Student participation helped income from Emanuel School’s capital campaign rocket to its $7.5 million target – all in a window for public fundraising of just four weeks. Michelle Favero gives the details.

Exponential student growth over 30 years led to Emanuel School erecting two demountable blocks of 24 classrooms. The fact Randwick Council had only given permission for their use for a limited time with one needing to be removed by the end of 2014 provided a deadline and the impetus to drive a capital campaign for a major build and expansion.  

Emanuel School is a Jewish day school educating over 750 children from preschool to Year 12 on one campus in Randwick. In 2010 the school’s building committee began plans to replace the two demountables with one new permanent structure. The campus is heritage-listed and surrounded by dense residential buildings, so protracted meetings with the Department of Environment and Heritage and the local council were needed to ensure compliance with regulations.

Along with the 2014 date and council compliance issues, project parameters were dictated by strict requirements from the Jewish Communal Association (JCA). JCA co-ordinates fundraising activities across 22 Jewish community organisations, each of which can only run a capital appeal every seven to eight years so the community is not simultaneously approached for significant donations.

Fortuitously JCA granted Emanuel’s appeal for October 2013, which coincided with the school’s 30th anniversary and provided a backdrop of celebration and goodwill. However another JCA stipulation was that the public phase of the campaign was limited to that month, so fundraising needed to be staged carefully.

Building blocks of success

The goal of the capital appeal was raising $7.5 million for an innovative multi-purpose building to be the last major infrastructure erected on the campus.

In the first half of 2012 plans were drawn up for a four-storey building making the most of the available space. The school’s aim “to open the mind, awaken the spirit and engage the whole being within a culture of excellence” was reflected in a design that featured flexible classrooms, a leadership and learning centre, a 220-seat performance theatre, an art precinct and a wellness centre, along with opening up more areas for play.

Then in mid 2012 a committee was established to oversee the project and the fundraising campaign. All knew the school well and were well-connected within the Jewish community. The first task was delivering a strategy document developed in consultation with the school board and members of the finance, building and marketing committees. This was constantly evolving and set out plans for funding, donor management, communications and marketing sub-strategies.

The campaign theme ‘Build Tomorrow Today’ was chosen as a call to action and to convey a sense of ownership and responsibility.

 Another strategic priority was identifying key benefactors, mainly within the Jewish community, from whom the school expected to receive 80% of funding. This painstaking process involved information gathered from many and varied sources including personal knowledge, research, and assistance from associated organisations including the JCA.  The school’s ThankQ database was used to collect, store and segment donor information, and allowed an analysis of historical data from the  previous 2005 capital appeal.

An individual plan was created for engaging each major gift prospect, whether face-to-face, at a function, through a letter or phone call. Recognition opportunities were decided, including a select number of naming rights for areas within the new building for donors who gave $50,000 or more, and acknowledgement on a naming wall of gifts over $5,000.

Another target was parents and grandparents who were strongly involved in the school, along with  Emanuel School’s alumni and students who became the grassroots cheer squad. The benefits of the new building captured students’ imaginations to the point that two of them even pledged their pocket money – $5 a week over 12 months.

Long support led to large gifts

The Emanuel School campaign’s biggest donor was Aron Kleinlehrer, who gave $1.5 million. A campaign patron, school founder, life governor and the grandparent of two students, Kleinlehrer says his huge contribution, following a $1.5 million gift in 2005, was in part to help a new generation recognise their responsibility to be generous and remember their roots. “I am committed to Jewish education,” he explains, “to help ensure that the students graduate with a strong sense of their Jewish identity and understanding of the importance of selfless contribution to the community and beyond.”

Phillip Wolanski AM was another campaign patron and major donor with a long-standing family association with Emanuel School. The motivation behind his backing the project, he says, was “the value of the school being inclusive to all, well-managed and governed, providing exceptional educational possibilities for all students through its state-of-the-art Learning Centre, and that it is a school with a track record of delivering on its promises.”

Students as actors and models

One successful strategy to engage students, parents and grandparents and increase their sense of ownership was to use images of students as models and actors in campaign material. The campaign kicked off in May 2013 with a short animated cartoon ‘teaser’ – launched at a parent function, then at other events and on the website and Facebook – in which roles were played by students who also did voiceovers.

A nine-minute movie was made featuring students and staff, taking viewers on a virtual tour of the new building and its state-of-the-art facilities. Student photos also appeared in campaign communications on information brochures, pledge cards, banners and on the website.

Student productions were held, along with a founders’ morning tea, alumni cocktail party and 10 patron fundraising events. These consisted of a school concert by pre-school to Year 2 students and a gala event by Year 3 to Year 12 students   at the City Recital Hall in Angel Place last October. They turned out to be amazing opportunities to engage our grandparents and parents. Over $2 million was raised from those functions alone.

The appeal achieved the target of $7.5 million. Construction has just begun. One of the demountable buildings has already been removed from the site and a large hole in the ground awaits development!

Figure A: ‘Build Tomorrow Today’ campaign gift table

Gift amount

Number of donors

Total amount ($)













$100,000 – $200,000



$50,000 – $99,999



$49,000 and under






Michelle Favero

Michelle Favero has been marketing and communications manager at Emanuel School for two years. Previously she was director of Giganova Marketing and has extensive marketing and communications experience in South Africa and London in the financial sector. She is also co-founder and treasurer of the charity The Gogos and Mamas Group to assist South African children orphaned by AIDS.

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