deepened the sense of joy both for ourselves and for those less fortunate. I attended the “National Convening on Jewish Poverty” last week, hosted by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, at which we were reminded of the continued prevalence of poverty in our community, in addition to the substantial middle income affordability questions that affect families’ engagement with Jewish life.
When we talk about “catalyzing resources” at Prizmah, we have a similar kind of “dual purpose” in mind. Strengthening each Jewish day school strengthens the entire Jewish day school field. Prizmah is committed to generating new and sustainable revenue for schools, so that they can in turn reinforce their communities and together foster a bright Jewish future. Currently, over $500 million exists in day school endowments nationally. Currently, over $500 million exists in day school endowments nationally. Prizmah’s catalyzing resources are aimed at doubling this number over the next five years.
Our two most recent large-scale events—the Day School Investor Summit last fall and the Prizmah Conference a few weeks ago—provide examples of the important role Prizmah plays in catalyzing resources.
At the Investor Summit in Miami, major donors from day schools had the chance to learn from each other and be inspired to deepen their philanthropy. Overcoming the sense of alienation that can sometimes occur when a school has only one or two six-figure supporters, the Summit created a sense of community and prompted philanthropists to think in new ways. Paula Gottesman of MetroWest NJ and Joel Segal from Montreal shared how they have initiated major endowment campaigns that are truly transforming the fiscal health of many or all schools across their communities—and they challenged participants to take on similar initiatives. At Prizmah, we hear regularly from individuals and community leaders responding to this challenge, and we invite more of you to contact us so that we can make connections, help build your campaigns, and share with you what your peers have learned.
In Atlanta, at the Prizmah Conference, over 1100 self-professed day school fans convened from across North America to discuss catalyzing resources, alongside the range of issues facing their schools. Fundraising professionals upped their game with the latest wisdom and best practices in generating diverse forms of philanthropic revenue. Admissions professionals tapped in to how recruitment and affordability initiatives can create a stable base of tuition—the largest component of revenue in every school. School and community leaders traveled together to Atlanta to support their day school system. Judging by conversations following the conference, a number of community delegations learned a tremendous amount from those with deep experience and success, and are turning those ideas into localized action plans. They are moving forward with ambitious goals, based on real-life experiences.
These two conferences are only points along the trajectory of what Prizmah is aiming to do for and with the day school field. What happens “after” the conference boxes are packed up matters even more. So, please, continue to share your progress.
Were your school’s donors inspired at the Miami Summit? Get them together with other investors in your community to build on that enthusiasm and create a benefit for all the schools in your area.
Were your professionals alerted to a new practice that will transform a facet of development operations? Share your experiences in a Prizmah Reshet networking group.
Did your wildest dreams have a chance to be shared? Let us know what daring innovations you are beginning to implement.
Catalyzing resources is not about winning the lottery, to use the Purim metaphor. Instead it is about cultivating environments where incredible results can happen from combining even ordinary ingredients. Sounds like a Jewish day school to me!