BJE, as the central agency, played a key role in providing the scaffolding for launching, implementing, and administering the initiative as well as shaping the strategic vision. Over BJE’s 75 years in the community, the agency staff has developed strong relationships with each of the participating schools and other communal resources as well as a deep understanding of the Los Angeles Jewish educational landscape.
> MARKETING & RECRUITMENT SUPPORT
To that end, BJE took the lead in creating the marketing/recruitment materials, including a tuition calculator and web-portal. The website, www.bjela.org/hsgrant, was launched mid-November, 2009, and was designed to be user-friendly, attractive to parents and students, and to encourage all applicants to consider a Jewish high school education. The website explains the LAHSAI, directs parents to complete a short survey and to submit an application for a LAHSAI tuition subsidy. Due to the timing of the project launch with the downturn in the economy and projections of declining enrollment, the schools and BJE did not want to screen out potential new students, whether they were LAHSAI qualified or not; they wanted to attract as many new applicants as possible. So, the website was structured so that every visitor—whether within, below or above the LAHSAI income parameters—was encouraged to apply to a Jewish high school. Website application responses were as positive as possible (“may qualify for a subsidy,” “may qualify for regular financial aid,” or “likely not to qualify unless there are extenuating circumstances”). There is also a dedicated BJE phone line for LAHSAI applicants that provides technical support and answers applicants’ questions.
In tandem with the website, an extensive LAHSAI marketing campaign targeted select venues that attracted middle and upper income populations, including Laemmle Movie Theatres and Performance Magazine, a publication distributed at hundreds of theatre and philharmonic performances around Los Angeles. From November through January, primary recruitment months for Jewish high schools, large colorful postcards, posters, print and media advertising—designed to attract 8th graders and their families—were widely distributed in the Jewish Journal, the Conejo Valley Acorn, and the Beverly Hills Courier (communities consisting largely of middle and upper-income families). Additionally, ads and information were distributed at feeder schools, synagogues, religious schools, camps and at school open houses:
> CREATING DEVELOPMENT INFRASTRUCTURE
BJE also supported the schools in the creation of their development infrastructure (regarding staffing and fundraising goals) and synthesized school reports on financial aid distribution and enrollment tracking. On both a school and communal level, BJE guided a cultural shift in how Los Angeles day schools think about affordability, accessibility, and sustainability through endowment development. Critically, BJE’s matching funds to schools incentivized the development of their endowment. In order to effectively administer the grant, BJE dedicated 1.5 FTE of professional and administrative staff time.
Prior to the launch of the initiative, only one of the participating schools had existing development infrastructure. Early into the initiative, it became clear that even though other schools had begun to hire development professionals, there was a wide range of experience and abilities, as well as a wide range in the structures and board commitments to support the raising of endowments. In order to support schools’ unique challenges and to create a collaborative network among schools, BJE took the following steps, with input from participating schools:
Support hiring of appropriate and skilled development professionals by providing sample job descriptions and, when able, consultative guidance on hiring decisions. Here are some sample job descriptions for development staff:
Leadership & Fundraising Academy: In partnership with PEJE and with funding from the Lowy Family, BJE engaged four of the five participating schools and an additional seven Jewish day schools to participate in the Leadership & Fundraising Academy. This program asked schools to create a team of lay and professional leadership to actively participate in an 18 month program where schools, with the support of fundraising coaches and with periodic workshops, created and implemented a strategic development plan which included endowment fundraising. To learn more about this program and its impact read the “LFA Final Report” here.
Development Professionals’ Community of Practice – BJE facilitated quarterly networking meetings emphasizing collaboration and shared problem solving. Meetings often included a professional development workshop on topics germane to day school development professionals.
Periodically, BJE convened both professional and lay leadership of the five participating schools together to learn from each other, share successes and challenges, and continue to develop a sense of communal collaboration.
BJE: Builders of Jewish Education is dedicated to enhancing quality, ensuring access, and encouraging participation in full-time, part-time, and informal Jewish education throughout the Jewish communities of greater Los Angeles. BJE works with partner organizations to ensure that Jewish education in Los Angeles is dynamic and engaging and that generations of young adults have the tools and desire to live meaningful Jewish lives.