Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies

CONSULTING AREA: Board Development

Sara Watkins is knowledgeable, collaborative, and creative. She is both grounded and inspirational, bringing a wealth of knowledge to the process. Sara does not use boilerplate; instead she tailors her work to meet the particular needs of an organization. She gave us a process that’s in progress to improve the effectiveness of our board of directors.

– Elaine Amir, President, Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies


The Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies (previously known as the Foundation for Jewish Studies) is the largest independent provider of Jewish adult education in the Greater Washington area, offering each year more than 50 different occasions to meet with, discuss, and learn from top educators. The Institute seeks to stimulate engagement with Jewish texts, promote discussion about Jewish culture, life, history, literature and philosophy, and is working to ensure the longevity of the Jewish faith and tradition.

The Institute enrolled in a Sustainable Board Workshop taught by Sara Watkins at the Nonprofit Village, seeking advice on how to evaluate and set new direction for its board of directors.

Key Challenges

As a mature organization launched more than 30 years ago, the Institute needed help learning best practices for board development and recruitment to implement what they had learned.

Services Provided

Capacity Partners met with board and staff members to learn more about the strengths and needs of the organization. Capacity Partners then helped the board develop a self-evaluation survey which was completed by all board members. The survey results were used as the basis for a board retreat. During the retreat, board members discussed the size of the board, committee structure, orientation for new members, attracting and recruiting strategies, and evaluation of board effectiveness. Capacity Partners also has developed an immediate needs work plan, created calendar of cultivation activities, and developed solicitation letters and strategies to enhance fundraising tactics and results. Projects also included developing a new sponsorship structure.


At the conclusion of the self-evaluation, board members reassessed their individual contributions to the board and evaluated their effectiveness as board members. As a result of the retreat, board members decided to recruit potential new members to serve on committees according to the areas of expertise needed by the Institute. Through service on a committee, both the board and the new committee members could determine if moving onto the full board would be mutually advantageous. In addition to specific expertise, the Institute now emphasizes committee members who are passionate about the Institute’s mission and energized to advance and support it.