We work on capacity building for organizations seeking to align their organization with the revolution in modern communications. In fact, we think this is so important that it has become a central part of all of our consulting work and this work on capacity gives the best long-term ROI of any activities we can do. But what do we actually mean by capacity building? What does capacity mean in the context of a nonprofit organization?
The Tsunami of Tactical Advice
All of us are overwhelmed every day by articles, blogs posts, slide presentations, emails and workshops that focus on the tactics of communication. Whether it is about image size or frequency of posting on Facebook, or whether Pinterest is worth investing in, or the top donation page design, there is no shortage of information about the latest thinking in digital communications tactics. And while this information is useful —it is not the central difference between those who win online and those who think they could be doing a lot better. It is hard to absorb all that information and rarely do we see the information we need when we most need it. Overlooked in all of this advice is the capacity of organizations to make use of it, to integrate it into their plans and to see the bigger picture about how tactics ladder-up as part of strategy.
When we talk about capacity, we mean PPTC, which stands for People, Process, Technology and Culture.
In order to have the capacity to be effective, you need to align these four areas of your operations. Once aligned you don’t need to sweat the tactics because they naturally flow into the organization through the people paying attention, the continuing improvement in process and the technology you’ve adopted to get the job done.
Let’s look at each of these areas a little more closely:
Having your 20-something office admin who loves SnapChat does not mean you have capacity to succeed with social media. The people who can do a particular body of work are critical and it is almost never one person. Your whole team needs to understand how digital communications is part of a “theory of influence” that moves your issues forward. An important rule of thumb: don’t let front-line staff make business decisions on the fly. Imagine, for example, you have a crisis and this needs to be communicated. The young intern who knows how to use social media would be great to post things and respond to people asking questions — but only if the leadership decided what to say, how to say it and how to navigate the minefields and nuance of the story. Bottom line: When we talk about People and capacity, we mean the whole organization understanding the principles behind these new digital communications tools and being able to give organizational leadership on the approach. And we mean having strong, technically savvy front-line staff able to execute and understand tactical best practices and analytics.
While “rock stars” can have a lot of success with heroic efforts — all nighters, last minute deadlines, a brilliant idea — it does not represent capacity. Capacity is about enabling the same high quality results over and over again. And this consistency of results can’t be achieved without process. Process sets a baseline where we ask the same questions, have check-lists and a well-honed step-by-step approach. The content changes, but the process remains consistent.
The process also has a built-in feedback loop for continual improvement. What worked on this campaign? How can we do better? We ask these questions every day and when we find ways in which the process can get improved, the improvements get incorporated.
Nonprofit communications and operations require technology. Technology is used from the basic — can we answer the phones? — to the complex — can we share data between online and offline donors? Having technology that is aligned with the business goals is an important part of capacity. Sometimes, organizations are spending far too much money on technology that has marginal benefit and not enough on technologies that are core to the long-term vision of success. For example, there is simply no way to treat your donors and constituents as individuals without technology that allows you to monitor, track and be able to respond to them individually. If your content management system doesn’t allow for updating critical content in a timely way, you have a business problem. In the world of dominant digital communications, this technology is critical.
For many consultants, they don’t see culture as a capacity issue, but we do. In fact, we think it’s the most important one. In many ways, the people, process and technology are a prisoner to the organizational culture. A culture that is old-school and slow, timid in its approach to communications, and where employees fear risk and failure will never be a top performer in digital communications. They can hire the best people, publish books of standard operating procedures, and buy top-of-the-line technology and it won’t do them any good. The new initiatives will collapse under the weight of an outdated culture.
Here, we create plans that help organizations:
-Find and train the right people as well as educating people through-out the organization
-Institute continuous improvement processes
- Support and manage the time consuming and sometimes painful process of technology alignment
But how, you might ask, can we influence culture? We’ve given that a lot of thought and field testing. For us, it’s similar to the military counterinsurgency “oil spot” theory. In this approach, the military seeks to hold a small territory, build trust and commitment there, and then build out from those strengths until it encompasses the whole town or society. Similarly, we focus on the design and implementation of strategic projects whose often unstated purpose is to create new pockets of culture inside an organization. Often, we label these projects as experiments, which takes the pressure off of them and allows for a greater range of action. These pockets of new culture energize the organization and become a magnet for people wanting to get involved and other internal investments. The follow-on projects bring the culture change to more people internally and eventually, it’s the tail of the new culture wagging the dog of the old organization.
