Happy Healthy Nonprofit A Review

At this time of year, we take time to reflect on ourselves over the past year, and to set intentions for how we will be in the coming year.  All of us have room for improvement (think about Carol Dweck's "growth mindset") to become our best selves.  Our personal well-being — physical, mental and spiritual health — is key to unlocking the best of who we are, at the office, with our families and friends, with with ourselves.  Beth Kanter's new book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, written with co-author Aliza Sherman, is a fantastic resource for leaders and managers in our community to reflect on both their own well-being and to consider how to foster healthier professional environments to help all of us thrive.

Over the past few years at See3, we’ve been working hard on building a company culture that values the personal well being of our employees and invests in our team to be a productive family based on shared values. This attention is paying off, with happy and hard-working staff who are generous with each other and our clients. We take time to celebrate each other’s accomplishments in the office and outside of it. We are also attracting talented and diverse new employees who want to advance their careers and have a great quality of life while doing it.

Because we’ve been thinking about these issues a lot, we are particularly excited about this new book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit. In it, these two superstar authors tackle head-on an issue which those of us working in the nonprofit world know so well — burnout. If you want to find people who work really hard, in often challenging circumstances for low pay, look no further than your nearest nonprofit organization.

Beth’s previous books looked at how nonprofits can change to be more nimble and function better in our newly connected digital world. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the issue of employee health and burnout avoidance comes next. With the quickening of the pace of communications, more competition for donors' attention and more scrutiny of nonprofit work than ever, it’s no wonder that burnout is finally on the agenda.

The authors point out that nonprofits have unique challenges with these issues because sacrifice is often in the DNA of social movements. They write:

Self-sacrifice becomes a cultural norm in organizations and movements. Leaders who give up their personal lives for the cause often evaluate staff members’ value or commitment to the organization by how much they, too, deny themselves work-life separation and boundaries.

That sounds really familiar! While this is true for so many of us in the sector, we couldn’t help but think about how this concept of self-sacrifice may unfortunately be particularly acute for women, who may have expectations of the need to work harder to attain leadership positions, not only in the nonprofit sector, but everywhere.

One of the things we love about this book is how Beth and Aliza cite so many practical examples of organizations supporting employee and team health and well being. These real life stories provide inspiration for what you might address at your organization, and a template for your action, too. We’re honored (and proud!) that Beth and Aliza included See3’s HR and dog policy as an example of how organizations can change policies that impact quality-of-life for everyone working there.

See3, a digital agency working with nonprofits, put several policies in place that promote well-being and that affect the way its staff works and manages work-life issues. The agency doesn’t count sick days or personal days, and it offers paid maternity and paternity leave policies, flexible schedule options, and work-from-home flexibility. See3 also has an office policy baked right into its employee handbook that allows employees to bring their dogs to work.

We were also mentioned for our physical movement breaks as a way to reduce stress and promote health:

“Our team regularly breaks around 2:00 in the afternoon to do a 10-minute workout,” says Bridgett Colling from the marketing agency See3. “We find workouts on YouTube or Pinterest and do them as a group using yoga mats we keep in the office. Taking some time to step away from my desk and get my blood pumping usually gives me a much greater energy boost than another cup of coffee or something filled with sugar.”

While some of this attentiveness to culture and health has come from our company’s leadership, a lot of it has grown out of listening to our staff and empowering people to take the initiative to shape our company culture. Bridgett initiated the 10-minute yoga and by doing it in the common spaces and inviting others to join her, she has made a significant contribution to both the health of the participants and the culture of our company overall.

Our vision boards hanging on the walls of our office integrate productivity, professional learning and health and wellness goals. By making all of these goals explicit, our staff is better able to support each other and celebrate our achievements. 

Stopping Burnout Before it Starts

In The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Beth and Aliza help readers understand what causes burnout and why self-care is critical for your nonprofit’s success. This book is a must read for nonprofit CEOs and managers, as well as anyone in this profession who wants to be happy and successful over the long term of their career.

The self-care process they outline starts with basics — sleep, nutrition and exercise — but moves on to care that relate directly to job stress, such as mindfulness and gratitude. At See3, we have a tradition (based on research that suggested gratitude is a key ingredient to happiness) of including something we are grateful for in our staff-wide daily email check-in, such as support from a team member or spouse, for family health, or for a comical cat video. The Happy Healthy Nonprofit also includes powerful self-assessment tools to help you define your own challenges with self-care as a way to begin addressing them personally and across your organization.

