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.

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/

NTCjews: Join Us at the Nonprofit Technology Conference

Have you been to the Nonprofit Technology Conference?  No?  Oh boy, you've gotta come.  It's a gathering of about 2000 of the country's most interesting do-gooders who use technology in any part of their work — from marketing and communications, to fundraising, to data management, and innovative leadership for cutting edge organizations.

Each year, we gather the Jews at NTCjews — many who work for Jewish organizations, and some who are Jewish and work for other organizations.  We share knowledge and experience, learn together, eat together and strengthen our network for support and inspiration year around.  We love bringing people from Jewish organizations here to learn about the best of what's happening across the nonprofit field.

This year NTC is March 23-25, 2016 in San Jose, California.  You should come! If you're interested in learning more about what we're doing there (learning sessions, networking, dinner together, Purim celebration) drop your name and email in the form below so we can make sure to keep you updated.

More info on the conference is here:  http://www.nten.org/ntc/

Get a little insight into why we love this conference:

 

Share your info below and we'll keep you posted on NTCjews plans and events!

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.

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.

 

Freedom From the Status Quo

Of the many inspiring Passover messages that I read this year, the one that most caught my eye was by Rabbi Jill Jacobs,"Where Slavery Ends and Freedom Starts.", March 30, 2015. Rabbi Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, shares "it's not always so clear where slavery ends and freedom starts. Did the Israelites become Pharaoh’s slaves only after he set taskmasters over them? Or did we lose our freedom when we became dependent on Egypt’s largesse? Did we become free when we crossed the sea, or only when we established a homeland of our own? … The line between slavery and freedom is not always clearly marked by a parting sea."  Rabbi Jacobs applies this to the context of oppressed workers in the modern economy, people who are bound not by shackles and chains but by poverty, fear, emotional abuse, or lack of education.

Freedom is not only about our physical reality, but also our mindset.  Even while the Israelites were physically free, they reminisced that “in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat, when we ate bread to our fill!” (Exodus 16:3).  It’s hard to let go of what we know, what’s our “normal” even if it’s not ideal, or even serving our interests.

People (and collectively, organizations) who think they are “free” can also be “enslaved” by old ideas and ingrained patterns of behavior. Whenever we keep doing things in a certain way because that is the only way we’ve know to do them, we run the risk of self-enslavement. This is especially true when the old ways aren't working anymore, and the need for change is increasingly clear. Let’s look at this in three areas of American Jewish congregational life.

Financial Models
For a hundred years or so, most American synagogues have been organized with a dues-based membership model. This model has been nearly universally adopted, and the norm for multiple generations — such that, just like in Egypt, it’s hard to imagine any other way.  But today there is abundant evidence that this model isn't working as well or reliably as it used to for many congregations. There are, however variations, changes, and new and different models that some are successfully utilizing. While different synagogues may need different approaches designing how their communities support them, across the field we are starting to feel the questioning and active pushback that are hallmarks of a new kind of freedom to explore different kinds of synagogue funding models.

Engagement
Most American synagogues have also shared the idea that if we build the biggest building, create the best programs, boast the most creative religious school, and hire the right rabbi, then the Jews will come running to become members. But for Americans today (and especially for younger generations), the whole notion of membership (to any organization) doesn't seem quite so certain or resonant.  Those of us who do care about our synagogues, who do find meaning, purpose, and connection in this kind of social and religious organization have to find new ways to make other people see that value and spark, and to care too. That means seeking out, creating, and experimenting with variations, changes, and new and different models of engagement.  Too often our mindset is that “engagement” equals “membership” and “attendance”, but engagement is as much about a mindset and relationships as it is about attendance. Here too, let’s free ourselves of assumptions about our engagement models, and explore a new normal.

Leadership
Most American synagogues rely on boards and committees, volunteers, lay leaders, and professional staff who spend hours and hours in meetings and parking lots making important and not-so important decisions, and then making them again on phone calls and in more meetings. We struggle to find new leaders and new volunteers in part because our current leaders are feeling over-burdened, and in part because the structures of our leadership (multi-hour meetings on weeknights that conflict with kids’ activities, sports games, and other interests) are out of synch with the ways prospective leaders organize their time and attention.  What if, just what if, we ask ourselves to consider variations, changes and new and different models of leadership?  Remember when Yitro, Moses’ father-in-law, pushes him to think differently?  “'The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone" (Exodus 18:17). Let’s free ourselves of these structures, and instead look afresh at what makes the most sense for our needs today.

