Innovative alliance raises funds for schools
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Innovative alliance raises funds for schools

Four local day schools have been awarded matching grants through a new fund-raising initiative developed by an alliance, called MATCH, between the Partners for Excellence in Jewish Education and the Jewish Funders Network.

The Gerrard Berman Day School Solomon Schechter of North Jersey in Oakland, The Moriah School in Englewood, the Rosenberg Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge, and Yeshivat Noam in Paramus received grants of $’5,000 to $100,000, depending on their own fund-raising efforts. One condition was that the donations had to be from people who had never before donated or from people who increased their largest previous gift by five times.

For every dollar the schools raised up to $100,000 they would be matched by 50 cents (up to $50,000). The total amount the ‘008 program generated in giving to 146 schools in ‘6 states from 199 new donors was $15 million. Jewish day schools across all denominations, including Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, as well as nondenominational, were eligible.

Mark Charendoff, JFN president, said, "For the counties of Northern New Jersey with their strong commitment to Jewish day schools and their deep understanding of the centrality of Jewish philanthropy, programs such as MATCH are a natural. They help a new generation of donors to emerge, and they empower schools to pursue critical support that they might not otherwise have been able to gather."

Courtney Williamson, JFN communications manager, explained, "There was a pool of matching funds of $5 million," donated by The Gottesman Fund; Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert; The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; the Avi Chai Foundation; and an anonymous donor. "These are people who want to strengthen the field of Jewish day schools across the country."

She said the donors understand what Jewish day schools offer the community in providing a strong foundation in terms of education for youth. "The funders really believe that the schools are a part of the Jewish future."

The goal was to "stimulate giving at 50 cents to the dollar up to $10 million of new gifts raised from day schools across the country. It might seem that schools that have been in existence a long time have explored all areas of donations. But this program showed that there are always new donors or donors who will make a substantial increase in previous gifts."

She said that part of what makes this work is that schools increasingly have professionals working in development.

"There is a science to fund-raising, and once you have people who have the right tools and skills and knowledge, they know how to identify potential donors."

But the program itself is an incentive for potential donors to give more, she added. "Because it’s matched, it gives potential donors encouragement to give more because it’s a threshold to a bigger grant. It’s a big step for many funders. It’s a tool for fund-raisers to say if you give now, we’re going to get it doubled and it’s super-effective. Everyone likes a bargain."

"Today’s donor wants to get more value from his or her philanthropic dollar and the MATCH program allows them to maximize their impact," said Charendoff.

Another restriction on the gift was that the money could be used only for operations, new programs, expansion of programs, or for scholarships, not capital (like a building).

Williamson said, "The funders who backed this program felt strongly that this money could only be used towards the schools’ annual campaigns, not a capital campaign because the annual campaigns are the hardest to raise money for. Some donors will allow their money to go to general operating expenses and allow the school to choose what to do with it."

Some schools plan to put the money toward scholarship funds, teacher training programs, and professional development programs. Some had an initiative the school wouldn’t be able to offer otherwise, such as a new technology program or an arts initiative.

"It’s relatively easier to get money for a new building or to improve a science lab," she said. "It may not be sexy to go to a donor and say we need money to pay our teachers more. But if you want a better school you’re going to have to have money to pay for top-notch teachers and keep them."

Also, "For many donors, [providing scholarship assistance] is an attractive investment as well."

Jonathan Horowitz, matching grants program Associate for JFN, said, "We put the word the word out through the philanthropic community through our members and through PEJE, which is linked to the network of the schools of North America. Before the program starts we host a series of conference calls and programs to make ourselves generally available to the school professionals to help them understand what the program is, how it works, so they understand how they can approach donors and successfully utilize the program to bring in new money and new people to their school."

Such was the case for the Oakland school.

"We’re excited about this grant because Gerrard Berman will benefit in so many ways both now and in the future," said Rabbi Ellen Bernhardt, head of school. "The program offered a fabulous opportunity for us to introduce new donors to GBDS, which helps us expand our network of resources even further."

Amy Glazer, community relations director, said the school was able to get a $50,000 donation. The program matched it with $’5,000, "which meant $75,000 for our school."

"The donor had specified that we use it toward Judaic programming. We’re still in the planning stages," she noted. Under consideration is expanding Holocaust studies or Israel at Sixty programming.

Sandy Steinberg, director of the business office for the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, said, "This year, RYNJ was fortunate to have two donors who were encouraged by the JFN’s initiative to make generous donations to the yeshiva, knowing that the value of their gifts would be ‘stretched’" by the matching grant.

"The yeshiva is using the funds from the donors and the JFN to help cover the deficit created by the yeshiva’s generous scholarship program," she said.

A survey done by Avi Chai of the ‘005-‘006 MATCH program indicated that 77 percent of MATCH donors continued to contribute to the school following their participation in MATCH.

PEJE, founded in 1997 by Michael Steinhardt and Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, is a national organization of Jewish philanthropists seeking to establish a vibrant and sustainable Jewish future through strengthening the Jewish day school movement in North America.

"Supporting Jewish day schools that provide an outstanding general and religious education has proven to be a good return on investment for philanthropists," said Rabbi Josh Elkin, executive director of PEJE. "The MATCH program offers a unique way to identify and motivate new donors, whose contributions assure that a quality Jewish day school education is available to more students in more locations across North America."

The Jewish Funders Network organization of family foundations, public philanthropies, and individual funders is dedicated to advancing the quality and growth of philanthropy rooted in Jewish values.

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