What we particularly love about this book is that it gives individuals the tools for their own self-care, without victimizing those who are feeling "less than optimally healthy”. We can’t solve this issue without changes to our organizations — and Beth and Aliza don’t let the organization off the hook. Organizational structures and policies have perhaps the greatest impact on employees’ ability to work with less stress and avoid burnout. The book gives very clear examples and guidance for organizations looking to promote a healthy culture.

Thanks to Beth for sharing an advance copy with us. For months we’ve been excited for this book’s release, and it meets all of our very high expectations. Order a copy for yourself, and while you’re at it, consider ordering an extra to give as a gift to your leadership or coworkers as well. While health may start with yourself, a happy, healthy nonprofit is good for everyone.

The Happy Healthy Nonprofit is available everywhere books are sold. You can buy it here on Amazon.

 

About the authors: Lisa Colton is the Founder and President of Darim Online, and the Chief Learning Officer at See3 Communications.  Michael Hoffman is the CEO of See3 Communications.

An Instagram is Worth…

Editors note:  We often use this blog to highlight the wisdom and experience of those within our network.  Isti Bardos is the Communications Director at Temple Israel in Memphis.  On a recent webinar he was giving great advice to those getting started on Instagram, and we asked him to share some tips that make his Instagram efforts successful.

 

A picture is worth…Yup. We all know.

I would argue, however, that pictures – and videos – are worth much more than words, 1,000 or not.  Imagery evokes feelings, creates empathy and fosters meaningful, lasting relationships.  Isn’t that what our work in congregations is all about: building community and lasting relationships?

By sharing highlights and snippets of everyday life through Instagram, you are illustrating how your congregation is a community of meaning and purpose, not only an institution with "tushes in seats".  While some people may feel nervous about showing photos of people in your congregation, Instagram (and the sharing culture) is happening with or without you.  Be thoughtful about releases in your membership and registration materials (and avoid those who don't want their photos shared), but also recognize that many of the ever-so-coveted 20s/30s demographic are prolifically sharing their photos (and wanting to see those of others). A full 90% of those using Instagram are 35 or younger (data as of June, 2015 — older demographics are beginning to flock to Instagram too).

In addition to engaging the younger demographic, Instagram is a worthy social media platform because

1) It's in your congregation’s best interests to put your best face – literally and figuratively — out there!
2) Participating in Instagram a way to “show off” your congregation.
3) It's good to show a wide array of smiling faces, activities, and slices of life of your congregation!
4) By using Instagram, your congregation will be perceived as hip and modern, on top of the newest technologies.

Two questions people often ask are:

1) What should we post?
2) How often should we post?

To me, the answers are the same: Post good content when you have it.  But make a point of integrating great photography (on your phone!) into your routine so you have content at least a couple times a week.

#SHABBATSHALOM

If you don’t know where to start, start with a #ShabbatShalom message every Friday afternoon. (That # symbol, in today’s social media vernacular, is a hashtag. Hashtags allow you to search for items. For example, if you used the hashtag #ShabbatShalom, you would see only photos/videos from around the world that have that hashtag associated with it, which is pretty cool.)

So, simply take a photo of a smiling child at religious school.  While the culture of Instagram is to post photos immediately after they are taken, you can also have some "timeless" images that can be saved for a Friday post.  With these #ShabbatShalom postings, you will be sharing a photo at least once a week!

#TBT

Another example which could guarantee another weekly post, is #tbt. #tbt stands for “throwback Thursday.” It’s simply an easy way for you to post a video or photo of something that happened in the past, whether it was a year or 100 years ago.  This could be a childhood photo of your rabbi, or a memorable event in your congregation's past, like this picture from our congregation's 2008 trip to Israel.

So between #ShabbatShalom and #tbt, you already have guaranteed yourself at least two compelling Instagram posts a week, which a great start!

But you have an endless supply of other good, compelling content — here are some ideas and examples from our congregation:
volunteers
staff
families
events/programs
women’s and men’s clubs
beautiful facilities/campus
religious/Hebrew school tutors/teachers
different segments of your congregation
creative snapshots of congregational life
and, of course, smiling children

By the way, it’s important to use photo of people who are smiling, because smiling… is a cause of happy feelings!  …is contagious! …can make you healthier! …can be a predictor of how long you’ll live!   But also remember that Instagram's community values really great photography, including abstract shots of mundane things, insights into everyday moments, bold color and gorgeous patterns.  Like this photo of Hamentashen from OU Hillel.

