Giving Community

flickr credit: redverse
flickr credit: redverse

The holiday season is one in which we reflect on our place in the world how we live our own lives, how we interact in our communities, how to make the world a better place.

Ive been reading Digital Giving: How Technology is Changing Charity by Richard C. McPherson, thanks to a tip from e-Jewish Philanthropys Dan Brown. Digital Giving is a good, quick read chockfull of ideas and case studies. What Im realizing is that its not just a book about philanthropy and creating change in a Web 2.0 world. Its about community.

How can organizations tap into their extended communities?

Allow your supporters to contribute not just funding, but their energy to the cause. McPherson cites the example of Kiva, a person-person microlending site. In addition to its focus on matching lenders with projects, Kiva provides benefactors with the opportunity to create lending teams, send emails to friends and family who might want to support a personally meaningful project, and resources for learning more about microfinancing to become better informed about the theory behind the practice. Help supporters identify with your organization by making it easy to embed a badge or logo on their own sites. Create ways for supporters to educate themselves, act, be heard, and share in community building. Remember the tag line from the Syms clothing store: An educated consumer is our best customer.

Part of that community ethos is transparency and accountability.

GlobalGiving is another project that connects donors with projects. McPherson notes how they present a project and its funding goals. Once those goals are met, donors are directed to similar projects that are in need of support. Users can subscribe to updates and monitor the projects progress. Reports from the field are expected and shared online. In addition, each project includes contact information to connect directly with the project sponsors.

These ideas and other lessons learned in Digital Giving can be applied to more local organizations to help our communities help themselves and each other. Who makes up your community? How do you respond to their desire to become more active supporters? What opportunities can you create together?

Incredible Opportunity: Center for Leadership Initiatives Job Opening

The Center For Leadership Initiatives is a private operating foundation offering programs that serve current and future leaders of the Jewish community. Supported by the Schusterman Family Foundaiton, CLI offers skills trainings, coaching, conferences and retreats, as well as online networks. Through this amazing work, CLI cultivates excellence, leadership and vision in the Jewish non-profit world. Examples of their work include ROI, The Insight Fellowship, The Conversation, and gatherings for grantees of the Schusterman Family Foundation.

The Center for Leadership Initiatives is seeking a Program Director to work in its Vancouver, BC office. The is an incredible opportunity for someone who is excited by innovation and wants to be part of a dynamic team that is offering cutting edge programs to non-profit leaders in the Jewish community and around the world. The newly created Program Director position is a senior position reporting to the Executive Director. It will involve management of a diverse program portfolio, development of curricula for new programs and facilitation of a wide range of projects.

CLI is one of the most amazing organizations I know, led by Yoni Gordis, who is a one-of-a-kind gem in the Jewish community. If you, or someone you know, are looking for a phenomenal new gig, in an incredible city, check out their website for more information on the job and the organization.

Video Within Reach

As broadband internet has become the norm, and the value of compelling content online has become key to capturing and retaining user’s attention, online video has become more popular and more powerful. See3 Communications, a fantastic firm headed by Michael Hoffman out of Chicago, has released their Guide to Online Video.

The 7-part entertaining, informative and inspiring Guide is your best introduction to the WHY and HOW of online video for publicizing your organization, increasing momentum for a campaign, and spreading your message virally. Michael serves as your docent through the series of short 1-3 minute videos, each with complementary links and resources. Non-technical and very accessible, Michael teaches you how to be an online storyteller.

Check out the first part in the series below. Then proceed to the full Guide to Online Video on the See 3 site.

1. The World We Live In from See3 Communications on Vimeo.

First House of Worship to Receive Platinum LEED Certification

Mazel tov to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Illinois, which recently became the first house of worship to receive the highest level of LEED certification for their new “green” building. JRC recently launched their new web site with Darim, and has dedicated a whole category of the site to their “green synagogue”, including information about Jewish values, the building, decision making, and other useful environmentally responsible resources and products.

During the project Rabbi Brant Rosen’s Blog frequently included posts about the project. In one, he discusses talking to Hebrew school kids about the “pillars” of the community, as the construction crew was preparing to construct 18 concrete pillars for the foundation of the building, reaching 55 feet into the ground.

I took Alans idea [of 18 symbolic pillars of the congregation] to our 4th and 7th grade religious school students. I did my best to explain the concept of caissons [concrete pillars] to them, then we read a classic Jewish text from Pirke Avot (The Chapters of the Fathers): Rabbi Shimon the Righteous said, the world stands on three things: study, worship and acts of lovingkindness. What, I asked our students, would you consider to be the eighteen pillars upon which our congregational community stands?

