I have attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) three times, but this year's conference was my first time participating in NTCJews. Jews have been gathering at NTC for the past several years. Since I have always been active in the Jewish community - from BBYO to Hillel to Jewish organizations in the DC area, I was excited to have the opportunity to learn about technology with other Jews at the conference.
This year's theme was technology integration, and we heard three mini-case studies from organizations working to get technology out of the IT and Marketing Departments, and in use in service of wider organizational goals.
Alex Kadis from Repair the World shared the strategy behind their volunteer management system. After selecting and implementing the system, they were faced with issues including staff not making it a priority to enter the data and feature confusion. They learned through this experience the need to devote lots of time and energy to training. Their key lesson was to make it fun. They nicknamed the system "Spot" and called the trainings "Talk Nerdy To Me". Crisp design and a clear message helped get their fellows on board and created the tools to onboard new fellows each year.
Karen Alpert from Hillel International shared how they needed a way to measure impact, analyze which programs work best, and to not lose data. Hillel developed
REACH , a tool for local staff to keep track of how many students they are engaging on college campuses, which also allows Hillel International a wide view of the field. Even though the database has been successful in meeting their needs, they have been faced with challenges including user input and cultural shift. Their key lesson was to be clear with staff about why they need to use it. Younger staff especially will do it if they see it to be part of their job. Hillel listened to user input and made adjustments such as simplifying the user interface and limiting fields that overwhelmed users visually.
Yaniv Rivlin from The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network shared their experience with Friday Night Hack, an event that was held this past July. Programmers in both the Silicon Valley and Israel participated in a concurrent hack-a-thon to build two apps. One app was a Jewish college roommate finder for BBYO, and the other app was a continuation of a web application Hasadna started previously to promote the accessibility and transparency of budgetary data in Israel’s municipalities.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the session was the chance for NTCjews to dive deeply into themes raised in the presentations and submitted by participants prior to the event, such as
• Planning for mobile
• Developing an agile and iterative culture
• Moving people from online to offline engagement
• Technology to engage volunteers
• Technology integration across the organization
I really enjoyed my first NTCJews session and it was one of my favorite sessions at the conference. It was a great example of a session at NTC as the first two presentations showed a problem the organization had internally, how technology was used to help them solve the problem, and the challenges they faced. Understanding how leaders recognize and address a problem is much more educational than learning only about best practices.
Finally, it was a delight to be with many of the same people for Shabbat dinner on Friday night and hearing the funny d'var from Rabbi Laura Baum comparing the lessons of Purim to nonprofit technology. It's nice to be around other Jews.
Emily Weinberg is a nonprofit blogger. Her blog, The Nonprofit Blog Exchange, is a resource for nonprofits where she writes monthly roundups linking to nonprofit blog articles and has been recognized as one of the top 150 nonprofit blogs in the world. She also writes about nonprofits and social media on her blog, Emily's World. You can learn more on her LinkedIn profile.
JCDS started off the 2013-2014 academic year with what I would have considered a strong social media presence. While the school has been active on many social media channels for some time (Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn), most of my focus had been on Facebook, as it is a quick and easy way to share photos, videos, and important updates with our parents, grandparents, donors, and alumni.
Looking back, I wasn't thinking about social media in the right way. While I posted nearly every day, the most engagement I got was a couple of likes here and there. I was posting, not connecting.
Through experimentation over the last six months, I've learned that my role, as the voice of the school on Facebook, is not to be a news source, but to create an environment that starts conversation. Once I was able to get the conversation started, Facebook became a tool unlike any other. It became a place for me to listen to what our audience values, which in the end, is the most important thing of all.
By analyzing the engagement levels and analytics of our recent posts, here are the top 5 Facebook strategies that have been successful for JCDS:
1. Tag those who are involved, and those who you want to be involved.
When you tag someone in a post or photo, it will show up on their Facebook page. Not only will it directly call attention to the person you want to be involved, but your post will also be visible to their network, and therefore, reach many more people who you otherwise would not have access to! I’ve had success asking people to tag themselves and their friends. The benefit of this is twofold: they are actively engaging with the post, and they may tag people who we are not yet connected with.