Also, there is a sense of immediacy and connectivity with Instagram. For example, what is more interesting and interactive: reading – a month after the fact in a black and white newsletter – the sentence “Students watched a science demonstration involving Mentos and Diet Coke” or watching a 10-second video clip of a “volcano” erupting  a few minutes after the event took place – and then having the ability to provide immediate feedback?

Posting photos and videos to Instagram is less about the information and more about making emotional connections.  As people scroll through their Instagram feed, make sure that your congregation has a presence! Scroll through your Instagram feed periodically to see the "bigger picture" that new followers might find if they look at everything you've posted recently. 

If your congregation doesn’t use Instagram, start using it today. If you have an Instagram account, step your game up!  After all, if your congregation REALLY IS a vibrant, warm and welcoming congregational family, then SHOW IT!

Isti Bardos is Communications Director at Temple Israel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Maturing Your Social Media Practice for Synagogues: Follow Up Resources and Archives

Effective use of social media is critical today for being seen and understood, and developing relationships between and among your community members. This free 5 part series on the most important social media topics for synagogues today covers important and timely topics to help synagogue leaders — from novice to expert — take their digital practice to the next level.  These webinars run live in February and March, 2016.  You can sign up here for the next sessions in the series, and archives from previous sessions are below

Thanks to UJA-Federation of New York for supporting this series!

 

VISUAL STORYTELLING

Recording

Slides

Resources:
Pause Before You Post Video
G-dcast videos  (good for curation!)
iMedia Connection
Connected Congregations (more on building relationships and community)

A few synagogue Instagram accounts as examples:
Central Synagogue, New York (promotional)https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner
Temple Israel, Memphis (people focused)
Sixth and I, Washington DC (events and great visuals)

Flickr
Hootsuite
Buffer App
Creative Commons Licenses

 

PAID MEDIA

Recording

Slides

More about the trifecta of owned, earned and paid media.

Google Grants — apply here!

Google Ads keyword planner

Facebook Ad Resources here and here.

Get started with Facebook ads!

 

COMMUNICATING FOR SOCIAL

Slides:  http://www.slideshare.net/darimonline/the-new-rules-community-building-in-the-age-of-social-maturing-your-synagogues-social-media-practice

Recording

The first TV commercial and a bit more about broadcast vs. social:

Examples shared:

Temple Israel on FB: https://www.facebook.com/TempleIsrael/

Chevra Ahavas Yisroel: https://www.facebook.com/chevraahavasyisroel/

Sixth and I: https://twitter.com/sixthandi

Blog post from The Community Synagogue: https://commsyn.org/blog/our-community-theater-tabernacle

RESOURCES MENTIONED:

Social Media Policy Workbook: http://darimonline.org/smpw

Facebook Pages vs. Groups:  http://mashable.com/2014/10/19/facebook-pages-groups-profiles/#rOHCfPl_amqU

Making Facebook Groups Rock (Miriam Brosseau on Beth Kanter’s blog): http://www.bethkanter.org/facebook-groups/

What is a hashtag?  http://mashable.com/2013/10/08/what-is-hashtag/#FX58SJ6pXuqN

Good times to post on social media (but do your own testing and see!  Facebook Pages have great “insights” data):  https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2014/04/03/infographic-optimal-times-to-post-on-social-networks/

 

CONTENT STRATEGY AND EDITORIAL CALENDARS: REPRESENTING YOUR BRAND ONLINE

Recording

Slides

Finding your voice:  Social Media Policy Workbook

Editorial calendar template

Darim’s guest blogging guidelines
 

CROWDFUNDING

Recording

Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/darimonline/intro-to-crowdfunding

Links to platforms:

http://crowdrise.com/

http://razoo.com/

http://kickstarter.com/

http://charidy.com/

http://jewcer.com/

The Power of an Invitation

Uber and AirBNB are proving the power and opportunity of a bottom-up model of organizing.  Empowered with technology, their own creativity and initiative, people today are less reliant on institutions than ever to achieve their own needs.  At the same time, smart platforms are critical for activating their curiosity and motivation.

So too in the Jewish community. We are beginning to see the shift in the market, and the emergence of new platforms to help people self-organize and build Jewish community and meaning.  While this brave new world may feel scary to organizational leaders, in my book it's a very healthy sign.  The question is, how are we as a field adapting to this new "economy"?

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Steven Price have been following these trends, and are re-energizing a very traditional idea: The Book Club.  Together, we've been asking ourselves, "How can we get more people developing deeper, more meaningful relationships, building Jewish community, and feeding their intellectual and spiritual curiosities together?"