Culture change also benefits greatly from leadership buy-in and the bully pulpit that encourages a set of new values, such as taking risk and failing fast. But we cannot overstate the challenge of bureaucratic silos, where incentives are aligned against change and cross department projects are the exception. The bottom line is that if you really want to win in digital communications, if you really want to become high performing and raise more money, if you want your cause to be one that people rally around, you have to go headlong into the complex world of organizational culture.
Portions of this blog were cross posted on the See3 blog.
As organizations invest in building online networks and deeper engagement with constituents, we constantly need to refocus on how that engagement leads to mission-centric action. It’s not just enough to have eyeballs, or even likes. What does it look like to design and implement an online strategy that has on the ground impact? Specifically, how can your content jump offline?
One primary driver of this jump is value. What content is of value to your audience, and what will they do with that value? I like to think about this as a Venn diagram -- one circle is your mission and goals, and the other are the very specific and honest needs of the people you’re trying to engage. Only when you are able to create content in that “sweet spot” in the center can you really move the needs. For your content to travel (online and offline), it needs to build the social capital of the people who are going to share it. Why would someone want to claim your content as their own? What does it say about their identity, values and/or interests? Being brutally honest about this intersection is the first critical skill to solve this part-art-part-science question.
The second driver of traveling content is momentum. What is happening on the calendar, in politics, in local or world events that has created momentum in the news and in social media? How can you surf that wave? Remember when the lights went out at the Superbowl in 2013? Within minutes Oreo had launched “You can still dunk in the dark” -- a fantastic example of taking advantage of the momentum online at that moment. Where is there natural moment that aligns with your mission and goals, and how can you create content to surf that wave?
The Jewish community at this time of year is a great example of such a wave -- everything is about Passover. The Passover seder is the most widely observed tradition in Judaism today. As we recall the exodus of the Israelites from centuries of slavery in Egypt, themes of renewal, redemption, and freedom illicit a kind of surge of content from Jewish organizations of all types. Individually, people are planning their seder -- who to invite, how to make it special, and how to stretch the themes of the seder to be applicable to our modern world (and a diverse group of people around the table).
Many organizations publish Passover seder inserts - readings to complement the traditional Haggadah (book that tells the story of the exodus and sets out the order for the seder). It used to be that these came in the mail to donors (and prospective donors). Today, they are published online and emailed as well as circulated through social media. This approach is both cheaper (no printing and mailing!) and also allows the content to reach farther than an organization’s own mailing list.
American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has always been one of my go-to Passover sources. Their mission to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world aligns so well with the themes of the holiday, This year, they published a seder supplement written by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt focusing on the role of 5 women in the exodus. Not only did the content align AJWS with the themes of the seder, but it capitalized on the theme of women. This resources has been shared more widely in Facebook than anything I’ve seen lately. As you can see here, 22 shares from the AJWS main Facebook page, and countless more links to it through individual profiles and organizational pages.
Users then print the PDF and read from it at the seder, carrying the AJWS brand and mission to the table. (I even once sent the PDF to FedEx Office to have it printed and laminated to use year after year.) AJWS leverages the alignment of their mission with opportunity of the seder, and offers value to the audience by bringing a highly relevant and much adored voice -- the Supreme Court Justice -- to your own table. A very smart and effective effort.
This year, Interfaith Israel is thinking about how to market their new summer Israel trip for teens from interfaith families. They realize that educating people about the opportunity, plus making the case to send a teen on an overseas trip for the summer is not easy. Their best success has been a very high-touch approach at in person events -- but it’s very hard to scale. They realized that there’s a larger conversation underlying their program. “Why this summer in Israel?” which echoes in the line from the Haggadah, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Building off of this connection, Interfaith Israel has developed a seder supplement that simple seeks to cultivate a conversation about how we can be on a constant journey to explore our heritage, roots and values. Their addition to the seder invites reflection at multiple levels. What does Jerusalem represent for you? For your family? For the World? And then progresses to ask about modern Jerusalem today, and how visiting this center of multiple religions is an important experience for all Jews, and perhaps especially those with multiple heritages in their family. By providing a widely accessible and applicable value-added resource, Interfaith Israel is getting their brand and their upcoming teen trip into the homes of thousands.
