Social Media Brings Alumni into the Conversation at Brandeis Hillel Day School

As a two-campus school serving 600 students and their families in the San Francisco Bay Area, we keep our community engaged and informed through a robust website, two packed weekly e-newsletters, class-specific updates and other publications. Yet, as our 50th anniversary approached last year, we wanted to quickly and effectively invite alumni and alumni families – along with the rest of our community – into the celebration (and conversation).

At the time, our Facebook page was in its infancy, with a few “likes” and content mirroring our website. Our separate alumni Facebook page had waxed and waned – and seemed disconnected from our daily life as an institution. Then came the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy– and everything changed.

Within the first few months, we developed a plan to invite alumni back into our daily conversation – as part of our extended BHDS family. We decided to focus our social media efforts on just one Facebook page, where our entire community could celebrate our 50th anniversary – as well as our daily life. We thought more creatively about making putting the “social” back in our social media by inviting more two-way conversations – and by experimenting with content and types of media. 

Some posts worked well – some did not. We learned as much from our failures as we did from our successes. Most importantly, we “discovered” much of what we knew all along – that our alumni have treasured memories from their years at BHDS, and that they they like photos and video from school days. We also noticed that they like to see news from the present…and that they care about helping the school build its future.

Encouraged by our coach, we decided to take a big chance on online fundraising. Thanks to the generosity of the AVI CHAI Foundation and all our learning through the JDS academy, we designed a fundraising drive to challenge our alumni to a 2:1 match to a donation of $18 or more to the school through Razoo, a social media fundraising site. The results were thrilling. Thanks to the enthusiastic response from our alumni and their families, we raised an unprecedented amount for BHDS in two weeks. More importantly, we brought our alumni and their families into our conversation and celebration in a way we never had before.

We learned a great deal from the chances we took this year – how to set up a social media-based fundraising drive, how to think through posting challenges and how to connect with our alumni in a more authentic way. Most importantly, we ended up with perhaps more even more valuable takeaways from our failures – knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does.

Our social media foundation is strong. Our Facebook page has become a critical tool in our daily interaction as a community, more than tripling in users and updated with frequent, fresh posts several times per week. We recently launched our YouTube page, and we’re experimenting with best practices there as well. We’re considering additional social media tools, and look forward to build on the progress we’ve made. Along the way, we plan to take chances, experiment, and continue to learning as we move forward.

Join our conversation! Visit us on Facebook or contact Sonia Daccarett, Director of Communications at Brandeis Hillel Day School at [email protected].

Joan Fishbein Feldman is the Director of Communications of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, Maryland. Beth Tfiloh Dahan is the area’s largest coed Jewish day school, with students from PreSchool through Grade 12.

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 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools 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

The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.


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