Celebrating my 50th (!) birthday recently gave me a great opportunity to do a lot of eating and celebrating—and reflecting. For each of the 50 days before my big day, I kept a journal (OK, it was an excel spreadsheet) where I noted at least one thing in my life for which I was grateful. On my birthday, I read it over and found several themes. Unsurprisingly, most dominant was that I derive the most joy, enrichment, and blessing from the relationships that matter to me.
As PEJE’s Strategy Manager for Endowment and Legacy, I am privileged to oversee the $3.1 million matching grant from AVI CHAI (the AVI CHAI Grant) to build endowment funds in the day school field as a piece of the day school sustainability puzzle, primarily through Generations, a three-community pilot program. Just as my personal relationships provide me with sustenance, the relationships that PEJE has developed with our community partners nourish the day schools in those communities, and, when we amplify the learning, help the entire field.
Now that we have launched Generations, we are happy to share some of our preliminary learnings about developing national-community partnerships. Bottom line…. collaborations take time and are complicated. So, are they worth it? As with most outcomes, that depends on how you measure. We measure success by change in endowment building at all three levels of PEJE’s work—school, community, and field. Though preliminary, the answer is a definite yes.
First, some background. Leveraging the AVI CHAI Grant to create a pilot, community-based program to build endowments in selected day schools, PEJE created the Endowment and Legacy Institute (ELI) to share knowledge gained from Generations with the rest of the field.
The ELI houses three initiatives, which are all interdependent:
- The signature pilot program Generations, funded in part by AVI CHAI, PEJE, and a community partner, to provide training, coaching, and other resources to 21 schools in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and New York;
- L’Dor V’Dor, PEJE’s endowment donor society, which recognizes all endowment and legacy donors to day schools; and
- The Knowledge and Resource Center, our curated clearinghouse for the entire field that provides multiple venues for PEJE, schools, communities, coaches, and donors to develop, evaluate, and share learning and best practices in endowment development.
To launch Generations, PEJE set out to find three community partners who would provide professional and lay leadership as well as a 1:1 match of the funding from AVI CHAI and PEJE to run the program locally. The Grant specified that a community needed to have a large concentration of day schools. Using a development-based moves management system, we spent last year identifying, vetting and cultivating nine prospective communities in North America. We solicited four communities and solidified collaborations with three dynamic community partners: Builders of Jewish Education in Los Angeles, THE ASSOCIATED in Baltimore, and UJA-Federation of New York. A fourth community is expected to join the program in the coming year.
So what are the key learnings in developing Generations community collaborations?
First, each community has its own dreams and challenges and stakeholders. Building relationships requires taking the time to understand a community’s goals, conflicts, vibrancy, and players. It means building mutual trust and defining shared goals—often with food and coffee involved. This process took many meals and months in each community.
We also learned that whenever an obstacle arose in negotiations with a community, as happens in any relationship, the single biggest factor in the length of time it took to resolve was whether each party was able to keep our focus on the outcome rather than the thorny conflict. Though not a surprise, we also found that each community partner needed to achieve internal unity of its stakeholders. In certain communities, we were helpful in supporting that process. In others, we recognized that we needed to step back.
The Grant is already making an impact in Generations communities. Generations Los Angeles has raised $2.6 million dollars in endowment and legacy funds. All Generations Baltimore schools have created their campaign plans and the first planned gift has just come in to a participating school. The Generations New York schools have recently begun their journey and are on track to use their coaches to develop campaign plans.
And, the rest of the field is benefiting as well. Running Generations in one community produces learning that we aggregate, assess, and share with the rest of the field. Many of the resources we develop at the national level for the Generations schools are available to the entire field through the Knowledge and Resource Center.
By gathering the available data this year, we finally have a baseline number of endowment assets under management by day schools: $250 million. In partnership with JData, this baseline will allow us to measure endowment growth in the field.
In the last six months, 25 non-Generations schools have called on us to learn more about endowment building. That is 25 more schools than last year which are recognizing that endowment building must be integrated into a school’s strategic development plan.
Working with committed and outstanding community partners has begun to produce change in schools, in communities, and in our field. None of us can do this alone. As I know from 50 days of gratitude and five straight days of birthday cake with family and friends, it’s all about relationships. Our gratitude to each other in the day school field is measured in positive change. We are, indeed, better together.
In her position as PEJE’s Strategy Manager for Endowment and Legacy, Jill Goldenberg manages Generations and promotes endowment building field-wide. Jill has more than 25 years of leadership experience in the private and non-profit sectors as an attorney, development professional, trainer, program manager, consultant, and volunteer leader. Jill holds an A.B. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Boston University School of Law. She and her husband are the proud parents of a current Gann Academy student and a recent Gann graduate.
This essay was cross-posted on the AVI CHAI Foundation Blog.