So the lessons here for you? First, make sure you’re insightful about what is TRULY valuable to your target audiences. Second, develop content that rides the wave of attention, capitalizing on holidays, social trends, or other big events. Third, to jump from online to offline, create content that real applied, practical value in offline settings.
Stay tuned for a future post about designing for engagement that starts offline and jumps online! Have a good example? Share it with us!
When I started working as a Rabbi in 2009, there were a number of decisions that I had to make: Would I be Rabbi Danny or Rabbi Burkeman? Would I wear a suit every day? And would I set up a professional Facebook account?
According to Facebook guidelines, a person is only supposed to have one account; yet I was aware of a number of rabbinic colleagues who were maintaining a personal and professional account. After much deliberation, I decided that I would set up a second professional account. And so in the world of Facebook, I existed as two different people: Danny Burkeman and R Danny Burkeman.
There were a number of reasons behind my decision. I was concerned about having my entire personal life on display to everyone. Not out of fear of what people would find on my page, but rather because I wished to maintain a degree of privacy for my family and myself. I was also conscious that on occasions, my friends have been known to write posts that are intended to be funny, but may sometimes be perceived by others as inappropriate. I also knew that many of my personal Facebook friends would be uninterested in all of my Judaism-related posts, and I wondered if it was better to have another avenue for sharing these (ultimately Twitter has become that means).
It was complicated and resulted in quite a few missteps. I would post comments to the wrong account, send friend requests from the wrong account, and I would often neglect one account at the expense of the other. Yet at the end of the day, I appreciated that I could have a public rabbinic persona while maintaining some semblance of online privacy.
But there were challenges. What was I supposed to do with Jewish colleagues who were simultaneously friends and people with whom I shared a professional connection? Where was I supposed to direct the congregants who became friends? And how was I to decide what to post on which account?
So now, five years into my life as a rabbi, I have decided to return to my roots with a singular Facebook account. The process is not easy, as Facebook has no system for merging two accounts I shouldn’t really have had in the first place (I’m happy to share my experiences if you’re in a similar situation); but it is something that I want to do, and something I have been leaning towards for the last few years.
Three events have moved me to this position. The first was leaving my first community in London to come to Port Washington. My congregants were no longer congregants, and over our time in London, many had become friends. In my new situation, as their former Rabbi, I felt unsure about where they now belonged in my Facebook world. Then, when my daughter was born, I wanted to share photos and updates with everybody. I am blessed with a community who were very supportive of us during that time, and who were excited to greet our new arrival. Many of my posts belonged in both accounts, but with the pressures of a newborn it was increasingly challenging to keep both accounts as updated as I wanted.
But the final impetus for merging the accounts, and leaving R Danny Burkeman behind, is a project I am currently involved in called the #ElulMitzvahChallenge. I wanted to make sure that this campaign got the most exposure possible. Having realized that my personal and professional networks had become intertwined over the years, I could not imagine posting this on one account and not the other; it belonged on both pages. And more than this, it was a reminder that in many ways, the division between the personal and the professional had become artificial.
As a Rabbi I have come to understand that I am (at least to a limited extent) a public figure, and Facebook is another medium for engaging with the community and sharing my Torah. We need to recognize that it is another tool in our arsenal, and as such we have to decide how to use that tool. The challenge for all of us in ‘public’ positions is how can we share our authentic selves with our communities while also maintaining our private lives for the sake of our families and ourselves. In this way Facebook may be more than just a tool; it can also be a gauge for measuring what we are willing to share online, what we prefer to save for our offline community, and what we keep just for our families.
So as complicated, and at times as irritating as it has been, I have now reached the stage where I have dispensed with my dual Facebook identity. In my Facebook world I am now just Danny Burkeman – in fact one could say that I am now no longer “two-faced(booked).”
Rabbi Danny Burkeman is a Rabbi at The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, New York. He has been an important influence in helping his previous and current congregations' online presence through Twitter and Facebook, among others. He launched #elulmitzvahchallange this fall, which has inspired hundreds of people across the world to video and share their mitzvot.
