Facebook as a Tool to Drive Admissions?

The opportunity to participate in the Darim Online Social Media Academy is one of the best things to happen to our school. When we started our school Facebook page about a year ago, we used the white paper titled Best Practices for an Admissions-Driven Social Media Strategy as our guide, and had a volunteer help us get started. The postings were sporadic, and did not have much consistency. Since we started the Social Media Academy, we have created an editorial calendar to ensure our posts are consistent with our branding, so that we can tell our story in a fun and compelling way. The result has been amazing. For months, our posts were reaching maybe 100 people, and now with the implementation of  the editorial calendar, each post is reaching between 200-500 people.

With the ultimate goal of driving admissions, it can be difficult to measure success through social media marketing, but I believe this process has given our marketing efforts a boost through planting a seed in the mind of audiences that are not so connected to the school.   It is difficult to know if potential families are paying attention to posts, or if one’s initial encounter with the school through social media is what will get them through the door for a visit.

That being said, we had one of our greatest feelings of success in the last few months, and I believe it can be directly attributed to our participation in the JDS Academy.  I received a message in my email from a family who had seriously considered sending their child to the school a year ago but decided they needed to give free, public school education a try before spending the money on private school.

“I’m checking in again about the application process… This year has been a good one for O. Overall…. I am thrilled for the children at KJDS that their experience is so good, but it honestly pains me when I see your posts about M , and compare it to what O. is doing. The differences are stark. .. Our financial situation hasn’t changed, but there are always choices to be made in life.  So, I’m thinking about this again.   It’s been lovely to hear about all your adventures through Facebook.  I was especially intrigued by your comment about M. evaluating his strengths and weaknesses.  Is that something all the students do every year? Thank you,  M.”

She was responding this this post: 

This experience reinforced to us the power of social media. Now that we have a strong editorial calendar in place, our next goal will be to guide and train parents to be “social media ambassadors” and create more posts that share their children’s experience.

We found another added bonus to our admissions process is keeping connected with families that have applied. It has been interesting to note that as soon as a family tours the school, and is seriously considering enrolling, they often will ‘like’ our school Facebook page.

Miriam Esther Wilhelm is the founding Head of School at the Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School. She has enjoyed the journey of taking the school from a start up to a growing and thriving Jewish Day School.


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.


Increasing our Reach: Better Posts, More Likes

Lander Grinspoon Academy is still fairly new to social media, having just joined Facebook in June 2011. When we were accepted to the JDS Social Media Academy we were both thrilled and overwhelmed. How could we, a small school with no dedicated marketing staff and with only 100 “likes” possibly rise to the huge challenges before us?

We knew that our first priority was going to be to increase the number of likes and to train our community to look for us on Facebook. Without these steps in place, no matter how well we would articulate the needs of the school, our spring fundraiser would be a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear.

After experimenting with lots of different types of posts we found that people want to share posts that say something about themselves: their children are highlighted; their values are reflected; they have a reason to be proud of the school and community. After Hurricane Sandy we had a series of posts asking for donations to be delivered to NYC. All were viewed by 100 and were shared widely. When we posted a picture of our team running in a 5K to support a local woman’s shelter we received 221 views (106 viral).

But we still only had 123 “likes,” which simply wasn’t enough even for a small school such as ours (89 students, 65 families). If we didn’t do something to increase the audience, our social fundraising campaign would be a total failure. People wouldn’t give if they weren’t seeing us online.

We began pushing people to FB in a couple of different ways. First, in our weekly email home to parents we kept up the drumbeat of asking parents to like us. As winter approached we let parents know that weather-related school closings and other timely information would be delivered via Facebook. More and more we made decisions about whether to transmit critical information via email or via Facebook, and often decided to put the information out first on Facebook and only later on email. We also began to tag local organizations in order to extend our reach. Tagging helped us to spread the word, and many people (including the Mayor) reposted our posts.

At our Hanukkah performance we announced that we wanted to get to 180 likes by the end of Hanukkah. We decided to connect the number of likes needed (44 more to reach 180) to the number of Hanukkah candles in a box. So, rather than the typical announcement asking everyone to silence their cell phones, we began the assembly by asking everyone to get their cell phones out and like us on Facebook, and later to share photos of the evening.

In one day we went from 136 to 190 likes, and by the end of December we were at 204. Most of our posts now were getting between 75 – 150 views (as opposed to the 30-50 before), with many shares. Again, the posts that had the most virality contained either pictures or artwork of the students, and/or showcased tikkun olam efforts such as Mission Mitzvah, our response to the Sandy Hook tragdey, etc.  By January we had over 200 likes, had trained many of our community members to read and repost, and felt that we were ready to begin to plan our fundraiser.

