Tag Archives: marketing

Connecting Practices and Learning from Each Other

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – April 4, 2012

Three different but important conferences took place late last month and have served to connect and engage Jewish development professionals as well as donors and other committed individuals in interesting ways. One gathering reached out to Reform synagogue development professionals only, another involved Jewish foundation representatives and leaders, and the third served to engage primarily nonprofit professionals working to organize their efforts across the State of Israel. Each conference resulted in positive outcomes but took different approaches and each received different levels of visibility in the media.

Consider each of the meetings:

  • At the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) in Tel Aviv, 400 Jewish funders from across the globe gathered to address common concerns and to discuss common practices facing Jewish philanthropists.
  • At Amuta21C, 250 men and women came together to discuss challenges facing “third sector organizations in Israel,” the terminology being used to refer to nonprofit organizations.
  • At the Reform Synagogue Development Professionals (RSDP) annual meeting in Philadelphia, fundraising professionals from 19 midsized and large Reform U.S. congregations focused on best practices, innovative technology considerations, and the challenges related to attracting more philanthropic dollars from the members of Reform synagogues.

In reflecting on the purposes and importance of each gathering, we see important connections that more than justify the value of commitments of time and other precious resources. While attendees at each meeting undoubtedly used the opportunities to connect with longtime friends, colleagues, and like-minded people doing similar work, the value of sharing ideas and considering new methodologies became uppermost and is a uniform theme.

Jonny Cline, the co-organizer of Amuta21C, told us this conference “looked to address the issues of the culture of philanthropy in Israel, or lack thereof, shared responsibilities with the changing paradigm of the relationships between business and the third sector.” The program and other information can be found atAmuta21C.com, and pictures and discussions are at Facebook.com/Amuta21c.

On the heels of Amuta21C, the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) continued its focus on networking between and among some of the most connected Jewish donors. According to one prominent attendee, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “JFN is the place for people who care about smart giving in the Jewish community. Participants are outstanding human beings and the work they are doing is making the world a better place.”

She told us that one highlight at this gathering “was that there were many Israeli givers … a new trend in global giving” in the Jewish giving arena. Cline cited a panel discussion at the Amuta21 conference that featured “meet the investors” where Dame Stephanie Shirley and private philanthropist and owner of the multi-family office Philippe J. Weil, joined Sandy Cardin of the Schusterman Foundation, and Vered Raz, director of corporate responsibility for the Fishman Group. The “catch phrase” that came from the conference was a call for more and better cooperation between philanthropists and nonprofits/third sector agencies.

At the gathering of Reform synagogue development professionals, networking, too, was a major focus, with several discussions sparking dynamic discussions about planned giving, technology, and best practices. Maxine Lowy, of Temple Oheb Shalom of Baltimore and who chairs the group, termed the annual meeting as “invaluable” and looks forward to the next get-together in San Francisco in March 2013.

“Our focus was a set of discussions about what Jewish houses of worship can learn from other religious institutions … how to better be a ‘connector of people’ rather than facilitators,” she mused.

Reports about these three different conferences have been covered, partially on eJewishPhilanthropy, as well as in other blogs and media sources. Most importantly, they reflect important efforts to connect people with intersecting agendas and priorities, each with different approaches. Strengthening Jewish philanthropy has historically receded in times of economy contraction or recession, which often result in downturns in giving. We note that several other major conferences are scheduled for later in 2012 but the three we have highlighted cover Jewish perspectives that focus on Jewish priorities and nonprofits that serve the Jewish community in the US and in Israel.

Jewish communal leaders have often expressed frustration that Jewish donors were not devoting sufficient attention and resources to Jewish priorities. Perhaps the long term results will reflect more Jewish dollars directed for Jewish needs and a better understanding how to marry Jewish philanthropic desires with the work of Jewish nonprofits … in the US, Israel, and around the globe.

If you are the planner or an attendee of a forthcoming conference on Jewish philanthropy, please advise us. As Cline told us, the point of these meetings “is to facilitate the development of a professional community … that will encourage and enable professional and organizational development and that will create and facilitate a channel of communication between the professional community and the (Jewish) philanthropic world.”


Branding Jewish NPOs

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – March 8, 2012

With the thoughts about the Purim holiday, we are reminded of the many “masks” that nonprofit organizations wear and some of the institutional games that we play, and at least one of the messages that we get from reading the Megila. The mandate: rather than hiding one’s identity, be forthcoming about who you are and work diligently to identify your goals and vision.

One contemporary lesson from Purim: the more a nonprofit is aware of and framing its image, the more successful it will be in maintaining and attracting financial and passionate support, along with successful brand recognition.