Then together we brainstormed eighteen spiritual values of our JRC community: God, Judaism, Joy, Prayer, Hope, Respect, Partnership, Song, Tikkun Olam, Community, Study, Freedom, Friendship, Spirit, Learning, Peace, Growth, and Love.

Afterwards, I wrote out the values on a separate pieces of paper and each one was placed by the construction crew into a separate caisson shaft to be mixed together with the concrete, becoming a permanent part of JRCs support structure.

What an amazing lesson. Mazel tov and kol hakavod to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation.

Learn more about their green building here!

More Jewish/Environmental resources:

Canfei Nesharim

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

Hazon (and their excellent blog, The Jew and the Carrot)

Teva Learning Center for Jewish environmental education

Search Engine Optimization. Wait, What?

If you do a Google Search with the words Search Engine Optimization” youll see about 34.6 million pages on the subject. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) making sure your website has high visibility with search engines – is a hot topic these days, creating an entire industry of firms specializing in SEO. As I started writing this post I said to myself, “SEO isn’t yet the norm unless there’s an “SEO for Dummies” book published. And after a search, of course there is. (I’m not recommending the book, just using it as a cultural barometer. Also, how meta/odd is it to search for a book on searching?)

There are a few basic things you can do to make sure your synagogue/organization appears near the top of any searches. For detailed information, here’s a fantastic Guide to SEO for Non-Profits. And following is a general overview of 3 key items:

Content Still is King: Google, Yahoo! and MSN (the top 3 search engines) and other search engines send web robots throughout the Internet to index words found on the pages of websites (especially home pages!) in order to better determine the appropriateness of search terms for a particular site. You should take a look at your site and make sure the name of your organization, the location, and keywords (see below) are repeated throughout the site. Obviously, you dont want to go overboard, but, if nothing else, insure that your home page includes text describing your synagogue/organization.

Keywords: In the backend coding of your website is a list of keywords describing your site. Search engines use these key words to determine search rankings. When deciding on these keywords, put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just moved to your area and is looking for something that you provide. What terms would they use? Synagogue Chicago is obvious if you’re a synagogue in Chicago, but what other terms would people use to find you? For more info on keywords and how to choose them, click here. If you are a Darim member, contact [email protected] and we can show you what keywords are currently being used on your site.

Reciprocal links: how many other sites link to your site? Some search engines use the number of sites linking to your site as a method for ranking your site. We recommend to clients that they beef up their local links section by contacting local and national organizations to seek reciprocal links (some folks call it a link exchange). It helps both sites increase their rankings, and of course, it provides good content on your site by providing your visitors with great content and a comprehensive list of resources. For an example of how one of Darims clients used their Local Links section in order to increase both service to their members and their Google rankings, click here: Your list doesnt have to be that extensive, but it provides a starting point for ideas.

For more information on SEO, Deborah Finn wrote a guide and published it on her blog, which is targeted specifically to the non-profit sector.

Modeling the “Whole Internet” Strategy

RedWriteWeb, one of the most popular blogs on web technology news, is running a series of posts this week on how religious organizations are using technology. Today they focused on the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, pluralistic research and training institute that trains and ordains rabbis as well as runs high schools in Jerusalem, among other things.

As their work attracts and serves a very diverse (and worldwide) audience, so too must their online strategy. Beyond information about the organization and programs via their web site, the Institute incorporates extensive video and slide sharing throughout the site to share their value and make their work (and their extraordinary teachers) come alive. Further, they are developing a Facebook strategy, working their Wikipedia entries, venturing into podcasting, blogging, using video-based distance learning, and experimenting with Twitter.

Alan Abbey, the organization’s web site manager, is turning theory into practice, experimenting, and measuring his success. More than dabbling in this and that, he is creating an internet strategy for his organization, and is implementing the multiple facets of that strategy. Alan knows that the age of focusing only on your web site ended in 2007, and he’s integrating multiple tools and approaches. He understands it may take time for each venture to get rooted and attract and audience. And for his audience to mature and start to use these tools as well. And perhaps, in the coming year or two, he’ll weed his garden and pursue a smaller number of approaches that have the greatest returns for his mission. Or maybe he’ll find great success in all of his approaches. Learn about his work at ReadWriteWeb. And check out the other religion postings this week too.

Further reading:

  • Andrea Useem writes about religious life and web 2.0 on the Religion Writer blog.
  • offers wisdom on using online video for non profit causes on their blog, See What’s Out There.
  • Short video tutorials on a number of social media tools, such as social bookmarking, Twitter and others from Common Craft.

And Speaking of Engagement

There are many different ways to participate in online communities.

