Case Study: The Networked Nonprofit: A Prequel (Temple Beth Abraham)

Editor's note: Allison is the author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and co-author (with Beth Kanter) of The Networked Nonprofit.  Recently, Allison has been serving as the president of the board at her synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, New York. This position has given Allison the opportunity to put her theory into practice, and to examine intimately the potential and challenges of synagogues as networked nonprofit.

As part of our blog carnival on Connected Congregations, Allison has written a very thoughtful case study of her work at Temple Beth Abrahram, exploring what it has taken to lay the groundwork for becoming a networked nonprofit.  The opening paragraphs are below.

Please download the 12 page case study here.

Two summers ago my worlds collided. A book I co-authored with Beth Kanter, The Networked Nonprofit, was published and at the same time I became president of my synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, NY.

I was more prepared for the book launch than the temple presidency. I’ve written books before and the process is pretty much the same each time. You spend months and months writing, then go out and talk to anyone who will listen to your brilliant ideas and phrases. Hopefully people say and write nice things about the book, three people buy it (including your mother) and then you go home.

I was fully unprepared to step into the role of president of a synagogue. While I had fifteen years experience in nonprofit management and more recently researching and writing about the power of social media to reshape organizations and communities, synagogue culture was a mystery to me. My presidency coincided with the Great Recession and significant decline in the number of Jews moving into our area. In the spirit of never wasting a good crisis, lay leadership, clergy and the congregation writ large have given me great latitude for experimentation for which I am enormously grateful. The following reflections as temple president are not intended as a victory lap, we are far from stabilizing, much less growing our membership. Rather it is an opportunity to share what I have learned in the hopes that others can build and improve on them and share their experiences as well.

My efforts at Temple Beth Abraham were based on the assumptions that form the basis of The Networked Nonprofit. Networked Nonprofits are:

“…easy for outsiders to get in and insiders to get out. They engage people to shape and share their work in order to raise awareness of social issues, organize communities to provide services or advocate for legislation. In the long run, they are helping to make the world a safer, fairer, healthier place to live.”

See link below to download the full case study.

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