2. Ask questions.
Asking specific, pointed questions is a great way to get the conversation rolling. Sure, I’ve had a few flops, but those helped me learn what our audience likes to talk about. I've seen success in action in many of my #ThrowbackThursday posts, where I've asked (via tagging) people in the photo specific questions about what's going on in the picture. One comment leads to the next, and pretty soon anyone who sees the photo gets a deeper understanding of what was happening when the photo was taken, and hopefully feels more connected to story I am trying to tell.
3. Be genuine.
In January, JCDS students were surprised with a visit from the 2013 World Series Trophy. First, I posted that we had big news with a photo of one of our staff members dressed as a Red Sox player. The next day, I posted a photo of excited kids (and tagged their parents) and shared that the trophy would be coming. Then -- the most successful post of all -- was a video of a 4th grade teacher telling the kids that the trophy was coming. Seeing their pure and genuine reaction definitely resonated with our social media audience: 38 likes, 19 comments, and the jackpot, 12 shares. The video was even written about in the local newspaper, the Watertown Patch. This kind of engagement was unprecedented for us.
4. Repeat successful themes.
Between the regular daily posts, I've committed to a few repeating themes. One universal theme, #ThrowbackThursday, has been a great way for us to connect with our alumni and alumni parents. I’ve gotten a tremendously positive response from our throwback photos. Because this is a weekly theme, the audience knows to expect it. And because there are usually a lot of comments, people are not shy to participate.
I also created a new theme, called #JCDSCharacter. I felt it was important to celebrate our students through short stories that capture the spirit of our school. Parents love to see that they are sending their kids to a school that helps them grow into mensches. It's also a great tool for prospective families. Every time a #JCDSCharacter post is shared, a whole new audience is exposed to the great things that happen in our school.
5. Engage with other organizations.
Celebrating successes of other schools and organizations is a beautiful thing! Just as much as we want people to engage with our school Facebook page, it's important to interact with others. While I am on Facebook, I make sure to take the time to look at what other organizations are posting. If they post something that relates to our school or community, I share it on our page. Fostering good-will between organizations is priceless, and the favor is almost always returned.
The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2013-14 nationwide cohort of 15schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation. Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy
Also, check out the Jewish Day School Social Media and Video Academy website, which includes a free self-assessment to help your school focus on key areas of growth in your social media work.
Cross-posted with permission from OurJewishCommunity.org
In today’s world, holiday celebration is usually juxtaposed with whatever else is going on at the time. So it was with my celebration of Purim this year, as I was travelling into the holiday from the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin and the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington DC. I couldn’t help but reflect on Purim in the context of technology, and I discovered that the Book of Esther is full of helpful tech tips!
As background, Purim is one of several Jewish holidays to commemorate the resilience of the Jewish people in the face of oppression (otherwise known as: they came to kill us, we won, let’s eat!). The main characters in the Book of Esther are King Ahasuerus of Persia; his beautiful first wife Vashti; Haman, an evil official of the king; Mordechai, a kindly Jew; and Queen Esther, the second wife of Ahasuerus, who was Mordechai’s relative and also a Jew.
Another piece of background: There are two ways to approach biblical texts. One is exegesis. This involves a careful, objective analysis. The other is eisegesis, a subjective, non-analytical approach. It lets us read our own message into the text. And that’s exactly what I decided to do. Here's what I learned:
1. Diversity matters. Throughout the Nonprofit Technology Conference, many spoke of the importance of diversity in tech teams – the need to include women, minorities, and others who are so often excluded. Purim celebrates diversity as well. The cast of characters includes two queens who are quite different from one another, and two courtiers at opposite ends of a good-to-evil continuum.