Flash forward to spring. Our campaign, which rolled out right before Passover, raised over $28,000. We now have 235 likes. We also now have an active presence on Facebook and parents, alumni families and our larger community look for us there. They now expect to see video clips, photos and newsy updates about the school. Local synagogues and the community Jewish preschool ask us to repost some of their events, knowing that we reach a larger audience than they have. We know we have more to do, but are excited and energized to bring social media to the next level at Lander Grinspoon Academy.


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.

Getting Over the Content Hurdle

In the winter of 2011 Carmel Academy underwent a name change, as well as a rigorous and successful accreditation process. The name change, in particular, was a unique experience – one that required a great deal of forethought, leadership, careful planning and implementation. With a new branding campaign, a stellar accreditation report and the excitement that electrified our school community, we embraced this as an opportunity to also become part of the social media landscape. Coinciding with our new name and look, Carmel launched four social media platforms: a newly redesigned and robust website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a blog.

Carmel’s initial success with these platforms – particularly with Facebook and our website– was mostly attributed to the newness of our brand and the excitement that went along with it.  It soon became apparent that launching the platforms was the easy part. Keeping them updated, meaningful and relevant to our followers, as well as growing our social media audience, was the bigger challenge. With some experience under our belts — that included experimenting with Facebook and Twitter content —  our administrative leadership took on a more strategic focus of providing the type of content that would push our introduction to social media to the next level.

A key challenge – like many schools — was resources. Photos, videos, content takes manpower. Our small communications office quickly realized it needed to tap our outlying resources. Our best source of culling engaging content was from the “people in the trenches” – our creative and hard-working faculty. We began by first asking our faculty to help provide us with the details of classroom activities, unique integrated learning experiences and special events that shape our students’ experiences throughout the year. Very quickly, we no longer needed to seek out information, but our faculty was readily providing it. We also identified several faculty members who enjoyed photography, and tapped them to help photograph events.

We started with our website and the transformation of our web-based newsletter. In September we re-launched our school newsletter with a new name (Kol Carmel), look and content. Our goal was to provide our families with engaging articles, features, photos and video across all grades and subjects. We very quickly saw our readership increase from less than 20 percent a week to over 50 percent each week.

Taking on this major undertaking required a great deal of organization, as well a time commitment. Monthly and weekly editorial calendars are necessary to plan each weekly edition. With the help of staff photographers and details for articles coming in from our faculty, we soon had plenty of content to choose from.  This also gave us the opportunity to share content across platforms. Features and photos for Kol Carmel could easily be re-written as Facebook posts, placed as news on our website homepage, and turned into a tweet. Not all content is shared across the board. We do create content solely for Facebook, Twitter and the website. However, a majority of our content is shared and recycled – making it much easier to post meaningfully and consistently across platforms.

Jumping over the content hurdle has been encouraging for our social media growth. We have seen increased engagement from current families and alumni, a greater following, a marked increase in community interaction on our Facebook page, and a terrific buy-in from our faculty.

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.



Rally for MJDS: A Case Study of Social Fundraising

Milwaukee Jewish Day School is a non-diversified school accepting Jews from across the board. We have an excellent education program deeply rooted in tradition and innovation. We have a large emphasis on digital media and technology such as iPads, smart-boards, computer Labs, and a green screen studio. With so many students and parents using technology photo’s and videos have never been so important.

We’ve always had an Annual Campaign, but for the first time as a result of the Social Media Academy we decided to try something different, and accept donations online.

Before launching our campaign on the Rally platform, we went to the PTO and found volunteers who would be willing to spread the word and expand our network.

First, we sent out a future leader survey at the beginning of the annual campaign. We asked students what they want to be when they grow up? How is MJDS helping you reach your goals for the future? Once we identified our Fan Fundraisers for the Rally Campaign, David Hercenberg, our Digital Media & Marketing Specialist, worked with each person to help them promote the Rally Campaign on their personal Facebook pages.

We encourage our students to reach for the stars and achieve their dreams, so we used the idea of featuring current students & alumni students to show that with an MJDS education you really can achieve your goals.  

We customized our amount selection options & encouraged people to share the rally campaign with their friends and family. We posted custom photos and quotes the Future leaders survey to add a personal touch for every post. We also explained that every donation up to $10K would be doubled thanks to a match from The AVI CHAI Foundation!

Using an online social fundraising platform we were able reach our goal of $10K because we made it as simple as possible for people to donate. Facebook analytics proved that videos got people’s attention and inspired conversation, so we used photos and videos to our advantage. By utilizing our Fan Fundraisers' friends and family, we expanded our network and reach for the campaign. In addition to our Fan Fundraisers, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation reposted some of our posts to expand our network.

Although our alumni were not a huge part of the success of the Rally campaign, we did receive some donations from them. Since we opened the door to a new group of donors who might not have taken the time to donate through traditional ways we see this as a success.  Rally costs us 4.5% to process donations Vs. Paypal which is approximately 2%. Although we plan on using Rally again in the future, for now we are accepting regular donations on Paypal to keep the Rally fresh and focused, and to save money on processing fees.

