Research Corner: Endowments at Jewish Day Schools Have Come A Long Way
Prizmah recently conducted a survey of cash endowments at Jewish day schools across the US and Canada. With 140 day schools responding, the survey indicates that total cash endowment funds exceed $500 million. Of the respondents, 96 had a cash endowment of $100,000 or more; most of the others had no endowment whatsoever. The mean (average) endowment of the 96 schools was $5.1 million, and the median (middle) was $2.2 million. The large gap between mean and median is attributable to the fact that the top 10 schools in the survey had an average endowment of approximately $27 million, a number that skews the mean upwards. While nearly 200 Jewish day schools did not respond to the survey, Prizmah estimates the total cash endowment at these schools at no more than $50 million. This suggests a total cash endowment of $500-$550 million for the entire Jewish day school field.
Day school endowments have more than doubled over the past decade. This is a function of the success of endowment-building programs such as Prizmah’s Generations program, Life & Legacy (a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation) and both communal and individual school endowment campaigns. The more than 40 schools that have participated in Generations have raised in excess of $100 million in cash or legacy gifts since the program’s inception in 2011. Life & Legacy offers incentive funds to a variety of Jewish organizations, including approximately 50 day schools, in an effort to garner more legacy gifts.
Communal endowment funds have also experienced significant growth. Though not included in our survey, Prizmah estimates that communal funds throughout the US and Canada total at least $300 million. Communal endowment funds are often shepherded by local federations or central agencies (prominent funds exist in Los Angeles, Montreal, Metrowest NJ, Boston and Chicago) and are most often used to fund efforts around academic excellence and middle-income affordability and to incentivize further school-level endowment growth.
It is worth noting that the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) recommends that its schools target an endowment of at least $20,000 per student. Our mean is below this level, and our median is well below this level. The top 50 independent schools possess an endowment that ranges from $50 million to more than $1 billion. Not one Jewish day school possesses an endowment in that range.
We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.