2. Avoid the shiny object syndrome. The king’s shiny object was Vashti. But when he wanted her to prance around naked in front of his friends, she refused. If he wanted a queen who doubled as a display piece, Vashti wasn’t that woman. He was wooed by her looks, and never bothered to see if she had the substance needed to accomplish his goals. Of course, I’m speaking from the king’s perspective of viewing Vashti as a beautiful, objectified woman, rather than from my feminist perspective. But the parallel holds: with technology, it’s critical that we look past the sexiness of the package to make sure it does what we want.
3. Collect data and ask questions. Several conference sessions addressed the importance of data. Haman could have used that lesson. When King Ahasuerus asked how he would honor a great man, Haman said he would dress that person in royal robes and lead him around on the king’s horse. Haman assumed the king was talking about him, but it turns out the king was asking how to honor Mordechai. If Haman had done things thoughtfully, he would have first gathered data and then answered based on that. We need to make sure our tech decisions are data-driven as well.
4. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. Haman built gallows for Mordechai. But, it turned out that’s not what the community (and in this case, the king) wanted. In fact, Haman ended up being the guy who was hanged. So don’t assume that, just because you build something, people will want it. Maybe you’ll be the only guy using that tech in the end!
5. Go big or go home. Be loud and bold and crazy. Like Esther, be yourself. And be willing to make noise. Wear a mask occasionally. Experiment with tech. Try new things on for size.
6. Don’t drink and tweet. Be responsible. Though it’s a mitzvah (commandment) to get so drunk on Purim that you don’t know the difference between Drupal and Wordpress – or Salesforce and Oracle – drink responsibly.
7. Segment your audience. If we were writing and disseminating the Book of Esther today, we would share it differently with each audience. For example, kids would get a text about hamantaschen (cookies), queens, and noisemakers. Adults would get an email about nudity, drinking, and violence.
8. Think before you hit send. King Ahasuerus had already decreed that all the Jews should be killed – before Esther told him she was Jewish. When he wanted to reverse the decree, it was too late. So the story had to end with the king allowing the Jews to defend themselves, and therefore tragically slaying tens of thousands. He would have been better off not issuing the decree in the first place.
9. Borrow from the past, but decide what to discard. The Bible is a series of myths and legends. Its authors were brilliant and creative. I still look to some of my ancestors’ writings for meaning – but not to all of their stories. Some are simply not meaningful to us today, so we also create our own authentic stories. It’s the same with technology. We have to decide what to hold on to and what no longer serves.
10. Be disruptive. The Purim story is about disruption. Mordechai changed history by refusing to bow to Haman. Vashti disobeyed the king. Esther disrupted the norms too. In an effort to save the Jews, she appeared before the king without having first been summoned – a clear violation of royal protocol. The authors of the Book of Esther knew that it is through disruption that society moves forward, just as disruptive technology helps us create new markets and value streams today.
As someone who values the ongoing evolution of the Jewish experience, I celebrate disruptive Judaism and disruptive technology. Through disruption, innovation happens. Meaningful experiences emerge.
Laura Baum is rabbi and co-founder of OurJewishCommunity.org, an online synagogue that reaches hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Follow her on Twitter @Rabbi .
As part of the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival taking place April 22-24, Schusterman is teaming up with Games for Change to sponsor a game design contest! Games for Change is a nonprofit organization that catalyzes social impact through inventive digital games. They are known for bringing together and propelling the brightest minds passionate about incorporating gaming into daily life in order to advance society.
Schusterman is excited to partner with Games for Change in helping to advance the understanding of games and game thinking within its network of young Jewish change makers! We believe that this initiative will tap into a network of young Jewish adults eager to apply technology for social good in Israel, the Jewish world and beyond.
As part of our partnership with Games for Change, Schusterman invited eight representatives from organizations in our network to come together for a two-day workshop at Soho House in New York City. The workshop helped to advance understanding of the potential of digital games to engage new audiences and to move each organization’s mission forward.
As a result of this workshop, SpaceIL was selected to see their plan through, and we are now calling on game builders far and wide to apply their skills to a worthy mission!