Overall compared to it’s competition Rally did a great job of being customizable, however it did have one major limitation. The ability to grant multiple levels of access is not available, meaning whomever controls the account has access to all the information. Ideally we would like to allow one person to control the content posting while the business department controls the flow of money on the backend.  We hear that Rally is considering adding this feature to their platform.


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.

Making it Kosher: Helping Our Day School Ambassadors to Embrace Social Media

As the largest coed Jewish day school in Baltimore – and the area’s only community day school – we have made significant progress this year harnessing the power of social media to share key messages with our current and prospective families. We have increased our Page “likes” over 33 percent, and have created some great content, including a number of creative videos that have “gone viral”. We are posting regularly with engaging content, using a warm and friendly voice, and our page stats reflect the growth in our audience and their interest in our page.

All that being said, one of our greatest frustrations continues to be the number of our parents, trustees and other highly committed school ambassadors who continue to tell us they are “just not interested in being on Facebook.” When there is a Parent Association meeting, a Board of Trustees meeting, or even a school Marketing Committee meeting, there is inevitably a core group of our most committed parents that professes to have absolutely no interest in joining Facebook, much less becoming a regular. 

One of our Parent Association presidents is a Princeton grad and has been among the most vigorous and constructive advocates for our school. She and her family are significant contributors and they would “do anything” for our day school. Anything except join Facebook.

Another parent has been an invaluable member of our Marketing Committee, providing key insights into the admission process, and happily serving as an advocate for our school in the larger community. She too is an Ivy League graduate, and is most willing and able to debate the many benefits of attending our school. But she has no interested in going online and sharing those sentiments on Facebook.

While I certainly respect any individual’s personal decision to not join Facebook, and while clearly there are some (particularly in the Orthodox community) who feel strongly about not participating in social media – whether for philosophical reasons or simply as a waste of their valuable time – there are steps that schools can take to explain to their day school community that Facebook is not only “kosher”, but that it has become a legitimate, cost effective, and powerful way for our schools to communicate and market themselves. Here are four ways to make the case that your school’s ambassadors will be more effective “cheerleaders” for your school if they choose to embrace social media.

1.  Recruit a few social media “mavens” to serve as role models

Like any recruiting effort, getting your ambassadors on-board with social media requires rolling up your sleeves, brainstorming ideas, developing a plan, implementing it, and finally evaluating and fine-tuning your strategy. You probably want to have your social media plan well underway, with a school Facebook or Twitter page that has regular posts, valuable content, and that shows some level of interaction with your constituents (e.g. likes, comments and shares).

Once your page is up and running, having a cadre of ambassadors who are already actively on Facebook and are comfortable with social media is key. Identify these individuals at a Parent Association or other school meeting, reach out to them (speak to them, ask them to be your Facebook friend, or email and tell them about your school’s page). Before you know it they will be regularly interacting with your posts, and helping to expose your school’s page to their Facebook friends, through their news feed.  They will also be serving as a most valuable social media role model for other members of your school community. Start with your “believers” – identify them, cultivate them, and they will help get the ball rolling.

2.  Let them know that Facebook can be “kosher”

This year’s Jewish Day School Social Media Academy has helped participating schools develop strategies and best practices for using Facebook and other social media sites to bolster their school’s admission, marketing and fundraising efforts. But don’t under estimate the value of the Academy, and its AVI CHAI Foundation sponsorship, as a “hechsher” of sorts for the legitimate use of social media by Jewish day schools. 

I make it a point whenever I speak to a group of parents, teachers or trustees, to mention that our school is participating in the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, sponsored by the AVI CHAI Foundation, in which 20 schools, including this school and that school (drop a few names to impress them with the breadth of day schools that are participating). I explain that this is a year-long effort, that we attended conferences in New York and Washington, D.C., have a calendar of monthly webinars, coaching calls and other assignments. I add that this is part of a national effort to provide Jewish day schools with the 21st century communication skills they need to effectively tell the story of how and why Jewish day schools are the most important investment a Jewish parent can make.

3. Show them how (just don’t tell)

I have found for many of our parents, that it is not enough to tell them to go on Facebook and like our page. You could (and should) just tell the students in your Middle or High School and they would know how to find your school’s page and “like” it. But many of our parents and teachers need to have their hands held and be shown how to navigate this new and unfamiliar terrain. 

This could be done by way of an onscreen projector, a PowerPoint presentation, an email message, an instructional video, or a printed handout. For several parent committees, we created a printed handout with screen captures of our Facebook page and explanations of where to click to like the page, like a post, comment, or share a post. If you are meeting with parents about an event that you have posted on Facebook, you need to explain to them how to “join” the event and how to invite their friends.