Our research showed that the vast majority of people who aren’t currently in a book club, Rosh Chodesh group or another similar club are overwhelmingly interested in being part of such an experience.  Their primary reason for not yet being in a club?  No one has invited them.

Thus, we've designed Gather to find and empower initiators to start new groups, and invite others to join them.  It doesn’t mean they have to be the ongoing leader — they are simply the initiator.   There's no long term commitment, no expectations of what your group will be, no prescribed content. But we do have ideas, suggestions, discussion guides, and a concierge ready to help answer any questions. Gather is a platform to help those curious about Jewish learning and community to launch new group (with friends, acquaintances, family and/or new contacts) to build and strengthen relationships, and to engage in discussion around Jewish content and values.

We're just launching our beta phase, and we're inviting (see — get the theme here?) members of the Darim network to take it for a spin.  You can start a new Gathering yourself, and/or you can invite your own network to start their own groups.  Gather is a tool that can help places like synagogues and schools become more connected (and educated and engaged) communities, so it's an easy and powerful platform to help organizations dip their toe into the self-organizing, platform model that is such a powerful approach in today's culture.

Anyone can start a club, and any community can have multiple. For example, a dad with kids in the early childhood program might want to start a dads club, or maybe families with post-b’nai mitzvah teens might want to start a parent/child social justice book club.  Maybe 20-somethings want to get together to cook out of the Jerusalem and Zahav cookbooks, or members of your LGBTQ community want to get together more regularly in addition to Pride Shabbat.

Consider this your invitation — we would love for you to consider using Gather to engage with and support your community, and if you’re interested, help you plan the next steps. If you want to share with your community, we’re happy to create customized pages that promote the content that aligns most closely with your mission and goals, and the interests of your audiences (e.g. culture, cooking, music, Jewish classics like Buber and Heschel, etc.), and give you a link which will track participation from your network (and we're happy to share data with you).

Ultimately, we hope that these initiators become the leaders in your own community, and help to engage their peers in your mission and programs too. 

We know the power of an invitation is profound.  Who will you invite?

Want to take it for a spin?  Click here to see how simple it is to start your own Gathering. Want to invite your own community or network to initiate Gatherings? Feel free!  If you want your own link to track adoption, just drop Elyse Kort, Gather Project Director, a note.

Words vs. Word of Mouth: The Difference Between Owned, Earned and Paid Media

“We need to be reaching more people.” The constant refrain we hear from organizations that believe they have something valuable that the world should be paying more attention to. It’s true. But we’re living in an attention economy, where everyone is so flooded with messages, content and noise that all we want to do is filter it out.

Yes, we need to be reaching more people. But to do that, we need strategies to break through the clutter and penetrate people’s eyes, ears, hearts and minds.

It’s important to understand three different approaches to get seen and heard, and then to determine what mix is going to help you achieve your goals. The trifecta: owned, earned, and paid media.

Owned Media: Your House, Your Rules

Owned media includes the channels you have created, and the content that you own. This might be content on your website and your blog. It also includes your Facebook page, YouTube channel, Twitter accounts and other social media channels. A great approach to owned media requires creating strong content and having a strong social strategy to back is up and leverage the time you put into creating that content. If you’re looking to mature your owned content strategy, read up on the practices of “content marketing” and “multi-channel strategies."

Paid Media: Spending Smart

Paid media is, simply, media exposure you pay for. Google AdWords, Facebook advertising, SEO campaigns and other opportunities to pay to get your content showing up in more places. Smart paid media is surgical in its focus – you don’t want to be paying for Google to serve up your ad to the wrong populations – and the content itself needs to have compelling calls to action to even get audiences to engage.

While “digital marketing” and “paid media” used to be synonymous, they are no longer. Paid media may still have its place, but in today’s attention economy, people are much more likely to listen to the recommendations of their friends and to allocate their attention to brands they trust and already have a relationship with in some way.

Earned Media: Network Amplification

Between owned, earned and paid, I would argue that earned media is the most valuable of all. Earned media is when other people, channels and sometimes even brands are talking about you and/or sharing your work and messages. Hopefully these mentions are good. But a bad Yelp review, for example, is also “earned media”. Earned media often is a mention or review of your work, but it can also look like an interview on someone’s blog or a guest blog post where you’re work appears on someone else’s blog.

Earned media is related to other forms of media. When someone shares or amplifies your content on Facebook or posts a link to your blog on Twitter it’s because you did a good job with your owned media. You may use paid media to increase exposure which then helps people pick up on it and share it, tipping into the earned media category.