SpaceIL, an Israel-based nonprofit organization and one of the leading teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize, is aiming to land a spacecraft on the moon by 2015. Through this endeavor, SpaceIL aspires to create a new “Apollo effect,” inspiring the next generation to think differently about science, engineering, technology and math.
The game contest invites designers and developers to envision an interactive experience that encourages players to learn about space exploration and, at the same time, captures comprehensive real-world data that will inform the mission of SpaceIL.
Ideally, the game will allow the SpaceIL team to learn about potential spacecraft designs and possible orbits from online players who are able to land virtual spaceships on the final frontier.
The Games for Change Festival will take place as part of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Three finalists will present their ideas on stage in front of attendees, potential funders and a juried panel, and the winning team with the most innovative proposal will receive a grand prize of $25,000 and have the opportunity to collaborate further with SpaceIL on their mission to the moon!
We are officially on the hunt for creative entries and are excited to see young innovators in our network put their skills to the test! Click here to submit your proposal.
Want to go to the Games for Change Festival but not interested in building a game? No problem! You can purchase tickets here and receive 10% off festival registration using the Schusterman code: schusterman-g4c14! Festival-goers will get to experience presentations from icons of the gaming world. Please visit the Festival website for more about this exciting event!
Enhancing your social media and video use can be hard and sometimes daunting work. But never fear: if you are curious about how to up your online presence across platforms, you can now access the collective resources and learnings from The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy and Jewish Day School Video Academy programs on a new website!
The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is a year-long intensive program now in its third cohort which helps schools mature their social media use to achieve specific goals, such as recruitment, alumni engagement, community building, and fundraising. The Jewish Day School Video Academy is a contest and program created to help schools use video to support their goals. Since the inception of these programs, we’ve seen some patterns emerge that lead us to two important lessons about advancing your school’s work.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. Often, schools will think they’re doing a fine job with their Facebook page when, in fact, they aren’t using it to the fullest to accomplish their goals. Consider this: you can be proud of yourself when you’ve just memorized your multiplication tables, but you have no idea that there’s more to learn in algebra, or how this new knowledge could actually be useful.
- It’s easy to stick to what you do know. Staff (and in some schools, volunteers) who are excited about social media and video often focus on activities that they know and love, doubling down on what they are already doing well while ignoring other areas that need maturation. Perhaps you’re really good at live tweeting events and photos in real time, but haven’t yet ventured into creating purposeful and high quality videos to market your school. Or you love telling stories, but haven’t been tracking metrics to understand: What tone of voice (for example: serious or funny?), time of day, or visual content gets the most engagement, or farthest reach?
After working with Academy participants to help them understand these two points, we wondered: How can we help you understand where you have room to grow and mature, and then help you take important next steps? How can we support you in trying new things, integrating digital tools into your communications and development work, and rounding out your social media skill set to advance your school’s mission and goals?
To help you and your school advance your work, this week we are launching the Jewish Day School Social Media and Video Academy website, which includes a powerful assessment tool that will help you identify what you’re doing well, where (and how) you can improve, and in which areas you should be investing your time and energy. After completing the assessment, you’ll receive personalized recommendations from the Academy designers and experts from Darim Online (an organization dedicated to advancing the Jewish community by helping Jewish organizations align their work for success in the digital age) and See3 Communications (a digital communications agency that works with nonprofits and social causes to engage and activate people) to help guide and inform your next steps.
The website also includes a wide array of resources: recorded webinars where you can learn to tell your story through video and develop strategies to engage alumni, helpful articles, award-winning videos made by day schools, and examples of best practices in social media.
We’ve designed this site for you to have ah-ha moments, to feel excited and inspired, and to think, “Oh yeah, I should do that!” We also hope the recommendations it provides will be great guidelines for your team and administration to prioritize which approaches to pursue, what professional development is most necessary, and where to focus your social media investments.
Want to connect with other Jewish day schools using social media in creative ways? You can also join the JDS Social Media Academy Facebook Group!
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Dan Mendelsohn Aviv