We also gave them a copy of Ken Gordon’s excellent article, How to Be a Social Media Mentsh (adds the stamp of approval (and encouragement) of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) as yet another social media “hechsher” for Jewish day schools), and the graphical representation of a social network that Lisa Colton shared with us at our opening meeting. This is not a one shot effort, but a message that needs to be repeated at every opportunity that you are meeting with parents and explaining all the valuable information that can be found on your school’s Facebook page.  

Here is a sample of one of the handouts we created:




4.Include social media as part of your ambassador training

One of the initiatives that has come out of our school’s Marketing Committee this year is the need to create a formal Ambassador Training Program for our parents and other stakeholders, such as our faculty, board members, alumni and even High School students. We recognize the tremendous value of our many satisfied customers in conveying the key messages in support of our school through grass roots marketing. It goes without saying that social media needs to be a key component of any ambassador training effort that your school undertakes.

Whether you hire a consultant or coach to run workshops for your parents, or you develop your own ambassador boot camp, make sure that social media is addressed. Start by legitimizing it (show that it’s kosher), and then show parents how to use it by letting them get behind the wheel. The ideal approach would be a discussion and demonstration followed by a hands-on session in your school’s computer lab, with parents actually logging into Facebook (check with your network administrator to make sure Facebook is not blocked by your school’s firewall), and going on your school’s page to like it and view and interact with your content. 

Once you get your parents to take a test drive, and once they see the benefits – in terms of increased participation in Facebook events and fundraisers and greater access to information (e.g. school closings and reminders) — you will be on your way to building a stronger community of social media ambassadors who will help support and grow your social media strategy.


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.

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy’s Social Media Journey

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy is grateful to be participating in the JDS Social Media Academy to advance the social media initiatives of our school. Hillel's Facebook page has been updated with a new image congruent with the current branding of the school. Extensive efforts are underway to reach out to our current parent body, generations of Hillel alumni, and the greater Hillel community of supporters to create a culture whereby use of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will become the new norm. 

By using Facebook to publicize and promote upcoming events we have been able to generate increased traffic to our page. With the guidance of the Big Duck coaches and extensive evaluation of best practices in use of social media in a K-8 school, we are working towards finding a balance between keeping the site current while maintaining the integrity of our newly established social media protocols.

Postings photos of our students have generated much enthusiasm and positive feedback. Posts and comments are overwhelmingly requesting more photos at increased frequency of a wider cross section of our student body. As we increase the quantity of photos posted, we anticipate that Hillel's friends will increase exponentially.  We have received many requests to post videos as well, and are currently in the process of creating our very own YouTube channel. It is our hope that prior to the start of the 2013-2014 school year, Hillel's YouTube channel will be fully functional.

The goals of our social media venues are multi-tiered: 

  • It is an opportunity for Hillel's teachers to share the excitement in their classrooms with parents as well as other teachers for collaborative curricular development.
  • It also empowers our students to use current technology such as iPads to integrate traditional learning with the language of their contemporaries under the auspices of Hillel's administration.
  • It provides the school a place to highlight special events and share accomplishments and milestones with our parent body, alumni, and supporters.

Hillel now has several faculty members tweeting. Through our new efforts using Twitter we've been able to share live updates from students' adventures from all over the world. Looking forward, we are considering using Twitter for real time updates during Hillel's sporting events and field trips. Hillel has benefited tremendously from our involvement in the Sharefest experiences, coaching calls, and ongoing support from experts, AVI CHAI, and the other schools involved with this program. Although the official program will soon end, we believe there is great benefit in continuing this partnership as we advance into the 21st century.

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.


A Meta Learning Curve: Social Media to Promote a Blending Learning Day School

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. 

I figured between having a Facebook account and teenage daughters, I would be ahead of the game in this process.  Yet even with my familiarity with social media tools, participating in the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy really put me into the shoes of our students. 

Our school was at a unique disadvantage in the marketing process – we have little administration, a small parent body and no alumni.  While being described as a technology-driven school put us into a broad category of educational institutions, our goals differed from other establishments under the “technology” umbrella.  Our primary objective was to educate the community on our mission and philosophy; to avoid being considered “a school with computers”.  Blended learning means different things to different people, and our work with the JDS Social Media Academy gave us the necessary tools and strategies to spread our message and correct the misconceptions about our school.

Our Facebook Page has developed into a dynamic instrument; a living, breathing creature that communicates our vision.  The Jewish community at large has been fascinated with our school from its inception; pre-conceived notions flew around Shabbat tables, and opinions followed suit.  Truth be told, there was no way to distribute the real information because there was not yet any evidence.  September 2012 came and went, and Yeshivat He’Atid is thriving as a Jewish Day School operating with a blended learning model.  Through the mentorship of the JDS Social Media Academy, we have learned to target our social media audiences and showcase our evidence.