As we count the omer and move from a celebration of the exodus to the receiving of the Torah, may be take the opportunity to recognize, with 20/20 vision, the places where we may be limiting ourselves, even “enslaving” ourselves to old ideas and previous models that are no longer in our best interests.  As the Israelites wandered the desert, there were many questions, few clear answers, and plenty of “figuring it out as they went”.  So too are congregations today in a time of pioneering a new era.  Let us embrace the questions, explore possibilities, and be free to pioneer the future.

This blog post is cross posted on the Connected Congregations website.  Learn more about Connected Congregations here.

Debbie Joseph is president and founder of Debbie Joseph Consulting, Inc. She is a nationally recognized expert in working with synagogues on exploring alternative dues and membership models, strategic planning and leadership development.  She is a contributor to UJA-Federation of New York’s Are Voluntary Dues Right for Your Synagogue?” report and a contributor to “New Membership and Financial Alternatives for the American Synagogue” by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky.

What Do We Mean By “Capacity Building”?

We work on capacity building for organizations seeking to align their organization with the revolution in modern communications. In fact, we think this is so important that it has become a central part of all of our consulting work and this work on capacity gives the best long-term ROI of any activities we can do. But what do we actually mean by capacity building? What does capacity mean in the context of a nonprofit organization?

The Tsunami of Tactical Advice

All of us are overwhelmed every day by articles, blogs posts, slide presentations, emails and workshops that focus on the tactics of communication. Whether it is about image size or frequency of posting on Facebook, or whether Pinterest is worth investing in, or the top donation page design, there is no shortage of information about the latest thinking in digital communications tactics. And while this information is useful —it is not the central difference between those who win online and those who think they could be doing a lot better. It is hard to absorb all that information and rarely do we see the information we need when we most need it. Overlooked in all of this advice is the capacity of organizations to make use of it, to integrate it into their plans and to see the bigger picture about how tactics ladder-up as part of strategy.

Remember PPTC

When we talk about capacity, we mean PPTC, which stands for People, Process, Technology and Culture.

In order to have the capacity to be effective, you need to align these four areas of your operations. Once aligned you don’t need to sweat the tactics because they naturally flow into the organization through the people paying attention, the continuing improvement in process and the technology you’ve adopted to get the job done.

Let’s look at each of these areas a little more closely:

People

Having your 20-something office admin who loves SnapChat does not mean you have capacity to succeed with social media. The people who can do a particular body of work are critical and it is almost never one person. Your whole team needs to understand how digital communications is part of a “theory of influence” that moves your issues forward. An important rule of thumb: don’t let front-line staff make business decisions on the fly. Imagine, for example, you have a crisis and this needs to be communicated. The young intern who knows how to use social media would be great to post things and respond to people asking questions — but only if the leadership decided what to say, how to say it and how to navigate the minefields and nuance of the story. Bottom line: When we talk about People and capacity, we mean the whole organization understanding the principles behind these new digital communications tools and being able to give organizational leadership on the approach. And we mean having strong, technically savvy front-line staff able to execute and understand tactical best practices and analytics.

Process

While “rock stars” can have a lot of success with heroic efforts — all nighters, last minute deadlines, a brilliant idea — it does not represent capacity. Capacity is about enabling the same high quality results over and over again. And this consistency of results can’t be achieved without process. Process sets a baseline where we ask the same questions, have check-lists and a well-honed step-by-step approach. The content changes, but the process remains consistent.

The process also has a built-in feedback loop for continual improvement. What worked on this campaign? How can we do better? We ask these questions every day and when we find ways in which the process can get improved, the improvements get incorporated.

Technology

Nonprofit communications and operations require technology. Technology is used from the basic — can we answer the phones? — to the complex — can we share data between online and offline donors? Having technology that is aligned with the business goals is an important part of capacity. Sometimes, organizations are spending far too much money on technology that has marginal benefit and not enough on technologies that are core to the long-term vision of success. For example, there is simply no way to treat your donors and constituents as individuals without technology that allows you to monitor, track and be able to respond to them individually. If your content management system doesn’t allow for updating critical content in a timely way, you have a business problem. In the world of dominant digital communications, this technology is critical.