The benefit of earned media is that it piggybacks your brand on the brand equity of the person or brand that’s sharing it. The hard part of earned media is that you have to earn it. You have less control than owned media (where you create and manage it) or paid media (where you decide what’s worth paying for an how much). What you give up in control however, you gain in other ways, as earned media has greater trustworthiness and authenticity, and can extend to entirely new audiences you otherwise would never be able to reach.

How to Increase Earned Media Coverage of Your Organization 

Any smart content strategy includes owned, paid and earned media. I find, however, that many organizations neglect to pay enough attention to earned media, or to really work for it. Some earned media happens by good old fashion luck, but there’s much you can do to cultivate opportunities.

Here are 6 things you can do to increase earned media coverage of your organization:
 

  1. Identify the brands, people and influencers whose channels would be valuable to you. It might be about scale, relevance, audience, or adding the character of their brand to yours.
     
  2. Build relationships with them. Follow them on Twitter, share their content, comment in their channels to add value for them and their audiences.
     
  3. Listen and learn what’s authentic to their audience. Notice where they are offering earned media to others (mentions of other projects, guest blog posts, what they retweet and share). You need to fit into their culture and brand identity – having insight will help you thread that needle.
     
  4. Create content worth sharing. It should be valuable, and add to the social capital of those whom you want to share it. It can be really useful or really funny. Top 10 lists, infographics and well produced videos travel well too. Don’t forget to include share buttons on your owned media to make it easy for people to share it!
     
  5. Use content creation as an engagement strategy. When you’ve told a story or thanked someone in your content, a natural next step is to let them know through social media, which will likely encourage them to share it.
     
  6. Use your relationships with others to find guest blogging opportunities (and offer them in return as well). Make sure to position yourself as adding value to their community, not only trying to self promote. Do a good job and you’ll likely be invited back.

How else have you earned your earned media? What people, channels or brands have given you an important boost?

 

This post is cross posted on the See3 Communications blog.

 

Organizational Transparency: An Introductory Guide for the Perplexed

“Openness is the chief virtue of the digital age.”

– Virginia Heffernan, "Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet"

 

Transparency itself isn’t a new concept. In the US for example, nonprofits must publicly file 990s annually. This ensures accountability, and is a requisite for tax-exempt status. But transparency does not begin and end with financial information. There are new dimensions, new imperatives emerging from technology, and perhaps most profoundly, transparency is now a critical leadership skill. That feels pretty new to many of us.

But today’s leaders need to understand that transparency is no longer optional.  When the rules of the game have changed, leaders necessarily need to adapt their approaches. What roles does transparency play here? According to Charlene Li, author of Open Leadership, “transparency is not defined by you as a leader, but by the people you want to trust you and your organization. How much information do they need in order to follow you, trust you with their money or business?” (pg. 193).  It’s all about trust — and trust (and its corollary, attention) are the currency of our current attention economy.

Understanding that transparency is a critical value and essential element of effective leadership has powerful implications for organizational sustainability too. Previously, organizations literally served an ‘organizing’ function. Institutions held the data, finances and authority. Today, individuals are self-organizing and shifting the power center. Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms decode this in their HBR article “Understanding ‘New Power’”. Simply, “the goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.” As society is increasingly skeptical and rejecting of old structures, transparency becomes even more important. It becomes a way to activate and channel new power.

Some people mistake transparency for cracking open your financials and letting it all hang out. But it isn’t just about opening up your books or making leaders function as if they are naked. Transparency (of any sort) is values-based, centered on respect (hakavod), virtues (middot), and, the big one, truth (emet). Think about your relationships with your spouse, business partners, and good friends.  Yes, there’s the planning — taking kids to soccer, paying the bills, making doctors appointments. But what if you didn’t trust your partner, and had little input in decisions? The logistics would be joyless. Strong relationships are built on respect, honesty and open communication (transparency). So too relationships with our donors, members, volunteers and advocates.

Jed Miller, who helps human rights organizations align mission and digital strategy, says that “Institutions may be afraid that by opening up about internal processes they give critics a map of their weak spots.” He warns that this kind of initial fear is inherently limiting. “The key,” he says, “is to think about your public—however you define them—as participants in your mission, not as targets or threats.”  What kind of insight — into processes, decision making, etc. — is needed for them to trust you as a champion of the cause?

When we, as leaders in the Jewish world, hold ourselves and our leadership apart from the community, how can we expect to engage our communities with full and sanguine spirit?  We cannot hide or disable conversations, or operate in a vacuum and expect the public to consistently trust us with their dollars. Those days are over. Today, we need to embrace these values of open leadership.