On September 16, 2012 – a few weeks into our inaugural school year – we posted a “Happy New Year” message on our Facebook page.  For a brand new school of 116 students, the viewing statistic was encouraging.


Following training in strategic social media use, here is a screenshot of our Yom Ha’atzmaut Facebook post:  

Close to 2000 people saw this post, the overwhelming majority being viral!  Using Facebook and other social media tools systematically and strategically has unveiled what we are all about.  Perhaps most notably, it has allowed us access to a broad, very curious audience, and let us mitigate the pre-conceived notions through a forthcoming and non-threatening avenue.

Having the tools, using the tools, and using the tools properly are three very different things.  It is easy to put a computer in a classroom.  It is even easy to turn it on.  The challenge is to effectively and efficiently provide a targeted, personalized experience.  While our teachers and students have immersed themselves in our brand of blended learning and met this challenge head on, I have incorporated this same philosophy on the business end.  I had the tools.  I used the tools.  With the unwavering support of the JDS Social Media Academy, I now use the tools effectively and efficiently, providing a targeted, personalized experience.  And we have the data to prove it, both in the classroom and out.

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. 

Leveraging an Internal Editorial and Social Media Calendar

One of the key takeaways from the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is the importance of being organized with your social media, website stories and respective school themes. As a result, Gann Academy created an internal editorial calendar between the Director of Marketing Communications and the Web and Social Media Specialist.

This Google calendar, which can be accessed, edited and modified by both users, has been beneficial because:

  • Gann Academy regularly posts 2-3 feature stories on its website about what students are doing, alumni stories, Tikkun Olam efforts, sports and general news and announcements. The editorial calendar organizes said stories’ publish dates and which week they’ll run.
  • Gann Academy is frequently posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. However, for the bigger campaigns we utilize the editorial calendar as reminders of when to post on social media.  Also, the calendar helps keep a time frame in mind if a campaign has a certain start and end date.
  • For guest speakers and certain events, the editorial calendar informs us of the coverage needed. This helps manage time and, more importantly, keeps a deadline to post information in a timely manner so it doesn’t become old news.
  • Gann Academy has particular campaigns and themes and our news stories reflect that. The editorial calendar helps us ensure that the themes and editorial content match together in the correct week.
  • The calendar creates cohesiveness between internal staff and gives a foundation about what projects are being worked on, what might be a valuable idea and what needs to be done on deadline.
  • The editorial calendar helps create newsletters. At Gann, we have a Weekly Newsletter that goes out each Sunday morning. Looking back at the calendar serves a reminder of which content can be pulled in and what will work in later newsletters.

While schools have an external calendar for the public to see, the internal calendar provides a month-by-month — or week-by-week — landscape of what you intend to cover. What's more, the calendar is a valuable tool to look back of what you covered and how you can improve on it for the next time around.

The last point is that the calendar does not have to be anything fancy. It can be Google, Excel, your email client or even a sizeable whiteboard so long as it can be accessed by the correct staff.

For more learning on this theme, check out these other editorial calendar examples which plan around monthly content themes, various people on a team, or by channel.

Blog post and Excel download: http://www.bobangus.com/free-editorial-calendar-template/

Another Excel template to download.

What criteria are important for your social media planning and calendaring?  

Craig Byer is the Web and Social Media Specialist at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA.  Gann Academy has been participating in the 2012-13 Jewish Day School Social Media Academy generously funded by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Interested in joining the 2013-14 Academy or sponsoring schools in your area to join?  Contact Lisa Colton.

A Post-P.O.S.T. Post – Strategic Thinking Case Study

This blog post is a reflection on something that hasn’t happened yet.  Whoa.

The reason I can do this is because of the remarkable opportunity I currently have as the Network Weaver for a project of The Jewish Theological Seminary’s William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education called “ReFrame.” And because I decided to use the POST model for my network weaving and marketing plan.

First, a bit about ReFrame. It seems like everyone in the field of Jewish education these days holds the following truths to be self-evident: (a) Hebrew School stinks, and (b) summer camp is fantastic. This is especially true in the world of Conservative Judaism, where the Ramah camps are exceptional when it comes to experiential Jewish education, and where supplementary religious school attendance is generally dropping off at an alarming rate. JTS has a close association with the Conservative movement and is uniquely positioned to take the awesomeness of camp and inject it into Hebrew school. Ultimately, JTS aims to offer a “Boot Camp” style training in making pilot schools more experiential in their approach, and this work may start during the coming summer. 

I applaud Dr. Zachary Lasker of The Davidson School at JTS for recognizing early in the process of developing ReFrame that since many Jewish educators are already trying to create an experiential framework for their complementary schools, we need to have a conversation about it. It’s like an ongoing, national meeting of Jewish educators, where we all talk about successes and failures when it comes to creating opportunities for our students to live the omnipresent experience of being Jewish. That’s where POST comes in.

