Through the strategic planning process, it has become clear that there are key areas of internal operations that require rethinking and, in some cases, reinvestment to truly support the work of the College at a level of excellence. Over the next few months, each of these departments will start or continue an operational review of its structure, work, and deliverables with the goal of creating department-level plans for supporting the new strategic goals. They will work in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders in an effort to create a broad base of support for actions moving forward.
Finance Operations and the Business Office
Continuing the work begun under President Panken, z”l, our senior team has been adopting best practices from non-profit and higher-ed environments to support our entire operations by raising efficiency and effectiveness. Key next items include a comprehensive review of our accounting, budgeting, and forecasting processes and funds management, increased integration between the finance, financial aid, and development teams, and identification and implementation of automation to reduce manual processes and intervention. Other areas of focus include the development and implementation of best-in-class HR processes throughout the life cycle of an employee, a comprehensive review of our organizational structure and compensation plans, and a full review of our IT infrastructure to minimize enterprise risk and increase efficiency.
Office of Recruitment and Admissions
Enrollment in all religiously liberal seminaries – including Jewish seminaries in North America – has dramatically declined in the last three decades. While HUC remains the market leader in attracting non-Orthodox rabbinical students, our own class sizes are half what they were thirty years ago. Facing the coming retirements of Baby Boom clergy, and the expansion of non-traditional career paths, our own mission requires that we attract more students, particularly to our rabbinical and cantorial schools. Because the “well” of potential students has significantly declined as part of this overall declining trend, our first efforts must be to identify new sources of students and then develop paths for recruitment.
Our fundraising efforts over the last 15 years have been impressive and have seen the naming of our Jerusalem campus, two schools, and four professorships, for a combined $40 million in addition to many other important initiatives and unrestricted support. This indicates the significant interest and passion in the funding community for our work and the potential opportunities. At the same time, even fundraising at double this impressive rate will not counteract the needs. In 2019 we began an ambitious investment in a development plan which would adopt best practices to move us to an approach that covers all of North America, involving the hiring of significant new staff. That expansion plan was paused because of Covid and we lost senior leadership in this area in the fall of 2020. Our approach to developing a dynamic case for giving, and thus our ability to staff this function for success, will depend on how visionary our final plan will be. Our work now is to strengthen our policies and practices, build new relationships, and support a team that can meet our challenges.
Institutional Advancement—Alumni and Synagogue Relations
The work of nurturing and deepening our relationships with our alumni is vital to our fundraising, recruitment, and community engagement efforts. Since we went through a substantial downsizing of our work in both 2014 and 2019, we are now looking forward to growing alumni engagement by increasing the number of touch points for alumni, deepening alumni connection to their alma mater, and updating and centralizing alumni data. Through a targeted effort to steward the largest community of donors – our Reform Movement synagogues – we can increase both their awareness and connection to HUC through thought leadership and supportive programming.
Communications and Marketing
Our communications and marketing team has collectively been outperforming the resources we have invested in them for perhaps as long as HUC has been an institution. We need significant growth in this area to ensure that HUC is no longer a “well-kept secret.” Based on the work of the planning process, the team will be developing a vision for our external brand and work toward amplifying that brand in the public sphere through a combination of thought leadership, programming, and traditional marketing. At the same time, the team will expand on its service orientation and assess and respond to the needs of our entire institution in a strategic and holistic fashion.