In a previous posting here on JewPointO, Lisa discussed the book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. The authors, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff define a groundswell as:

[a] social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional intuitions like corporations.

Li and Bernoff illustrate different types of online participation based on their Social Technographics Profile which groups people according to their social activities with others and their technology behaviors. They use a ladder metaphor:

Flickr credit: Ross Mayfield
Flickr credit: Ross Mayfield

Ross Mayfield offers a related perspective regarding online participation through his Power Law of Participation. He notes:

The vast majority of users [will] not have a high level of engagement with a given group, and most tend to be free riders upon community value. But patterns have emerged where low threshold participation amounts to collective intelligence and high engagement provides a different form of collaborative intelligence.

flickr credit: Ross Mayfield
Flickr credit: Ross Mayfield

Upon reflection, I suspect that the way people engage is probably multidimensional rather than a linear trajectory: people most likely locate themselves on multiple rungs or points on a graph at any given moment depending on interests, time, motivation, and the particular resource. And it is worth noting that face to face participation has its own challenges its just harder to measure online social presence.

Interested in understanding more about people who view themselves as non-public participants? Take a look at a post I wrote on TechStew, Lurking as An Online Activity Lurking as Identity.

If you are happy to just read JewPoint0, thats great! If you want to experiment with commenting on the blog, please do! If you are new to this kind of activity, consider JewPoint0 a safe space to try it out. We welcome your comments and suggestions!

Heres how to contribute your comments to JewPoint0:

  • Find a post or comment to which you would like to add your two shekels.
  • At the top of the post, beneath the title and next to the byline, you will see a hyperlink to comments.
  • Click on the link. This will open bring you to a page on which you can post your comments.
  • Type in your name, include your email address (it wont be made public), and if you like, include a link to your website or blog. Then comment away.
  • Dont forget to hit Submit Comment.

Its that easy!

Market your Website – Easy and Free

Some ideas on how to promote your website; they don’t cost a thing!

  • Is your website URL ( printed on each staff member’s business cards?
  • How about adding the website name as a clickable link in each staff member’s (and volunteer’s!) email signature? We see a lot of signatures with the address and phone number, but not a link to the website.
  • Is the website URL printed on your stationery? How about any marketing collateral; brochures, flyers, etc.?
  • Have you contacted local Jewish organizations and proposed reciprocal links? Create a section on your site for Local Links, list other Jewish organizations, and ask them to do the same. Here’s a great example of that:

Do you have other ideas? What have you done to market the website? Comments are welcome!


Flickr photo credit: Pixel Drip
Flickr photo credit: Pixel Drip

Ive been thinking a lot about engagement lately.

We talk about engaging our community membership. But what exactly do we mean by engagement? What is a community members motivation for participation? What trajectories might this participation take?

Tony Burgess is the co-author of CompanyCommand, a book about peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and online communities. He recently posted reflections based on his personal experiences on the com-prac discussion list about what motivates volunteers in communities to move from peripheral participation to more active engagement and leadership roles.

Tony writes:

The experience is meaningful to me (an active member) along three dimensions:

(1) Connection: As a result of this experience I am becoming connected to like-hearted leaders who I value. This is about relationship.

(2) Contribution: I am able to give back and make a differenceto contribute my unique experience and talent to something greater than self. I am making a positive difference for people and a collective that I value.

(3) Personal Development: As a result of this experience, I am personally developing and becoming more effective as a leader and a [person] than I would otherwise be. I am being exposed to people and experiences that change me. I’m learning.

Given this understanding, a follow-up question follows: “What can we as a community of practice do to be a catalyst for the meaningful experience of members?”

Nancy White comments on Tonys post and builds on it she asks, When we are trying to design, support, create conditions for collaboration, how do we best suss out motivation to increase the chance of actual engagement? What are your sussing strategies?

What does collaboration look like in your organization: lay, professional, lay-professional? What keeps your members and staff engaged? How do you use online tools to build and sustain your communities? How do you measure success? How do your members journey at various points from peripheral participation to leadership roles? What keeps them and you motivated and engaged?

Web 2.0 Strategy in Jerusalem: Tachlis 2 Point Oh!

Jewlicious, PresenTense and others are putting on a valuable conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 called Tachlis 2 Point Oh! to demonstrate how to get the most out of Web 2.0 tools. Panelists are the who’s who of Jewish 2.0, including Ricky Ben-David, Aharon Horwitz of PresenTense, Ahuvah Berger on social networking, and David Abitbol from Jewlicious on blogging.

Get all the details here.

In Jerusalem next week? Don’t miss it! Did you go? We’d love to hear what you learned.