Jobs That Raise Money Are Among First To Return

Where the Jewish Jobs Are

By Joy Resmovits

Published December 08, 2010, issue of December 17, 2010.
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If 2010 is a year of economic transition, Jennifer George is riding the wave.

George, 31, began this school year filling in for a kindergarten teacher on maternity leave at Adelson Educational Campus, a Las Vegas Jewish community school. But since November 1, she’s been working in the school’s development office. “It’s weird not being around the children all the time,” George said. “But it’s a good break, looking at the school from the top.”

Davida Sims, the school’s director of development, had wanted an employee to augment fundraising with Internet savvy. “It took a year to get the board to agree to add a position,” she said.

Unlike many post-recession hires, George’s job is not a vestige of crash-induced layoffs. It is brand new. This reflects the big picture of current employment trends in Jewish organizations: Where jobs were lost, the first new positions created are about money.

A New Role: Jennifer George, hired to teach preschool at a Jewish day school in Las Vegas, is now a development associate.
Davida Sims
A New Role: Jennifer George, hired to teach preschool at a Jewish day school in Las Vegas, is now a development associate.

In this series, the Forward takes a look at where Jewish jobs are moving as America’s economy recovers. We found modest hiring growth in education, some communal organizations and advocacy groups, and jobs involved with securing money. Fundraising, consultants say, is the most logical hiring bump — because in organizations where money was lost, boards are happiest approving positions created with the purpose of bringing in revenue.

This movement is evident on job boards, which show, for example, that Mechon Hadar in New York is seeking both a director of institutional advancement and a development associate; Taglit-Birthright Israel in New York is hiring a donor database manager; and Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles is looking for a “foundation giving officer,” to name a few.

“Nonprofits now have been through two cycles of fundraising since the crash,” said David Edell, president of the search firm Development Resource Group. “They have a certain sense of confidence about where they’re at. They reach a certain place of stability and are ready for the first time to move forward. Fundraising is one place where they’re willing to make new investments after cutting back.”

This trend suits George, whose career goals have been shifting since her own years in school. When George was in high school, she wanted to be a psychologist — but a teacher at her Anaheim, Calif., public school told her that a psychology course would not fulfill the “career” requirement. A pre-schooling class did.

So George, who is Pentecostal, set out to teach after college. She started at Challenger Academy in Palo Alto, Calif., and later moved to its Las Vegas branch. When she heard a former Challenger boss was teaching at Adelson, she sought employment there, since she found Challenger was becoming more and more corporate.

In 2005, she began teaching at Adelson and noticed a problem. “Students are more tech-savvy than teachers,” George said. So she learned about tech tools and used them in the classroom. “It’s great for the children and for their future, which will all be technology-based,” she said. She introduced Smart Boards (interactive whiteboards) and found that they engaged students with educational games and virtual passports to different countries. George also helped the pre-school send out a daily e-mail to parents.

This initiative connected her to fundraising. “Communications with the parents is a big thing when you’re asking for money,” she said.

She also realized that sharing her educational findings school-wide could be beneficial. “I wanted to show that there can be even more done to help the children,” she said.

George let her administrative ambitions be known, speaking with her department head about a desire for change. Meanwhile, she helped the school partner with nonprofit auction websites. At last year’s annual gala, she and an army of students carried iPads and iPods to enter parents’ auction bids and update them online. The event raised $600,000.

Sims noticed George’s skills. As soon as she had the board’s go-ahead to create the associate director position, she received about 50 applications, but hired George internally.

Since stepping into her new position last month, George spends her days coordinating the school’s online furniture auction, preparing marketing materials and processing tax receipts. She is paid between $36,000 and $40,000 a year. And she brings to the role the new-media skills Sims sought, which are becoming more relevant to job seekers in almost every field. “A development person 10 years ago just could have been a friendly PTO [parent-teacher organization] mom,” Sims said. “In this day and age, you have to be sophisticated in marketing, web technology, Internet, e-mail and Facebook.”

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