As our hearts break for our brothers and sisters in Israel, we want to do everything we can to ensure our country and our people are strong. It’s hard to know precisely what to do and how to move forward, especially with engagements that are not directly connected to the war effort and recovery work.
In many ways, this moment of crisis feels familiar. At the beginning of the pandemic, we spoke to many schools who were hesitant to raise funds in the face of all the other needs that were so prevalent in those first weeks. Yet this is actually far more personal. A virus seemingly strikes at random, while a terrorist attack is targeted directly at the people we love.
To help you and your school make some decisions about if and how to move forward your development initiatives—particularly as you wrestle with the personal emotions of this moment—we’ve developed a few guiding questions. We hope they’ll help clarify your thinking.
- How urgent is your need to continue with your campaign? For many schools, the annual campaign is a critical component of meeting your budgetary needs, paying teachers, keeping security measures in place. What is the need for your school? How critical is it to your school that the campaign you are planning launches now? Do you have urgent needs that have arisen in the last few weeks? Are you considering a campaign for endowment or capital improvements that might be less urgent? What flexibility do you have in your timelines?
- How personal is the impact in your community? We’re all experiencing a wide range of emotions, but in some communities the impact is particularly acute. What’s the feeling in your community? Have the losses in Israel been closely connected to your school? Are you admitting Israeli children to your school who are fleeing the war? How is your community responding to local calls to action? Please remember to also examine the impact on your team as well: How are the professionals who will be charged with this work holding up? Are they able to focus enough of their time and energy in this moment on all that is required to run a successful campaign?
- What are your key donors and stakeholders telling you? Hopefully, you’ve already checked in and sent messages of solidarity. These donors can also be tapped to provide perspective on whether or not to move forward. Reach out to a trusted few and let them know you’re considering moving forward. Be specific, asking how it would land with them to get the kind of solicitation you’re considering. Asking for advice will not only help you “read the room,” but it could also be helpful in building your relationships with those individuals.
- How have you adjusted your messaging? Your school’s mission undoubtedly includes Israel education and building a deep connection between the next generation with our homeland. Your messaging should include content that speaks to that important link, or else risk that you come across as oblivious. What are the authentic needs you have that are particularly relevant to this moment? Think not only about the content, but the tone as well. Overly enthusiastic and celebratory would come across as heartless and tone deaf, but dire need can be perceived as taking advantage of a tragedy. How has the case for giving to your school changed in light of current events, and are you able to articulate that case clearly and powerfully?
One more global point to consider: At the end of this conflict, one thing must be true: the State of Israel and the Diaspora must both be whole. Israel needs us to be strong, just as we strengthen her. Israel needs our institutions to thrive, and our people to raise their voices in support. Day schools are where we teach the future leaders of the world to love Israel, to advocate for justice, and to give tzedaka to causes aligned with our Jewish values. Israel needs diaspora Jews to support her on every conceivable level. By strengthening our schools, we are ensuring that Israel will remain vibrant for generations to come.
Let us know if we can help.