Organizational transparency is where Jewish wisdom nests with innovative thought. I’ve spoken to rabbis about salary transparency, and searched Jewish orgs with high ratings on charitable indices. Comparing synagogue websites, I’ve sought open plans, board minutes and budget spreadsheets.  While there are bright spots, the norm is much more closed and opaque. In the Jewish professional community, we tend to compare ourselves to each other to establish a norm, when in fact we need to be widening our gaze to understand the role and importance of transparency in today’s marketplace. My sense is that the Jewish world is not keeping up, or worse, we are not pushing ourselves forward. It is time that we recognize the shifting norms, acknowledge the benefit to our organizations and community as a whole, and take real steps to integrate transparency into our normative business practices. 

In a time when many Jewish organizations are seeking to get more people to trust and follow them, we must heed Open Leadership author Charlene Li’s words of wisdom. Transparency is the information people need in order to follow and trust you as a leader, or as an organization. While leaders may be initially resistant to the idea of transparency, we must all take it seriously to build strong, sustainable and vibrant communities.

Stay tuned for future posts on specific examples of how various leaders are putting this ethos into action.

Gina Schmeling is a non-profit consultant based in Brooklyn. Find her at @nyginaschmeling or in the park with the runners.

 

Content That Travels: Engagement that Jumps From Online to Offline

As organizations invest in building online networks and deeper engagement with constituents, we constantly need to refocus on how that engagement leads to mission-centric action.  It’s not just enough to have eyeballs, or even likes.  What does it look like to design and implement an online strategy that has on the ground impact?  Specifically, how can your content jump offline?

One primary driver of this jump is value.  What content is of value to your audience, and what will they do with that value?  I like to think about this as a Venn diagram — one circle is your mission and goals, and the other are the very specific and honest needs of the people you’re trying to engage.  Only when you are able to create content in that “sweet spot” in the center can you really move the needs.  For your content to travel (online and offline), it needs to build the social capital of the people who are going to share it.  Why would someone want to claim your content as their own?  What does it say about their identity, values and/or interests?  Being brutally honest about this intersection is the first critical skill to solve this part-art-part-science question.

The second driver of traveling content is momentum. What is happening on the calendar, in politics, in local or world events that has created momentum in the news and in social media?  How can you surf that wave?  Remember when the lights went out at the Superbowl in 2013? Within minutes Oreo had launched “You can still dunk in the dark”  — a fantastic example of taking advantage of the momentum online at that moment.  Where is there natural moment that aligns with your mission and goals, and how can you create content to surf that wave?

The Jewish community at this time of year is a great example of such a wave — everything is about Passover.  The Passover seder is the most widely observed tradition in Judaism today.  As we recall the exodus of the Israelites from centuries of slavery in Egypt, themes of renewal, redemption, and freedom illicit a kind of surge of content from Jewish organizations of all types.  Individually, people are planning their seder — who to invite, how to make it special, and how to stretch the themes of the seder to be applicable to our modern world (and a diverse group of people around the table).

Many organizations publish Passover seder inserts – readings to complement the traditional Haggadah (book that tells the story of the exodus and sets out the order for the seder).  It used to be that these came in the mail to donors (and prospective donors). Today, they are published online and emailed as well as circulated through social media.  This approach is both cheaper (no printing and mailing!) and also allows the content to reach farther than an organization’s own mailing list.  

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American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has always been one of my go-to Passover sources.  Their mission to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world aligns so well with the themes of the holiday, This year, they published a seder supplement written by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt focusing on the role of 5 women in the exodus.  Not only did the content align AJWS with the themes of the seder, but it capitalized on the theme of women.  This resources has been shared more widely in Facebook than anything I’ve seen lately.  As you can see here, 22 shares from the AJWS main Facebook page, and countless more links to it through individual profiles and organizational pages.  

Users then print the PDF and read from it at the seder, carrying the AJWS brand and mission to the table.  (I even once sent the PDF to FedEx Office to have it printed and laminated to use year after year.)  AJWS leverages the alignment of their mission with opportunity of the seder, and offers value to the audience by bringing a highly relevant and much adored voice — the Supreme Court Justice — to your own table.  A very smart and effective effort.

