Jewish Organizations Using Twitter to Strengthen Relationships and Built Their Case

Twitter, the “microblogging” platform where users can post updates of 140 characters or less, in making inroads in the Jewish community. Many organizations are using this tool to open communication channels with their constituents, building relationships and in some cases making the case for funding through their regular posts.

I’ve written in the past about Twitter (IDF and Digital Intimacy). In this challenging economy, others are finding that with no fixed costs and just a bit of time, they can spread their message through a very networked and connected audience. Tapping into these viral networks is powerful. For example, yesterday Clay Shirky, NYU professor and author of Here Comes Everybody was a guest on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. When @TOTN (@ denotes a Twitter username, and TOTN is the username, standing for Talk of the Nation) tweeted that he would be the guest, 9 other people that I follow “retweeted” the message within one hour. In this way, not only the 2469 people who follow @TOTN got the message, but easily over 25,000 others did as well.

Below is a list of a few Jewish organizations using Twitter. If you are, please add your Twitter username in the comments so we can follow you. And please also share other Jewish organizations you’ve found on Twitter, or other organizations/people whom you think use the platform effectively, and why.

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@URJ — Union for Reform Judaism Sample tweets:

Resources for congregations to learn and discuss the situation in Gaza: http://urj.org/israel/

Rabbi Eric Yoffie on the tragic loss of life in Mumbai: “Our grief deepens”: http://urj.org/pr/2008/mumbai/

@JStreetDotOrg — JStreet Sample tweets:

If you need help talking about Gaza, check out J Street’s FAQ: http://tinyurl.com/86jq2j

We’re asking Obama’s new foreign policy team to prioritize Mid-East peace: http://tinyurl.com/57x39f

@JewishDaySchool — The Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle Sample tweets:

WinterBreak is almost here! Enjoy the Seattle snow and check the JDS website for closing information should the need arise.

Check out the pics of Grandfriend’s Day at www.jds.org! Thank you to everyone for making this event so beautiful! Shabbat Shalom!

@PresenTense — PresenTense Sample tweets:

Visiting with Gesher City in Boston — they might have a job for you http://tinyurl.com/8yb3dc

Anyone want to rap CRMs? Specifically, CiviCRM and why we’re leaving Salesforce
Your favorites? Write a comment! And… come follow us at @DarimOnline Twitter.com/DarimOnline

Facebook Causes Adds Birthday Feature

Causes is a Facebook application that allows organizations to establish a “Cause” and receive support from people who “join the cause” and donate to it. Network for Good, a reputable online credit card donation processing service processes the transactions. Many organizations have raised significant funds (hundreds or thousands of dollars) towards general operating expenses and/or specific campaigns.

In addition to offering a very simple online donations offering, Causes taps into the viral power of social networking on Facebook. When a user joins the cause, it is posted in the news feed of their friends, inviting others to become familiar with the cause and also support it. With vast connections on Facebook (see image to the right), your message can spread quickly, and far.

Causes has recently added a new feature for birthdays. Users can pick a favorite cause, and use the application to set their Facebook status on their birthday, and perhaps the days leading up to it, encouraging friends to make a donation in lieu of cards or other gifts. Personally, I have made $10-$25 donations many times for friends’ birthdays, even when I may have not spent the time or money to send them a gift!

And hint: my birthday is next week! I’ve recently joined the board of CAJE, and welcome any donations to support their important work in providing professional development for Jewish educators. Or, if you prefer, you’re always welcome to support Darim (also a non profit organization)! Come check out Facebook Causes!

Learn more about Facebook Causes and it’s Birthday feature on Beth Kanter’s blog.

Your Turn To Brag. Come On, Really.

Reform Judaism magazine is planning an upcoming article on how Reform congregations are integrating cutting-edge technology in the service of community. We know if you’re reading this blog, and you’re a staff member, lay leader or active member of a congregation you’ve likely got something good going on. Tell us about it! NOW! Leave a comment (see “comments” link above) or email us at [email protected] and tell us your story, including links. We’ll pass along stories to the folks at the URJ, and/or you can copy them on your email at [email protected]

We have found that many congregations think what they’re doing isn’t so special — until they start to tell others about it, and eyes light up. It doesn’t even have to be fancy techie stuff. When Temple Israel Center really started sharing their web stats (a report to the board to show value, a report to staff to show their writing is really being read, and a report to members to illustrate how many people find the web site content valuable), it changed the conversation about the use of the web site in their congregation. And once they shared the practice with others via the Darim Online Learning Network, many other congregations adopted the valuable practice.

