Developing Connections for Collaboration

Like so many day school boards, ours tirelessly serves the students, staff and families in numerous ways. Each academic year brings a colorful blend of challenges and opportunities with which we wrestle in order to brainstorm, make suggestions and, when necessary, carry out creative solutions to perpetuate our mission. The 2020-2021 academic year has been rife with opportunities to stretch our thinking and leverage our resources, largely due to the pandemic, which has led to innovation and positive growth for both our school and our board.

 

Perhaps different from most day school boards, we invite non-board members to participate on our committees. This broadens our perspective and enables us to design strategy beyond the immediate purview of our school. In our committees, we leverage the skills and experiences of board members as well as community lay leaders to advance key aspects of our school.

 

As our staff and students live our core values of wonder, empathy and tikkun olam (repairing the world) every day, so too do they constantly inform our work and priorities as a board. We are blessed to have learning partnerships (Repairing Together) with area community schools—Bruce Guadalupe Community School and Indian Community School— through which our students and theirs share, learn and teach across cultures, religions and customs. As a board, we are equally fortunate to have the leaders from these partner schools on our board, contributing diverse perspectives and best practices beyond our immediate community. Covid presented a common centerpiece upon which each board committee focused its skills and efforts. Our partnerships with these schools helped to strengthen our Covid response through shared learnings and economies of scale.

 

Serendipitously, our development committee was completely reimagined during the last board season and put into action this year. We assembled a broad representation of our community, with diverse skills and experiences, and are having great success bringing new energy to our annual campaign, broadening donor engagement, and designing and executing Covid relief efforts. Specific to our Covid campaign, we obtained funding to enable

 

HEPA filters in every room

Health screener for anyone entering the building

PPE for the entire year (gowns, masks, gloves, sanitizer and wipes)

More than 30 hand-sanitizing stations

5,000 additional KN95 masks

In-house substitute and additional teachers

 

Having a creative and passionate board development committee has elevated the fund- and friend-raising aspects of our work, during the Covid pandemic and beyond. We cross-pollinate with our marketing and alumni relations teams to ensure synergies across disciplines and advance our storytelling and base of support. These efforts have infused new energy into an often under-resourced aspect of board work and has laid the foundation for even more focused training for board members about the various ways they can individually contribute to our fundraising efforts.

 

One outcome of these efforts is donor re- engagement. Board members communicating the positive trends afoot at the school and our needs vis-à-vis Covid has resulted in past donors recommitting their support. And now we are working diligently to steward long-term support and engagement.

 

As our newly minted development committee finishes up this fundraising season, we are beginning to assess our learnings, outline improvements and define goals for next year. We’ll continue our focus on development, as that work is central to our growth, and we will set a strategic framework focused on targeted board activation, brand-building and storytelling, new connections and donor cultivation, and solicitation and gratitude.

Author
Jason D. Gottlieb, Immediate Past Board President and Chair, Development and Endowment Committee, Milwaukee Jewish Day School
Issue
Leading Together
Published: Spring 2021