Stephanie is the Director of Institutional Advancement at Golda Och Academy (GOA) in West Orange, NJ, formerly Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union where she leads the school’s endowment, capital and annual fundraising and alumni relations programs. She has been a professional leader in the Jewish community for over 25 years.  In addition to GOA, she has held roles at the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest and Jewish Family Service of MetroWest. Stephanie has degrees from the Columbia University School of Social Work, JTS and Brown University. She is passionate about the importance of nurturing future Jewish leaders and is the very proud parent of three Golda Och academy alumni.

Inspiring Transformation Endowment Giving

Teachers truly provide some of the most formative influences in our lives. As both a school administrator and the proud parent of three alumni of Golda Och Academy (GOA), I have experienced firsthand the incredible dedication of Jewish day school teachers. These committed and inspiring educators really see and know our children and work tirelessly to help them develop and realize their own unique potential as they go on to university and beyond. At GOA, we have sought opportunities to increase our investment in our faculty—in their development, their compensation, and their satisfaction. That is why, in early 2021, we were thrilled to secure a $10 million endowment challenge gift to invest in faculty excellence. 

We had previously engaged in a successful $30 million campaign to establish an endowment focused on affordability and the enhancement of academic programs, as well as to meet major capital needs. While all of these major fundraising efforts focus on different strategic needs within our school, there are several core components that have helped us achieve success in inspiring endowment giving. 

The first of these is a bold vision. Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back from day-to-day operations of the school and think about the major investments needed to advance a Jewish day school for the next ten to twenty years. Bold visions have the potential to inspire transformational support.

In our most recent case, investing in faculty was one of the primary pillars of our school’s five-year strategic plan that was adopted by the board of trustees in 2019. At that time, we also participated in the inaugural cohort of the Legacy IDEAS Institute for Day School Excellence and Sustainability, which provided our school with matching funds to invest in consulting, capacity building, coaching and significant professional development for our professional-lay team. This program challenged us to imagine an exciting, bold and aspirational path for our school and helped us to translate our vision into concrete plans. Subsequently, we have been able to articulate this compelling case for giving to our community of partners and donors.

Second, the leadership of our school administration, and board of trustees has been key to the success of inspiring endowment. We have been fortunate throughout our school’s history to have dedicated and visionary heads of school and board chairs who not only made fundraising a priority, but also remained focused on our school’s strategic vision in the midst of day-to-day challenges. As a result, despite the pandemic’s impact on all dimensions of school life over the past two years, we at GOA have remained focused on developing our vision and the plans needed to properly invest in our strategic priorities and inspire donor support.

Having the appropriate team and support system in place has helped us to execute on our vision and ultimately achieve our goals. We have been most successful when our head of school, director of development, chief financial officer, board chair and campaign chairs have worked seamlessly together. We have also been fortunate that there have been members of our board of trustees who have served as campaign leaders and advisors and have set an example for our community through their tremendous philanthropy toward our school, inspiring others, including major philanthropists, to follow their lead. Nothing is as effective in gaining support as when the school leadership sets the bar high. 

The retention of expert campaign counsel from CCS Fundraising has been instrumental in helping our school to transform bold visions into concrete plans and proposals that help to inspire our donors. In addition, we are grateful to our Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest and transformational community day school donors for providing invaluable support. They have not only raised our sights on what is possible but have also helped us to build our fundraising infrastructure, enabling our community to grow day school endowments over the last 15 years. Federation day school endowment match challenges have also encouraged our day school donors in our community to increase their generosity even more. The support of local Jewish communities of Jewish day school endowment fundraising is truly a critically important factor and important to cultivate.

All of these factors have created a unique environment at Golda Och Academy and in our community that supports and encourages day school endowment giving. The combination of a bold inspiring vision, concrete plans, a dedicated leadership team, major donor stakeholders, expert assistance, combined with Jewish community support, can lead to success in achieving major endowment investments that will help secure the futures of all our Jewish day schools.