I had 3 reasons for using POST in implementing this “National Conversation” phase of ReFrame:
JTS is an institution with deep roots and a long history (127 years). It has been hard for institutions like this to keep pace with today’s climate of change and innovation, especially where my job in communications and the use of social media is most concerned. This led my partners, Dr. Lasker and Jane Shapiro, and I to focus way too much on making sure we’d have easy access to the tools we’d need. As a result, there was very little emphasis placed on the objectives of this “National Conversation.”

So POST seemed like a natural fit. We decided that due to the tight time constraints, we’d have two meetings. I called the first one “PO(ST),” and the second “(PO)ST;” the letters of the stages we’d focus on in each meeting being outside the parentheses.  Here’s the email I sent to my colleagues in advance of the first meeting, with my notes on how it actually went:

Hi Zach and Jane,
This email should help us prepare for our PO(ST)* meeting next week, with the ultimate goal of creating an editorial calendar for what I'll call "The Big Push" (i.e. the next 6 months).  For the Cliff's Notes version of this email, you can probably just skip to the bullet points.

But first, here's a written reminder of POST:

P = People (In our case, "person," a.k.a. "buyer persona." Who is our target audience?)
O = Objectives (What are they?)
S = Strategies
T = Tools/Tech
And here's a visual reminder of POST

We need to identify our target audience for ReFrame.  Who are we conversing with in this "national conversation"?  Teachers? Students? Women? Men? Jews of a specific flavor?
As I've mentioned before, I think the best way to go about doing this is to have a single person in mind.  It helps if this person really exists.  It might even be one of the three of us. That way we can design our campaign around the likes and dislikes of this person, thus really grabbing their attention, creating a relationship, and ultimately being m'daresh (extracting) her/his help for the rest of the ReFrame project in some way (see "O" for more on this). 
This person will be at the bullseye of our target audience, and there will be many, many people on the rest of the target.  In other words, our goal is NOT to enlist the ideas/opinions/helpfulness of only one person, rather it IS to enlist the ideas/opinions/helpfulness of all the people who fall anywhere on the target. The reason I insist on choosing only ONE person is because it will help us focus our efforts when devising our O, S, and T.  For example, with one person in mind, we only have to devise one S (=strategy), and on a practical level, I am only one person, and only part-time after all.  If it helps, no one ever has to know who this person is, other than the three of us (***cut to the three of us in a dimly-lit, smoke-filled room***) 
Zach has already mentioned that this person should probably be an Educational Director of a complementary school, so that helps to narrow the field.  In this vein, here's the first Action Point:

Let's each bring one name (or two names at the most) of someone who might fit best at the center of our target.  It would be extra cool if this person is currently the Education Director (or the equivalent) of a complementary school.  We'll spend the first part of our meeting teaching each other about the person we suggest, and pick one winner.
Hopefully, this part of the meeting will only take a max of about 20 minutes.

In the end, we chose a “buyer persona” that was not one of the three of us.  It took exactly 25 minutes, thanks in part to the fact that we did actually come to the meeting with some suggestions.  However, the focus on “one ‘P’ person = one strategy = way easier in the long run” took some convincing, and is something I feel strongly about from my business education and background.

These are our SMART goals – the most difficult part of the POST.  Ultimately, we should have a 10 stanza document in a table: column #1 pertains to the SMART goals we have for our person, and column #2 pertains to the SMART goals our person has for him/herself.  I've attached a table here for your review.  Since we don't have our "person" in mind right now, let's just begin to think about how we might fill in the columns.  A lot of work has gone into the summary document that's been put together, and which goes really far in outlining ReFrame's objectives.  Let's spend part of our meeting putting that in POST terms.  Here's our second Action Point:

Please review the attached table (it's the MS Word doc) and begin to think about how we might complete the columns.  Where do the ideas put forth in the summary document fit in?  Where do your own ideas fit?  Are your answers to the "guiding questions" similar to the ideas in the summary document?  Feel free to use the doc to help when filling in your ideas; if you do, you can bring it with (digitally) to the meeting or email it to me beforehand.

I think this will probably take the rest of our meeting time.  But just in case it doesn't…

It did indeed take the rest of our 1.5-hour meeting, but it was well worth it.  We completed the table (see attached template), and clarified our objectives.  I think it was also helpful to categorize the objectives as “our goals for the ‘P’” and “‘P’s’ goals for him/herself,” and then focus on those goals which overlap.

S, T
I've attached a sample editorial calendar template (Zach and I have already gone over this one a bit).  With whatever time is left in this meeting, I'd be glad to do some iyyun (in-depth study) on this with you, but in the meanwhile, feel free to peruse and send questions.  I'm sure we'll have many more meetings in the future about S and T, as indeed we already have :).

