Why does Endowment Development in the Federation system continue to be an underappreciated asset?

A:  The vast bulk spend most of their fund raising budget and hours raising annual funds to keep their operations whole during any given year.

 Case statement:  What can happen in a Jewish community which spends significant time and energy on a restricted endowment concept crucial to the Jewish future?  (And which is neither a PACE, LOJE or Donor advised fund!)

 Recently Mr. Imberman became a consulting resource to the FCJA or Montreal Jewish Federation to assist in crafting a new Centennial endowment campaign.   While Centennial is the big current story several years ago the lay and professional leadership of Federation CJA engaged in an unprecedented and innovative initiative to develop an endowment fund specifically focused on strengthening Jewish identity in this very unique community.  That fund is called Generations.   Close to $70  million dollars has been raised toward a goal of $100 million from a small number of major donors highly vested in expanding access to and excellence in areas that bridge the gamut of Jewish experiences for children, young adults and young families.

  Centennial in Montreal follows on the heels of other communities celebrating their 100th year anniversary with a variety of major initiatives.  Similar large city projects have been mounted at least 15 years ago in places such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Greater Metrowest and in smaller communities such as Birmingham and Hartford.

 A common fear of endowment efforts is that they will sap annual campaign revenue from key donors.  None of this has happened in Montreal.  In fact, the same 15-20 donors to Gen J (as it was originally called) now contribute individually more to the annual campaign than they did before.

 Another common fear is that federation does not have the time or resources to spend on endowment in the hard pressed environment of annual campaigning, particularly in places where as in Montreal the annual campaign takes place in a highly compressed 3 month period.

Understanding the need to support fund development infrastructure, Montreal invested in a Director for all of the Generations fund activity pre and post fund development, and all the departments of federation worked together to assure its success.

 Another supposition is that where there is a separate community foundation, all of the activity surrounding fund development for endowment purposes should be the bailiwick of that entity.  Not true in Montreal!  Gen J was a wholly collaborative effort by both federation and foundation.   Federation and Foundation staff met frequently to assure that all fund development activity in particular was appropriately integrated with the annual campaign as well as normal and ongoing Foundation education and solicitation of donors.

 Another common concern in communities where two entities co exist is that they will have difficulty agreeing on goals, means and how to accomplish a big project like this, even when it can benefit both.  Not true in Montreal where as in other places leadership of Federation and the campaign is integrated with that of the foundation and highly collaborative.  In fact the foundation recently voted to turn over the income from its unrestricted fund to federation for integration into its yearly grants process, a remarkable exercise in philanthropic leadership and one which will be monitored closely by both organizations to assure that new and innovative projects as well as more traditional activity is supported.

 Generations proves that different kinds of successes can be identified.  While the fundraising isn’t complete, some of the critical components and success factors of the Generations Fund to date have included:


1.       FCJA taking the lead by laying out a forward-thinking vision with a credible action plan, and boldly front-ending $1million dollars of seed funding for high impact initiatives.

2.       Creating and fostering strategic partnerships among the Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal and major donors.

3.       Engaging philanthropists and foundations in serious discussion of the community’s needs and the potential for exciting programs to address them.

4.       Aligning major donor’s visions for transformative change with community priorities.

To date, the dollars raised for the Generations Fund have had the following impact on community:


Jewish Day Schools:

-          7 Jewish Day School Systems with close to 3,500 students are impacted by the CAPS program. The CAPSprogram has provided 640 students with access grants for Jewish school that freezes theirtuition and provide their families with comfort of mind as to the cost of Jewish School for the duration of their studies

-          Over $3.5 million has been allocated to middle income parents through our CAPS Program since its inception

Jewish Overnight Camps:

-          4 Jewish overnight Camps with close to 1,580 campers are impacted by the Generations Fund

-          Through the Generations Fund close to $1 million of incentive and access grants have been allocated. Thanks to these grants 1,333 campers have experienced a Jewish summer camp experience!


Jewish Day Schools:

-          7 Jewish Day School Systems with close to 3,500 students are impacted by Generation Fund Excellence Grants

-          Over $3 million have been allocated directly to the 7 schools over the past 4 years to help bolster the educational excellence in the schools and provide them with the much needed capital infusion to remain attractive in the competitive market place.

Jewish Overnight Camps:

-          4 Jewish overnight camps have received $300,000 to help support their governance, programs and Jewish content programming for the summer months


-          100 leaders from 22 synagogues have participated in the “Tools for Shuls” initiative, aimed at empowering synagogue leaders to re-imagine synagogue life in Montreal and strengthen the synagogues’ capacities for long-term growth. 


PJ Library

-          A total of 5,145 children have received monthly mailing of books with Jewish content, inspiring their parents to engage in Jewish conversations and Jewish learning from a very young age

-          Fostering a love and passion for Jewish culture and traditions through reading

Young Adult Engagement

-          Over 2,500 young adults have created and/or participated in programs that they have incubated to connect them in relevant ways to their Jewishness as they define it.

Promise & Cultural Grants

Over 130 one-time grants have been awarded to Jewish organizations, grassroots groups and individuals to seed innovation for programs that have enriched Jewish life and literacy, increased connections and promoted social networking among over 10,000 teens in non-Jewish high schools, young adults, young families, and less connected groups.

 For Federation CJA, Gen J was a major first endowment accomplishment.  The mounting of a Centennial campaign to raise $115 million dollars of new endowment commitments in the form of estate planning and other legacy vehicles over at least a 3 year period will build on the success of the former effort.  Both current and future revenue from the campaign will be managed by the Jewish Community Foundation, now almost $500 million dollars in assets and vastly experienced in investment and endowment management.  The Centennial Campaign will be chaired by Stephen Bronfman and Stephen Gross, both long time distinguished community leaders.  Gen J was led professionally by Natana Shek Dor and was chaired by Claudine and Stephen Bronfman, and Joel Segal (chair of fundraising), incoming Annual Campaign chair and former President of the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal. These leaders who provided key intellectual capital for the Generations Fund will do so for Centennial as well.  Deborah Corber is Federation CEO and Kathy Assayag is Foundation Director.  All earlier donors to the community foundation who left bequests and other gifts for federation totaling (over many years) 200 million will be acknowledged as the federation begins its total 300 million dollar effort. 

 The Centennial campaign is one of three major projects which the Montreal community is mounting for its centennial year in 2017.  The other two are a major celebration and a second Mega Mission to Israel.  X participated in the first mission held in 2015 (?).

Yair Szlak is Chief Development Officer and responsible for the majority of the activity described above.

 Robert Kleinman is Executive Vice President of the Jewish Community Foundation and its former long time Director. 

 Evan Feldman is President of Federation CJA.  Michael Etinson is Chair of the Jewish Community Foundation

Listening to donors share their most important interests and dreams for their own families as well as a community and not being impatient to create another transaction can result in transformative gifts, even in the often old style annual campaign structure in which endowment departments generally find themselves in our federation system.  Doing these things in the context of Federation’s most important priorities can change the course of our ability to serve our communities.

Next article:  Think Forward (our GA theme)…more on the past and current structure and prospects for endowment development at federations, a collaboration between Joseph C. Imberman and Donald P. Kent.