Nonprofits of all sizes need to regularly redefine – and reaffirm – their positions within the Jewish marketplace. We acknowledge that the nonprofit arena is undergoing many changes and some of our iconic institutions are either vanishing or diminishing. Recall which Jewish agencies of our alphabet soup no longer exist (think American Jewish Congress [AJC] or some of the synagogues and JCC’s where we spent our youth.) At the same time, other organizations are experiencing unprecedented expansion and support.

The choice is to embrace the need for marketing savvy or face the threat of perceived irrelevance. We point, for example, to synagogues across North America. With the average life span of a synagogue building today at 50 years, congregations are growing or ebbing because of population changes, where people are moving between certain urban and suburban areas and then back again. Congregations must face the need to adjust their facilities as much as they adjust programs and services.

But some would say, “We’re already investing significant dollars in advertising and self promotion.” But are those resources focused on the right priorities? How are priorities determined? Know that while you are questioning your competitors are introducing new approaches and beautiful facilities, getting more and more aggressive and making use of every tool available to stand above and apart.

Snoozing means losing today and this requires more aggressive outreach, as well as in-reach. And this circumstance calls for constrained budgets to include more dollars for marketing, branding, and progressive communications efforts … unprecedented but critical.

Rebranding is especially critical if your organization is preparing to undertake a fundraising campaign, increase efforts at attracting a previously illusive segment of the population (synagogues: have you considered this issue in attracting young, single people?); or if the organization has undergone significant change (congregations merging, service agencies serving adding revenue-generating, fee-for-service modules).

With the panoply of communication approaches, and the need to stay current, it is no Purim shpiel that marketing programs need to be reviewed and updated annually. Even organizational logos and other materials require updating every 10 years. We acknowledge, too, that what attracts our attention ranges from traditional (like direct mail and telephone) to technologically current or advanced (Facebook, Twitter, or other social media venues). With the flood of information, many people are almost shutting down and refusing to read or even listen to an unrelenting assault of promotion! Therefore, using these tools to create increased opportunities for personal contacts probably are becoming an even more important and successful mode of sharing information. Return to the future?

Warning: the successful rebranding process will likely be provocative and soul-searching. Evaluating the messaging and image of your organization will require you to identify the sometimes subtle and elusive pathways to people’s emotions, values, and self-definition. The personal/emotional connection is crucial, especially as a growing number of brands (did you know your organization is/has a brand?) compete for the same charitable dollars. Capturing the spirit and inspiration of your audiences is key to building long-term relationships with donors and other key stakeholders.

The branding process should include multiple sessions with staff and some representatives of your intended audience – especially top volunteer leaders. Exercises should include individual, team and group formats to allow for different types of reflection and brainstorming. The result of this process should be group consensus around the impacts that your organization makes, the images and words that best capture them, and the audiences to whom this information must be conveyed.

The mantra we all hear and repeat to others is about too much information coupled with not enough time in the day. Keep this in mind as you get into the heads of your intended audiences – they need a simple message with a clear and agile directive that stays at the tip of their minds and hearts. What is the one word that is synonymous with your organization? What is the relationship that the audience can have with your brand?

The answers to these questions will help form the foundation for your communications and fundraising efforts and should be reflected on your website, in your collaterals, and advertising.

Branding will continue to be an important issue for Jewish nonprofits for the foreseeable future. As Jewish institutions grapple with how “Jewish” to be and as the connection between younger generations of potential Jewish donors and constituents becomes more tenuous, nonprofits will have to make intentional and well-strategized decisions about their image in the marketplace.

Social Media and Jewish Nonprofits: Missing in Action?

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – February 15, 2012

So much attention is focused today on technology and especially social media as a platform to inform, educate and organize. Not a day goes by without some mention of the dynamics of Facebook and Twitter, and even eJewish Philanthropy almost always includes citations about the power of technology for nonprofits. This has prompted us to conduct an unofficial survey of a number of Jewish nonprofits, investigating how they are utilizing social media and how it enables them to meet the demands that they and their leaders are facing. The picture is not entirely positive.

The bottom line, as summarized by Jim Gelles, of Membership Management Services, developer of MM2000, a synagogue software system used by more than 200 congregations: “most of the Jewish world seems frozen in the 20th century when it comes to being technologically advanced.”

The Third Annual Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report reported in 2011 that 92% of U.S. nonprofit organizations have a presence on one or more social networking websites. This does not come as a surprise. However, what shocked us is the alarmingly low rate of Jewish nonprofits that have embraced social media as viable communications and fundraising enabling opportunities.

In the last decade, online social networking has expanded beyond being used solely as a tool for individuals to connect to/with each other. Instead, nonprofits are transitioning to using Facebook and Twitter as ways for organizations to build a donor base and market themselves to supporters. In terms of driving and growing fundraising potential and results, social networking may well be the next frontier!

