Dana Solomon Headshot

Dana is the director of development at the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA

Elana is the director of institutional advancement at Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School in Toronto, CA

Haggit is the director of development at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City, California 

Rella is the development manager at Associated Hebrew Schools in Toronto, CA 

Conference Takeaways: Development Professionals


Elana Paice Lidsky, Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School, Toronto

From the opening gathering with over 1,000 Jewish day school professionals, right up to the closing endowment planning session that I attended alongside fellow development colleagues, the 2023 Prizmah Conference was filled with inspirations and insights to assist each participant in making their school better for the future. As a development professional, I was excited to see what the conference’s theme, Creative Spirit, would have to offer for fundraising, stewardship and advancement planning. The sessions, meetups and conversations did not disappoint. By the first afternoon, it was clear that I would be able to connect with colleagues from both like and different schools, each excellent in their own way on a meaningful level that would assist me in bringing new ideas, such as researching and introducing our school to family foundations that share like values, into action to benefit our school. 

Rella Margolis, Associated Hebrew Schools, Toronto 

After three years in virtual isolation, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to be surrounded by my colleagues in the field. Of course, it goes without saying that you can learn a lot from the many formal sessions delivered by expert professionals, but we were also exposed to sessions led by our colleagues who had lived experience that mirrored ours. You can also learn a lot by the informal opportunities, listening to conversations, networking, sharing meals, breaks—even in the elevator. 

It is amazing and you feel so inspired when you are sitting in a room of over 1,000 people all with a similar mission. We face similar challenges and can help each other overcome and succeed in our field. I even met a long lost “relative” (a cousin of a cousin) and shared family photos. Jewish geography is wild! I am so grateful for my school and my community in supporting our team attending this conference.

Haggit Sandhaus, Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School, California 

Each professional in the Jewish day school arena comes from a different community and organizational structure, but we are all dealing with constituents who, at the end of the day, react in similar ways. When I met my colleagues at the Prizmah Conference, we got to discuss the specifics of “How do we run our development committee?” “How do we deal with burnout?” or just learn about new approaches for reaching alums. 

In addition to the issues I was looking for assistance with, I found that the conference was extremely helpful in opening my mind to new methods and ideas, like the implication of having a designated person for major gifts on our donation revenue.

Dana Solomon, Maimonides School, Massachusetts 

Coming together with other development professionals from across the country through Prizmah is always inspiring and actionable. It is a chance to step back for a few days and reflect on the greater trends and challenges that we don’t always get time to appreciate and strategize on in the day-to-day work. So many of our schools and fundraisers struggle with the same challenges, and no matter our size, religious denomination or location, we can learn, brainstorm and ask questions of one another in a safe environment. 

One of my top actionable takeaways from this year’s conference concerns the role of board members in fundraising, specifically the AAA framework. (AAA was developed by Kay Sprinkle Grace, Author of The AAA Way to Fundraising Success: Maximum Involvement, Maximum Results. The AAA method provides board members with ways to support a school’s development efforts, as Ambassadors, Advocates or Askers.) Upon my return to school, the development office worked to think about the list of tangible, value-add actions our board members could support us with. This framework will be presented at the next board meeting, and I believe it will truly elevate the way we work with our lay leaders and the impact they’re able to have on our fundraising, whether as part of direct solicitations or not.

At the conference, we also reviewed key trends and data about the importance of major gifts and having a clear process and strategy for cultivating, briefing, soliciting and stewarding these donors. This was an ah-ha moment for me, and something I could bring back to our head of school and board as an immediate area we needed to address. We are now reviewing the way we identify, profile and engage our major donors and working with our board in new ways to ensure this work is top of mind and ongoing. It has really helped us define the work we need to do and do it at its best.