Day School Endowments In L.A.
February 12th, 2015
George Rohr’s op-ed provides us with a salient and powerful message: Day schools help ensure a vibrant Jewish future (“Tackling The Day School Affordability Crisis,” Education Supplement, Jan. 30). And in order for day schools to survive and thrive, they need long-term viable income streams. Investing in and building endowments for day schools addresses that critical need. Over the past several years, Los Angeles has also been investing in day school endowments.
A lead gift commitment by the Lainer family in 2007 initiated development of the Simha and Sara Lainer Day School Endowment Fund, a 1:4 match to incentivize schools to build endowments. In 2009, in partnership with BJE-Los Angeles and the Jewish Federation, the Jim Joseph Foundation provided a generous grant (The Los Angeles High School Affordability Initiative) that provided resources for coaching and training, built schools’ development infrastructure, created a culture of giving, and provided middle-income tuition assistance while the high schools raised endowments to sustain these tuition grants.
Over the past six years, at the participating high schools, fundraising culture changed dramatically, as existing donors were educated and new donors were brought on board. To date, the five participating high schools have collectively raised nearly $17 million for endowment, matched by an additional $4.25 million from the Lainer fund. More importantly, each school now has a growing endowment that will generate distributions for tuition assistance beyond the grant period.
And endowment has caught on in a big way in Los Angeles. To date, 12 elementary/middle schools have participated in the Generations project, sponsored by PEJE and The AVI CHAI Foundation, and have collectively raised over $10.5 million, with a new cohort of schools scheduled to begin later this year. Are the schools done? Of course not. As Mr. Rohr points out, it is critical that endowments continue to expand and grow to meet the needs of future families and students.
The two programs in L.A. are models for other communities and BJE, with the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation, has created a website, www.LAHighSchoolAffordability.org, where donors, schools, and communities interested in undertaking endowment development can obtain detailed information on what we have learned and how to implement similar initiatives in their own school or community.