However, there is still a great deal to be learned about just how effective a tool Facebook and Twitter can be.

Our recent survey demonstrated a significant lack of human or dollar resources invested by Jewish groups into Facebook and Twitter. Very few synagogues even seem to have any presence on Facebook or Twitter, although they all have websites, many of which are reasonably interactive. Robyn Cimbol, director of development at New York City’s Temple Emanu-El, noted that her congregation was probably the first Jewish congregation to have a website but today they have no specific plans to foster Facebook or Twitter activities, citing other pressing priorities and no apparent demands from their 2,800 member households. “We have limited staff resources and capabilities for this,” she noted, “but we are gearing up ultimately to recognize social media as one communications opportunity,” she told us. She did emphasize that “a number of staff members do use Face Book … to communicate with specific constituents but it is not used Temple-wide.”

Facebook reports that 89% of 1.3 million U.S. nonprofit organizations boast a social networking presence, offering opportunities potentially for fundraising. However, fundraising on Facebook is still a “minority effort,” despite recent gains.

Some organizations are opting for a modified social media fundraising approach. According to Robert Strickler, the Donor Pages Product Manager at DonorPerfect Software, an increasing amount of non-profits is turning to what he calls a “donor driven” approach. His firm has developed Donor Pages, an online “friend to friend portal” where an organization recruits its supporters to set up a website where they can reach out to family, friends and colleagues and personally ask them to donate. A platform like Donor Pages would be especially useful for synagogues, he notes, where membership serves as a “viable community which could set up pages and fundraise within their own personal networks.”

“Using a page like this gives ownership to the online social fundraising experience,” says Strickler. “We find that this tends to be effective because it operates on a more personal level.” He added that DonorPerfect has over 200 clients, both large and small, using donor pages, and that some have raised millions of dollars through the system. However, of these, only about 10 or 12 are Jewish organizations, and he said they are not yet fully utilizing the program.”

Despite the lack of nonprofits actively fundraising using Facebook, some data speaks to how viable an option it is. According to this year’s Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, four out of five nonprofit organizations find social networks a “valuable” fundraising option, yet they cannot exactly quantify why. This may be because only 9% of Facebook-using nonprofits measured a hard “return on investment” (i.e.: money raised or supporters recruited) for their social network usage. Therefore, estimates of fundraising successes via social media are hard to quantify.

Two organizations we contacted talked passionately about their experiences using social media. Avi Halzel, Head of the Denver Jewish Day School, noted that all of their events are publicized and communicated through Facebook, with a goal of reaching all of their audiences. “There is no real extra work for us,” he noted, because “we believe that this builds community and this is one of our key goals.” “While we cannot quantify income directly from our Facebook activities, we believe it’s working.”

“Our goal is one or two tweets and Facebook postings every day,” he added, “and we work hard to coordinate our messages accordingly.”

At Beth Tfiloh Congregation and Community Day School in Baltimore and its close to 1000 student PreSchool-12 day school, social media has become a high priority, especially to connect families and alumni with dynamic school activities. Mandi Miller, the director of development, predicts even much more significant attention to Facebook and Twitter in the coming months, especially as they look to their critical annual Spotlight Scholarship event in June. “For the past few years we have experimented with different ways to use Facebook and Twitter, recognizing that the major costs are staff time.”

Her acknowledging that devoting resources, especially of staff time, towards stewardship, maintenance and expansion of the online community and other outreach efforts, seem unacknowledged generally. Just like fundraising through direct mail, meetings or phone calls, the same rules of stewardship are just as critical. Most nonprofits have no specific budget for technology, including social networking, despite the fact that no organization can manage today without staying current with technology. Miller also points out that volunteers can serve as a very powerful resource to expand the organization’s use of social media.

The power of resources is evident in what the Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report calls Master Social Fundraisers, nonprofit organizations that have raised more than $100,000 on Facebook. Quite surprisingly, with 30% of these agencies having an annual budget of $1-5 million, they reported at least $100,000 received in financial support. Distinguishing this group of agencies is that they report they had two or more people on staff dedicated – at least part-time – to social networking.

Last week, the Jewish Futures Competition was announced by the Jewish Education Project and JESNA’s Lippman Kanfer Institute, in partnership with UJA Federation of New York. Perhaps some candidates for creative projects will be tempted by the $1,800 prize money to suggest dynamic ways that the Jewish community’s nonprofits can advance utilizing Facebook and Twitter arenas and thus capture more participation and dollars … perhaps even functioning on a par with non-Jewish nonprofits that seem to be light years ahead of them.