And we did.  Here’s the second email I sent, notes included:

Hi Jane and Zach,

As I mentioned, awesome meeting yesterday!  Aaaaaand now, the part we've all been waiting for:
S = Strategies
T = Tools

Unlike P and O, the order in which we discuss S and T is not so relevant.  There's even a lot of overlap between S and T, to be honest.  I sometimes think that the inventors of the "POST" method decided on its name just because "POTS" wasn't as cool… or was it?

The truth is that I later learned that we did this wrong.  It should have been that “P” and “O” are less important in order than “S” and “T,” but I stand by what we did.  I think this actually worked better for our purposes, and you’ll see.

Let's use this time for the following two things:
(1) identifying the areas of our SMART goals for [our “P” persona] that overlap with [our “P” persona]'s goals for her/himself, and
(2) filling out an editorial calendar.  Essentially, these are deadlines for us (read: me, mostly) to meet. That is to say that since I'm working part-time, (assuming) limited to 6 months, having an editorial calendar would be the best thing possible to keep me (read: us, mostly) organized and on track.  This will probably take most of our meeting time.  That being the case, here's an action point:

Please take a few moments to look over the editorial calendar template and consider how you might like to see it filled out.  What would you change about it (the dates, for example)?  The SMART goals we have for DB which overlap with his goals for himself are the areas we can affect with ReFrame.  How and when should/can they be effected?  Feel free to edit the template itself when going over these considerations, and bring it (digitally) on Monday.

Yup, this took most of the meeting time.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it took up the whole time.  I quickly learned how new the philosophies behind social networks sometimes are, and how deeply integrated their tools can be.  We found it really difficult to wrap our heads around the concept of a “National Conversation” about experiential Jewish education in supplemental schools, and what practical implications that conversation might have for us.

We've all discussed this a number of times already; now with "POS" in mind, let's make sure to discuss how our view of using various tools has changed.  As was mentioned yesterday, there's already a national conversation about complementary education happening – we'd like to join it now as ReFrame.  Who are the major and minor actors in this conversation?  Where are the discussions happening?  What tools are they using?  How are those tools being used in the context of this conversation?  Is there room for ReFrame to innovate technologically within the conversation?
I'd like for us to make a list of the tools that are both at our disposal and relevant to the current conversation.  Then, I'd like to make a sublist of how to use those tools.  For example:

  • Wordle: Visual measurement of conversational evolution over the next 6 months
  • Facebook: Dissemination of video(s); Dissemination of word clouds or bloggable text images; Collection of responses and other conversation data; Responding to current conversation threads; Davidson page or new ReFrame page to spread conversational breadth
  • Blogosphere: ReFrame blog: white paper reactions from current conversational actors; Other Jewish Ed. Blogs: ReFrame's POV
  • YouTube
  • Email contact database
  • Twitter
  • On-land events and meetings
  • Website
  • Jewish news publications: online and print
  • Carrier pigeons
  • Etc., etc.

Ideally, this part would be entirely at my/our discretion.  However, my concern is with regard to a point that Zach has brought up a number of times, namely that it might be difficult for us to do much of the above on behalf of the Davidson school and JTS without some kind of official permission.  It would be great to spend some time on this part, at least to get started.  I think it'll be especially important to discuss the tools as we see them already being used. Otherwise, I think the focus of the meeting is on the editorial calendar, which as I've said, has some crossover with our "Tools" discussion.

We never got to the “Tools” discussion in this meeting.  We spoke about them later, but suffice it to say that we had come a very long way from the initial discussions we’d had that focused almost entirely on tools and technology to be used.  We now knew much more vital things, like for whom and why the tools were to be used.

So far, POST has been helpful for ReFrame in designing a plan for our plan.  I think it was frustrating for all of us that with so little time and so many potential obstacles, we were still discussing ideas that seem so basic, but in the end, I’m convinced that POST will have helped us actually save time.  And with a clearer vision of the project, the hurdles won’t seem so daunting.

ReFrame is about avoiding the epidemic that plagues the Jewish professional world, of “anything you can do, I can do better,” where we end up redoubling our efforts and wasting precious time, energy, money, and other resources on stuff that’s not that important in the long run.  But when you do it right, there’s nothing more important than a Jewish education.  POST has helped us see that, and I personally can’t wait to see the outcomes.

As of a few weeks ago, Alan Sufrin is the “ReFrame” network weaver for the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS, America's largest non-denominational school of Jewish education.  As of about a decade ago, Alan Sufrin is a passionate Jewish educator and music producer and performer.  As of about 4 years ago, Alan Sufrin is the proud husband of Darim Online’s own Miriam Brosseau.  As of a few minutes ago, Alan Sufrin discovered how much he enjoys writing about himself in the third person.