Culture

For many consultants, they don’t see culture as a capacity issue, but we do. In fact, we think it’s the most important one. In many ways, the people, process and technology are a prisoner to the organizational culture. A culture that is old-school and slow, timid in its approach to communications, and where employees fear risk and failure will never be a top performer in digital communications. They can hire the best people, publish books of standard operating procedures, and buy top-of-the-line technology and it won’t do them any good. The new initiatives will collapse under the weight of an outdated culture.

Here, we create plans that help organizations:

    -Find and train the right people as well as educating people through-out the organization
    -Institute continuous improvement processes
  –  Support and manage the time consuming and sometimes painful process of technology alignment

But how, you might ask, can we influence culture? We’ve given that a lot of thought and field testing. For us, it’s similar to the military counterinsurgency “oil spot” theory. In this approach, the military seeks to hold a small territory, build trust and commitment there, and then build out from those strengths until it encompasses the whole town or society. Similarly, we focus on the design and implementation of strategic projects whose often unstated purpose is to create new pockets of culture inside an organization. Often, we label these projects as experiments, which takes the pressure off of them and allows for a greater range of action. These pockets of new culture energize the organization and become a magnet for people wanting to get involved and other internal investments. The follow-on projects bring the culture change to more people internally and eventually, it’s the tail of the new culture wagging the dog of the old organization.

Culture change also benefits greatly from leadership buy-in and the bully pulpit that encourages a set of new values, such as taking risk and failing fast. But we cannot overstate the challenge of bureaucratic silos, where incentives are aligned against change and cross department projects are the exception. The bottom line is that if you really want to win in digital communications, if you really want to become high performing and raise more money, if you want your cause to be one that people rally around, you have to go headlong into the complex world of organizational culture.

 

Portions of this blog were cross posted on the See3 blog.

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.

 

Top 5 Soft and Fuzzy Social Media Lessons

The most valuable mile marker of an organization’s social media maturity is how they integrate the tools, content and social experience into their organization’s operations and overall strategy.  Technology (of any sort) shouldn’t just be layered on top of status quo operations, and it isn't actually about the technology.  Leaders must be insightful about what they are really trying to change or accomplish, and then align the tools, skills, tactics, culture and workflow to support it.  Often it's the soft and fuzzy side of technology that's the hardest part to get right.

For example, a rigid organizational culture will not support the emergent nature of social media communications and community building.   A hierarchical staffing structure will isolate social media responsibilities with a person in the office rather than promoting stronger relationships among all.  A broadcast communications strategy will fall flat (or worse, do harm) in a conversational and collaborative landscape.

Thus, one of the greatest challenges of successfully bringing your organization into the connected age is to recognize the need to evolve organizational culture, and to take steps to do it purposefully and productively.

In this year’s Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, produced in collaboration with the AVI CHAI Foundation, 15 schools learned new skills and developed new strategies for their social media efforts.  They engaged alumni and raised funds, and some even recruited new families to their schools. But perhaps even more importantly, they learned how to more fully integrate social media into their schools’ culture and operations, from recruitment to alumni engagement, from fundraising to community building.  We can learn much from their pioneering work, experimentation and accomplishments.

So here are the top 5 integration lessons from this year’s academy:

1) Get Everyone Rowing in the Same Direction.  There’s a delicate balance between having a coordinated strategy, and cramping creative people’s style.  At The Epstein School, for example, the Academy team decided to explore Pinterest as a tool to engage parents and prospective parents.  They soon realized that different departments (for example, the library) had already started experimenting with Pinterest and established a bit of a following. They are consolidated the efforts to help each department use Pinterest effectively, while creating one brand presence and attracting families to explore all of the various boards.  They are building up toward a launch in the fall with content that will be valuable for both current and prospective parents, and shows the school’s priorities and strengths in action.