Transitions are always a time for reflection, regrouping, and looking forward. When a leader retires, the organization must take stock of where they are at, and what they need for the next era. When a child starts the new school year, parents reflect on how far they’ve come and what milestones they’ll achieve this year. My seven-year old daughter, for example, is just having that amazing reading explosion, and I’m excited to think about what books she’ll be reading independently by the end of the school year.
Fall is always a time of transition when vacations are over, school years are starting, and the weather changes. For the Jewish community, this is a time of very serious introspection and reflection. The High Holidays are a time of personal reflection that helps everyone think about self-improvement, and recommit to themselves, the community, and the Divine.
At Darim Online and See3 Communications we have been thinking a lot about “lean” models, “agile development”, and the empathetic “design thinking” approach. All of these approaches -- strategic, technical and creative – are based on iterations. Try something out, evaluate how it’s going, be reflective, and iterate. Just like in life, there’s no one finish line – it’s a constant process of growth, evolution and self-improvement.
So, at this time of seasonal transition and personal reflection, we also want to encourage you to step back professionally to appreciate what you and your team have accomplished over the past year, to reflect on what you’ve learned and how it might inform the future. When we’re often so focused on strategy and outcomes, perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to think about your organizational culture, how you appreciate and support one another, and how you’re growing (individually and collectively) as professionals.
We know synagogues are deep in planning and logistics (and sermon writing!), so this reflection might be more practical after you've put the chairs away and cleaned the sticky honey out of the social hall carpet. But reflection is important, and doing it as a team is an important part of being agile, iterative, and growing.
So, where to start?
- Check out 10Q, a project of Reboot. Starting September 24th, they’ll send you one question per day for the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. They’ll save your answers and share them back a year later to help you reflect on how you’ve grown. Keep the answers private, or share with your team to get to know each other better.
- This is a great reflection sheet from Sara Shapiro-Plevan for groups of educators based on the Jewish concept of “heshbon hanefesh” (accounting of one’s soul).
- The Harvard Business Review has a great recorded webinar on coaching employees that you might find useful in designing a reflective process.
- Caren Levine created this source sheet for the holidays that can be a good converastion starter.
How do you do annual personal, professional and/or team reflection? Why is it valuable? Share with us in the comments.
The most valuable mile marker of an organization’s social media maturity is how they integrate the tools, content and social experience into their organization’s operations and overall strategy. Technology (of any sort) shouldn’t just be layered on top of status quo operations, and it isn't actually about the technology. Leaders must be insightful about what they are really trying to change or accomplish, and then align the tools, skills, tactics, culture and workflow to support it. Often it's the soft and fuzzy side of technology that's the hardest part to get right.
For example, a rigid organizational culture will not support the emergent nature of social media communications and community building. A hierarchical staffing structure will isolate social media responsibilities with a person in the office rather than promoting stronger relationships among all. A broadcast communications strategy will fall flat (or worse, do harm) in a conversational and collaborative landscape.
Thus, one of the greatest challenges of successfully bringing your organization into the connected age is to recognize the need to evolve organizational culture, and to take steps to do it purposefully and productively.
In this year’s Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, produced in collaboration with the AVI CHAI Foundation, 15 schools learned new skills and developed new strategies for their social media efforts. They engaged alumni and raised funds, and some even recruited new families to their schools. But perhaps even more importantly, they learned how to more fully integrate social media into their schools’ culture and operations, from recruitment to alumni engagement, from fundraising to community building. We can learn much from their pioneering work, experimentation and accomplishments.
So here are the top 5 integration lessons from this year’s academy:
1) Get Everyone Rowing in the Same Direction. There’s a delicate balance between having a coordinated strategy, and cramping creative people’s style. At The Epstein School, for example, the Academy team decided to explore Pinterest as a tool to engage parents and prospective parents. They soon realized that different departments (for example, the library) had already started experimenting with Pinterest and established a bit of a following. They are consolidated the efforts to help each department use Pinterest effectively, while creating one brand presence and attracting families to explore all of the various boards. They are building up toward a launch in the fall with content that will be valuable for both current and prospective parents, and shows the school’s priorities and strengths in action.