Connecting: An Explicit Goal of Program Directors

Guest post by Laura Intfen, Member Services Coordinator at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, KS

My pulpit rabbi, Rabbi Mark Levin, likes to tell this story:  A young boy shares Shabbat dinner with his father, who is complaining, once again, about going to services the next day.  “I don’t even know if I believe in God.” states the father.  The young boy asks his father, “If you don’t go to talk to God, then why do you go to synagogue at all?”  His father looked down at him and explained, “I go to synagogue each week with my old friend Shlomo.  Shlomo goes to talk to God, and I go to talk to Shlomo.”

An age old problem for Program Directors, is guessing what gets people in our building.  But, here we are in 2012, and now the question has changed.  The future of modern Reform Judaism is not figuring out how to get people through our doors, but figuring out how to get people connected to each other.
As a Member Services Coordinator of a modern Reform Congregation, I am privileged to belong to the Program Directors of Reform Judaism.  But I've learned from my colleagues that Program Directors have a variety of names and even a wider variety of duties.  There are Community Coordinators, Directors of Family & Congregational life, Directors of Membership Engagement and Community Engagement Mangers. 

As we communicate with each other and share ideas and goals, one thing is clear: building our programs in the traditional, top down, guess what people want, throw ideas against the wall and see what sticks method is not working. This is an expensive and antiquated way to serve our congregants.   While many of the benefits of a synagogue can be found elsewhere (especially online), there is one thing we can uniquely offer: Community, where our members find recognition, validation and support.  This is the tripod by which our programming must be built upon. One might call it "engagement programming".  So here at Congregation Beth Torah, we have begun to program using the lens of engagement.  To start the transition, we looked at our caring committee. 

When you join Congregation Beth Torah, you are automatically part of our k’sharim (caring) Committee.  Every single family unit is included.  The entire congregational roster is divided by twelve.  With approximately 650 families, this equals about 53 families per month.  As a member of Beth Torah, you are part of a team for one month a year, and you are never alone.  When there is a need in the congregation for a meal, or a ride, or attendance is needed to make a minyan at a shiva service, an email blast goes out to the 53 families on the team.  Members of that month’s team contact each other, schedule with each other, and coordinate efforts with each other.  Not only does this alleviate the problem of caring committee burn out by having the same people do everything, but our congregants in need get care and warmth from other members of the congregation AND the members of that month’s team form a functioning affinity group. 

By connecting members outside of our building doing k’sharim work, they have much stronger connections when they happen to be in our building at worship.  They already know each other (recognition), know the other person has done a caring deed for one of our members (validation) and has been offered a meeting place, here in our building to further their relationship with this other person (support). The purpose of our K’sharim committee is, of course, to care for our congregants.  But our caring community has an additional goal: to connect people.

This is a true culture change for our congregation.  What started with a Rosh Hashanah sermon by our rabbi, in which he asked our congregants to become citizens, and not be consumers, became a repurposing and reassessing of our current programs and an eye towards future programming.  Our staff has created a mission statement to support this change in culture:

We are a visionary team carrying out the mission of the congregation. Through our dedicated team’s collaborative culture, we engage our various congregants and affinity groups to develop innovative ways to meet the needs of our congregational community.  We will work, supported by the Board of Trustees, to accomplish these goals in the most creative, efficient and cost conscious means possible.

The results of this change have been immediate and amazing.  Some programs have been discontinued.  Every program must have at least ten participants.  It is not up to me to come up with ten people, but up to whomever owns the program.  We did not have a men’s club as of three months ago.  I had a couple of men approach me about some activities for such a group.  My response was to come up with at least eight more men and some program ideas and then I would meet with them.  I am proud to say that a group of nearly 30 men met on a recent Monday evening in a member’s home for some smoked brisket, some football and some beer.  But mostly they met to be a community. 

Because more members are meeting more members, our worship numbers have risen.  Our traffic in the building has actually increased with these groups and I love walking through our building and hearing a group of twelve people in a room discussing their interest in mystic Judaism next door to our 50 and More group planning their next book club meeting, next door to our Adult B’nei Mtizvah class.  All the rooms contain more than ten people and all the rooms are starting places for new relationships.  All the rooms are places where our members are recognized, validated and supported.

We have just begun our journey.  As Program Directors, or Engagement Managers, or Member Services Coordinators, we have the exciting and challenging task of recognizing the affinity groups that organically arise, validating these groups as important to our congregants and supporting these groups through resources and expertise.

Laura Intfen is the Member Services Coordinator at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, KS. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter.  

This post is part of a blog series on Connected Congregations being curated by Darim Online in partnership with UJA Federation of New York.  Through this series, we are exploring what it means for synagogues to function as truly networked nonprofits. Connected Congregations focus on strengthening relationships, building community, and supporting self-organizing and organic leadership.  They are flatter and more nimble, measure their effectiveness in new and more nuanced ways, allocate their resources differently, and use technology in a seamless and integrated way to support their mission and goals.  We hope these posts will be the launching pad for important conversations in our community. Please comment on this post, and read and comment on others in the series to share your perspective, ideas, work and questions. Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting this work.