This year, Interfaith Israel is thinking about how to market their new summer Israel trip for teens from interfaith families.  They realize that educating people about the opportunity, plus making the case to send a teen on an overseas trip for the summer is not easy.  Their best success has been a very high-touch approach at in person events — but it’s very hard to scale.  They realized that there’s a larger conversation underlying their program. “Why this summer in Israel?” which echoes in the line from the Haggadah, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Building off of this connection, Interfaith Israel has developed a seder supplement that simple seeks to cultivate a conversation about how we can be on a constant journey to explore our heritage, roots and values. Their addition to the seder invites reflection at multiple levels.  What does Jerusalem represent for you?  For your family? For the World? And then progresses to ask about modern Jerusalem today, and how visiting this center of multiple religions is an important experience for all Jews, and perhaps especially those with multiple heritages in their family.  By providing a widely accessible and applicable value-added resource, Interfaith Israel is getting their brand and their upcoming teen trip into the homes of thousands.

So the lessons here for you?  First, make sure you’re insightful about what is TRULY valuable to your target audiences.  Second, develop content that rides the wave of attention, capitalizing on holidays, social trends, or other big events.  Third, to jump from online to offline, create content that real applied, practical value in offline settings.  

Stay tuned for a future post about designing for engagement that starts offline and jumps online! Have a good example?  Share it with us!

Two Facebook, or not two Facebook? That is the question

When I started working as a Rabbi in 2009, there were a number of decisions that I had to make: Would I be Rabbi Danny or Rabbi Burkeman? Would I wear a suit every day? And would I set up a professional Facebook account?

According to Facebook guidelines, a person is only supposed to have one account; yet I was aware of a number of rabbinic colleagues who were maintaining a personal and professional account. After much deliberation, I decided that I would set up a second professional account. And so in the world of Facebook, I existed as two different people: Danny Burkeman and R Danny Burkeman.

There were a number of reasons behind my decision. I was concerned about having my entire personal life on display to everyone.  Not out of fear of what people would find on my page, but rather because I wished to maintain a degree of privacy for my family and myself. I was also conscious that on occasions, my friends have been known to write posts that are intended to be funny, but may sometimes be perceived by others as inappropriate. I also knew that many of my personal Facebook friends would be uninterested in all of my Judaism-related posts, and I wondered if it was better to have another avenue for sharing these (ultimately Twitter has become that means).

It was complicated and resulted in quite a few missteps. I would post comments to the wrong account, send friend requests from the wrong account, and I would often neglect one account at the expense of the other. Yet at the end of the day, I appreciated that I could have a public rabbinic persona while maintaining some semblance of online privacy.

But there were challenges. What was I supposed to do with Jewish colleagues who were simultaneously friends and people with whom I shared a professional connection? Where was I supposed to direct the congregants who became friends? And how was I to decide what to post on which account?

So now, five years into my life as a rabbi, I have decided to return to my roots with a singular Facebook account. The process is not easy, as Facebook has no system for merging two accounts I shouldn’t really have had in the first place (I’m happy to share my experiences if you’re in a similar situation); but it is something that I want to do, and something I have been leaning towards for the last few years.

Three events have moved me to this position. The first was leaving my first community in London to come to Port Washington. My congregants were no longer congregants, and over our time in London, many had become friends. In my new situation, as their former Rabbi, I felt unsure about where they now belonged in my Facebook world. Then, when my daughter was born, I wanted to share photos and updates with everybody. I am blessed with a community who were very supportive of us during that time, and who were excited to greet our new arrival. Many of my posts belonged in both accounts, but with the pressures of a newborn it was increasingly challenging to keep both accounts as updated as I wanted.

But the final impetus for merging the accounts, and leaving R Danny Burkeman behind, is a project I am currently involved in called the #ElulMitzvahChallenge. I wanted to make sure that this campaign got the most exposure possible. Having realized that my personal and professional networks had become intertwined over the years, I could not imagine posting this on one account and not the other; it belonged on both pages. And more than this, it was a reminder that in many ways, the division between the personal and the professional had become artificial.

As a Rabbi I have come to understand that I am (at least to a limited extent) a public figure, and Facebook is another medium for engaging with the community and sharing my Torah. We need to recognize that it is another tool in our arsenal, and as such we have to decide how to use that tool. The challenge for all of us in ‘public’ positions is how can we share our authentic selves with our communities while also maintaining our private lives for the sake of our families and ourselves. In this way Facebook may be more than just a tool; it can also be a gauge for measuring what we are willing to share online, what we prefer to save for our offline community, and what we keep just for our families.

So as complicated, and at times as irritating as it has been, I have now reached the stage where I have dispensed with my dual Facebook identity. In my Facebook world I am now just Danny Burkeman – in fact one could say that I am now no longer “two-faced(booked).”

