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Writing a blog (my first) has been a daunting experience. What if it isn’t good? What if I don’t succeed at opening up a conversation? These thoughts have been running through my head for weeks—WEEKS!—so I have been putting off doing what I know is important.

Does this sound familiar? Are you putting off beginning your endowment and legacy campaign because it is hard to start? Daunting? You might not succeed? You already have too many things on your plate?

Let’s get through this together. I am eager to help you demystify the process of adding an endowment and legacy campaign to your overall development strategy. To start with, let’s address some frequently asked questions.

Why an Endowment and Legacy Campaign Now?

Jewish day schools are an essential part of a thriving Jewish communal ecosystem.  Dan Perla, Program Officer of Day School Finance at the AVI CHAI Foundation, captured this point last month at PEJE’s Endowment and Legacy Institute training in Baltimore: “Jewish day schools are one of the pillars of Jewish engagement which energizes the nucleus of Jewish life.”

Do you want to ensure that your day school is around for future generations? Do you want to ensure that parents who seek a values-based Jewish education for their children in your city can have one, regardless of their income? Do you take pride in the comprehensive day school experience that happens every day in your school? If so, the time to being planning your campaign is now. An endowment and legacy program allows those who are closest to your school to support their visions, their childrens’ visions, and their grandchildrens’ visions of a vibrant Jewish future.

But wait: Time for a reality check. What about the economy? Will potential donors agree that now is the time to start an endowment and legacy campaign?

There is no doubt that the downturn in the economy has caused a shift in thinking for donors. But other factors suggest that the time is now for endowment and legacy.

“Today’s population is aging and therefore ready to think about legacy gifts, and estate tax laws are changing and will continue to do so at the state and federal levels. Think of this as an opportunity to discuss charitable gifts every time estate planning is reviewed,” says Kevin Johnson in his book The Power of Legacy and Planned Gifts: How Nonprofits and Donors Work Together to Change the World.

An opportunity indeed. So what’s the next step? It’s time to move from knowing this is the right time to start a campaign to actually getting the ball rolling.

How Should I Start?

Whether you are the head of school, a development professional, or a parent at a Jewish day school, roll up your sleeves and get ready to work.

To help get you started, we have created online tools and resources at the Endowment and Legacy Institute’s Knowledge and Resource Center on the PEJE website. First, take the Readiness Quiz to see how close your school is to having the necessary pieces in place to start. Next, download the Endowment and Legacy Campaign Workbook, a step-by-step approach to building endowment and legacy into your school’s development strategy, which you can adapt to your school. Then, take the time to read the articles we’ve posted. You’ll learn valuable information on topics such as gift acceptance policies, investment policies, standard models of practice, and more.

That wasn’t as hard as you thought, was it? Congratulations, you are well on your way! Now on to the next step . . .

What Must I Do to Ensure My Endowment and Legacy Campaign Is Successful?

Armed with knowledge, it is now time to map out how to integrate endowment and legacy giving into the culture of giving at your school and into development your work plan. To be sure, there are many steps along the path. But remember: you believe in viable Jewish day schools for an enduring Jewish future; you have already acknowledged the need to start a campaign; and you now have plenty of resources and smart tools at your disposal.

So here are a few next steps that will advance your journey toward sustaining your day school:

  • Make sure you have the right players in place, both lay and professional, to engage and inspire potential donors.
  • Begin to build your school’s case statement. The purpose of the statement is to convey to your community what you are proudest about at your school. Is it your Torah study program? The new science curriculum? Or is it the integration of Jewish and secular learning? Think about the features that make your school unique. Not only will those special qualities speak to the passion of your potential donors; they will also make your case statement a compelling one.
  • Your team is in place, your case statement is written, and it is time to fully plan your campaign. Go back to the Campaign Workbook on the PEJE website, print it out, and use it as a model.
  • Once donors are identified, it’s time to sharpen your cultivation skills. Who is the right person to reach out to your donor? Who can best listen to the donor and engage him or her in a discussion? The fact is, all campaigns have a better chance of succeeding if you understand the importance of cultivation.
  • We recommend that you hire a coach if you can (see the PEJE Coach Directory) to help guide you in making decisions that will lead to effective action.

Can I Really Do It?

The simple answer is a resounding YES! Just remember:

  • You don’t need to be an expert on the technicalities of a planned gift;
  • You do need to have a case statement;
  • You do need to know who your prospects are and how to properly cultivate them;
  • You do need to stay motivated; and
  • You do need to understand that endowment and legacy campaigns, unlike annual or capital campaigns, have no specific end point—so it is important to keep to your workplan.

I am feeling good about finishing my first blog and know that you will feel great once you really start your campaign. Check back with me and let me know how you are proceeding. Join the conversation about endowment and legacy—in fact, start the learning process by adding your voice to this blog. We can’t wait to hear from you!