2) It’s Everyone’s Job. Social media responsibility doesn’t live only with one staff person. Content creation and curation is everyone’s job, and within a school community, parents and students play a role as well. The Cohen Hillel Academy embraced this ethos throughout their school. They used their social fundraising campaign as an opportunity to raise awareness of and engagement with their school’s newly-articulated strategic focus on Expeditionary Education, Joyful Judaism, and Community Partnerships. They looked for ways to engage students in the concepts (e.g., speaking about “Joyful Judaism” at a school assembly and asking kids to draw a picture of what it means to them) and used the campaign as a jumping-off point for richer, more thoughtful conversations with parents. Noah Hartman, Head of School at Cohen Hillel has been tweeting throughout the year, increasing accessibility for students and parents alike, curating educational resources and insights, building community, and being playful (like a Vine video announcing a snow closure!)
The Leo Baeck Day School in Toronto inaugurated “LBTV Action News” as a vehicle for telling the school’s story, and to enrich the curriculum. In 60 to 90 second installments, students did standup spot “news reports,” on selected events and subjects. It was effective in terms of growing our social media reach. Parents are our main audience on Facebook – which is our main social medium -- and they love seeing children doing the presenting as well as being the subjects of a video. Communications Director David Bale leveraged his background as a radio news reporter to teach students how to prepare an intro, segue to an interviewee and how and what to ask, and summing up in an extro/sign off. They learned the proper way to stand, hold a mic, and to think in terms of their audience of Internet viewers watching a small frame video screen.
3) It’s all about the Culture. Society is based on cultural – norm, expectations, rituals. You know the nuance of what’s appropriate or respectful in various places because you pick up on cues – dress, tone of voice, pecking orders, etc. Your online culture is no different. The Epstein School was focusing on increasing engagement, and knew that to be successful, their parent community needed to feel like it was their space, not just a broadcast from the school office. They developed a training program – starting with parent volunteers in their leadership program – to help parents learn social media skills and understand how they can participate and why it makes a difference. Their reach, engagement, tagging, and sharing has increased tremendously as their parent community has demonstrated the culture they seek to nurture. Similarly, The Davis Academy has engaged Host Committee Members, Parent Ambassadors, and Faculty Members to play a more active and informed role in their social spaces, and will be kicking off their work in the fall with a social media orientation.
4) Let It Go, Let It Go. The Ida Crown Academy (grades 9-12) focused on recruitment this year. Their strategy included reaching middle school students to get them excited about attending high school there, rather than always communicating directly with the parents of prospective students. In order to reach middle school students, they tapped their high schoolers to make the case that ICJA is a wonderful place to go to school. Hearing directly from the students was more authentic and trustworthy, and more relevant. They decided to hand over their Instagram account to current high school students (with supervision) who were encouraged to post photos as a real window into life as an ICJA student. They posted about field trips, special school activities, and day-to-day life at the school. The students enjoyed it (after all, most high school students are spending more time on Instagram than Facebook these day so it’s a platform they’re comfortable with and like to use). As a result, they’ve seen a growing number of prospective students start following their Instagram account and liking their content.
5) Integrate! Social media isn’t a layer on top of your communications and engagement, it’s a tool that should be integrated into everything you do. The Frisch School decided to coordinate a sports breakfast fundraiser with their social fundraising campaign. Knowing the visual power on social media, they brought the Cougar back as a symbol of our various sports teams. They photographed students, teachers, and faculty with the Cougar at various events or just around the school holding up signs saying things like “We Support the Cougar” or “The Hockey Team Supports the Cougar”. The meme became popular amongst the students that the student-produced newsletter decided to create graphics and write articles about Supporting the Cougar, and the Student Video Production Club created a video with a Rocky theme (the special guest at the live Sports Breakfast was the Modern Orthodox boxer Dmitriy Salita). The campaign created valuable energy on the ground and for the live event, as well as produced priceless content and garnered great engagement and financial support online.
These are just a few of the valuable lessons learned in the JDS Academy this year. You can explore the lessons and activities of all of the schools through their blog posts tagged #JDSacademy. You’re also invited to drop into the ongoing conversation in our JDS Academy Facebook Group. Got lessons to add, or examples of how you’ve put these 5 into practice? Let us know in the comments.
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