 

Rabbi Danny Burkeman is a Rabbi at The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, New York.  He has been an important influence in helping his previous and current congregations' online presence through Twitter and Facebook, among others.  He launched #elulmitzvahchallange this fall, which has inspired hundreds of people across the world to video and share their mitzvot.

 

 

Elul: The Season of Reflection & Iterative Planning

Transitions are always a time for reflection, regrouping, and looking forward.  When a leader retires, the organization must take stock of where they are at, and what they need for the next era.  When a child starts the new school year, parents reflect on how far they’ve come and what milestones they’ll achieve this year.  My seven-year old daughter, for example, is just having that amazing reading explosion, and I’m excited to think about what books she’ll be reading independently by the end of the school year.

Fall is always a time of transition when vacations are over, school years are starting, and the weather changes.  For the Jewish community, this is a time of very serious introspection and reflection.  The High Holidays are a time of personal reflection that helps everyone think about self-improvement, and recommit to themselves, the community, and the Divine.

At Darim Online and See3 Communications we have been thinking a lot about “lean” models, “agile development”, and the empathetic “design thinking” approach.  All of these approaches — strategic, technical and creative – are based on iterations.  Try something out, evaluate how it’s going, be reflective, and iterate.  Just like in life, there’s no one finish line – it’s a constant process of growth, evolution and self-improvement.

So, at this time of seasonal transition and personal reflection, we also want to encourage you to step back professionally to appreciate what you and your team have accomplished over the past year, to reflect on what you’ve learned and how it might inform the future.  When we’re often so focused on strategy and outcomes, perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to think about your organizational culture, how you appreciate and support one another, and how you’re growing (individually and collectively) as professionals.

We know synagogues are deep in planning and logistics (and sermon writing!), so this reflection might be more practical after you've put the chairs away and cleaned the sticky honey out of the social hall carpet.  But reflection is important, and doing it as a team is an important part of being agile, iterative, and growing.

So, where to start? 

  • Check out 10Q, a project of Reboot.  Starting September 24th, they’ll send you one question per day for the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.  They’ll save your answers and share them back a year later to help you reflect on how you’ve grown.  Keep the answers private, or share with your team to get to know each other better.
  • This is a great reflection sheet from Sara Shapiro-Plevan for groups of educators based on the Jewish concept of “heshbon hanefesh” (accounting of one’s soul).
  • The Harvard Business Review has a great recorded webinar on coaching employees that you might find useful in designing a reflective process.
  • Caren Levine created this source sheet for the holidays that can be a good converastion starter.

How do you do annual personal, professional and/or team reflection?  Why is it valuable? Share with us in the comments.

 

Amplify Your Message

We recognized that despite a healthy number of likes on our Facebook page for a school of our size, the engagement with our page was not where we wanted it to be. We also recognized that we couldn’t make the progress we wanted with just more staff effort – especially considering there are only 3 of us who are hands-on with the school’s social media.

So, we decided to hold training sessions with targeted groups of our volunteers to recruit them as social media amplifiers. We trained volunteers in our leadership program, on our advancement committee, and our PTO leadership. We customized the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) portion of each training to help our lay leaders understand how social media can help them achieve their goals for the school.

Through the course of our trainings, we learned that most of our volunteers and colleagues have a much more limited understanding of social media than we thought. They thought that when you like a page, you automatically see everything that the page posts; after explaining the algorithm and other Facebook and Twitter basics, our Epstein community understands why their participation is key.

We received such great feedback on these trainings that we have been asked to present to the Board of Trustees at their upcoming meeting. But the best part is that there’s been a culture shift toward embracing social media here at Epstein – among administrative staff and our lay leadership.

  1. Our colleagues are partnering with us to ensure their committees will be trained for the 2014-2015 school year.
  2. Our colleagues are excited to use Facebook and comment on posts; they are confident about telling members of their committees what to do on social media channels.
  3. Our parents are tagging themselves and others in photos; they are commenting on and sharing our posts.
  4. Our parents are creating their own content and tagging the school in their posts.

Since we began our trainings:

1) Largest reach from a post was 2,043. Now, it’s doubled to 4,323.

2) We’ve created interactive posts (like the one below) with great success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Lay leaders are using their own pages to promote school events:

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Alumni are tagging us with shout-outs about great educational value:

 

 

 

 

 

5) Parents are telling our story via social media:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are really excited to see this shift in culture at our school and among our families. We can’t wait to see what next year will bring when we have the opportunity to increase the number of social media amplifiers!

 

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 15 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here with the tag #jdsacademy

Complete the Social Media Self Assessment for your school at http://www.dayschoolacademy.org/assessment