2) It’s Everyone’s Job.  Social media responsibility doesn’t live only with one staff person.  Content creation and curation is everyone’s job, and within a school community, parents and students play a role as well.  The Cohen Hillel Academy embraced this ethos throughout their school.  They used their social fundraising campaign as an opportunity to raise awareness of and engagement with their school’s newly-articulated strategic focus on Expeditionary Education, Joyful Judaism, and Community Partnerships. They looked for ways to engage students in the concepts (e.g., speaking about “Joyful Judaism” at a school assembly and asking kids to draw a picture of what it means to them) and used the campaign as a jumping-off point for richer, more thoughtful conversations with parents.  Noah Hartman, Head of School at Cohen Hillel has been tweeting throughout the year, increasing accessibility for students and parents alike, curating educational resources and insights, building community, and being playful (like a Vine video announcing a snow closure!)

The Leo Baeck Day School in Toronto inaugurated “LBTV Action News” as a vehicle for telling the school’s story, and to enrich the curriculum. In 60 to 90 second installments, students did standup spot “news reports,” on selected events and subjects. It was effective in terms of growing our social media reach. Parents are our main audience on Facebook – which is our main social medium — and they love seeing children doing the presenting as well as being the subjects of a video.  Communications Director David Bale leveraged his background as a radio news reporter to teach students how to prepare an intro, segue to an interviewee and how and what to ask, and summing up in an extro/sign off. They learned the proper way to stand, hold a mic, and to think in terms of their audience of Internet viewers watching a small frame video screen.

3) It’s all about the Culture.  Society is based on cultural – norm, expectations, rituals.  You know the nuance of what’s appropriate or respectful in various places because you pick up on cues – dress, tone of voice, pecking orders, etc. Your online culture is no different.  The Epstein School was focusing on increasing engagement, and knew that to be successful, their parent community needed to feel like it was their space, not just a broadcast from the school office.  They developed a training program – starting with parent volunteers in their leadership program – to help parents learn social media skills and understand how they can participate and why it makes a difference.  Their reach, engagement, tagging, and sharing has increased tremendously as their parent community has demonstrated the culture they seek to nurture.  Similarly, The Davis Academy has engaged Host Committee Members, Parent Ambassadors, and Faculty Members to play a more active and informed role in their social spaces, and will be kicking off their work in the fall with a social media orientation.

4) Let It Go, Let It Go.  The Ida Crown Academy (grades 9-12) focused on recruitment this year. Their strategy included reaching middle school students to get them excited about attending high school there, rather than always communicating directly with the parents of prospective students.  In order to reach middle school students, they tapped their high schoolers to make the case that ICJA is a wonderful place to go to school.  Hearing directly from the students was more authentic and trustworthy, and more relevant.  They decided to hand over their Instagram account to current high school students (with supervision) who were encouraged to post photos as a real window into life as an ICJA student.  They posted about field trips, special school activities, and day-to-day life at the school. The students enjoyed it (after all, most high school students are spending more time on Instagram than Facebook these day so it’s a platform they’re comfortable with and like to use).  As a result, they’ve seen a growing number of prospective students start following their Instagram account and liking their content.

5) Integrate!  Social media isn’t a layer on top of your communications and engagement, it’s a tool that should be integrated into everything you do.  The Frisch School decided to coordinate a sports breakfast fundraiser with their social fundraising campaign. Knowing the visual power on social media, they brought the Cougar back as a symbol of our various sports teams.   They photographed students, teachers, and faculty with the Cougar at various events or just around the school holding up signs saying things like “We Support the Cougar” or “The Hockey Team Supports the Cougar”. The meme became popular amongst the students that the student-produced newsletter decided to create graphics and write articles about Supporting the Cougar, and the Student Video Production Club created a video with a Rocky theme (the special guest at the live Sports Breakfast was the Modern Orthodox boxer Dmitriy Salita).   The campaign created valuable energy on the ground and for the live event, as well as produced priceless content and garnered great engagement and financial support online.

These are just a few of the valuable lessons learned in the JDS Academy this year. You can explore the lessons and activities of all of the schools through their blog posts tagged #JDSacademy.  You’re also invited to drop into the ongoing conversation in our JDS Academy Facebook Group.  Got lessons to add, or examples of how you’ve put these 5 into practice?  Let us know in the comments.