Are you doing anything with social networking? Online video or podcasting? Distance learning for adult education? Blogging? Have you restructured your e-newsletter recently? What products or services have you found most helpful? What’s been key to moving your work forward (adding staff, recruting volunteers, getting a budget, etc.)?

Consider it my Hanukkah present. Take 3 minutes and tell me your story.

Telling Stories to Hear Stories

Social media is all about two way conversation, simply put. Exchanges between real people, building real relationships, and finding common ground, shared interests and, in many cases, collaborating to take action together.

Oftentimes as we manage Facebook groups or blog posts or even in surveys we ask people to share their stories. “Tell us about an experience when…?” Shawn and Mark at Anecdote develop courses on storytelling, and digital storytelling. Their discovery is that you have to tell stories to hear stories. That by modeling the style, length and risks taken in talking about your own life, you given permission and frameworks for others to do the same. We take cues from our peers about what’s appropriate. And especially in online settings, many people are still discovering/learning/evolving their comfort zones and the cultures of various online forums. From their blog:

Here’s an example. When I see my teenage daughter after school I would often ask how her day went, whether anything interesting happened at school, and the standard response is often monosyllabic: yep, nup. In fact the more questions I’d ask the shorter the answers. So I changed tack and rather than ask questions I simply recounted something that happened in my day. I would launch into something like, “I met a bearded lady today. This morning I drove down to Fitzroy to run an anecdote circle for …” and immediately my daughter would respond with an encounter from her day. A conversation starts and it’s delightful.

So next time you seek to hear other people’s stories, consider how you invite them to do so. Finishing a blog post with a question or invitation is a great way to encourage comments. And also consider sharing some of yourself. Blogging is a lot about developing a community — commenting on your friends’ and co-workers’ blog posts to tell you story is a great way of establishing a norm and permission for others to tell theirs.

What approaches have you found most successful or useful for inspiring dialog in your groups and blogs?

[Thanks to Naava Frank of Knowledge Communities and Kehilliyot for turning me on to this concept.]

Alban’s New Book: Reaching Out in a Networked World: Expressing Your Congregation’s Heart and Soul

The Alban Institute has clearly identified technology as a fundamental tool for successful congregations. Their recent magazine focused on connected congregations, and they’ve just published a new book, Reaching Out in a Networked World. Communications expert and pastor Lynne Baab examines a variety of technologies such as websites, blogs, online communities, and desktop publishing, and counsels congregations on how to evaluate these tools and use them appropriately to communicate their identities to members and prospects

Alban’s in depth knowledge of congregations (Jewish and otherwise) make this publication a unique and focused read for synagogue staff and lay leadership. Check out Lynne’s blog post on Myths about Communicating Congregational Identity for insights into her writing and thinking. Learn more about the book and order it here.

Taglines – Does Yours Command Attention?

Taglines are incredibly important in today’s era of information overload. Studies show that as we are inundated with more and more information, we develop skills to sort through the volume to pay attention to the most valuable content. Young people who grew up with the internet are the most adept.

Effective branding is an important factor for gaining and retaining people’s attention. Many organizations’ names don’t really convey what makes them unique, and for many of us, the explanation takes enough words that we lose a good percentage of our audience before they are hooked on our programs and mission.

Enter the tagline. Nancy Schwartz from Getting Attention! has published The Nonprofit Tagline Report, a collection of research, recommendations (dos and don’ts) and best practices developed after analysis of over 1000 organizations’ taglines. The report culminates in awards for the best taglines, plus a listing of finalists.

Examples I love include:

  • When You Can’t Do It Alone — Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Sarasota-Manatee, Inc.
  • Whatever it takes to save a child — U.S. Fund for UNICF
  • Starve Fear. Feed Hope. — National Eating Disorders Organization
  • People Who Change the World Need the Tools to Do It! –– NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network)
  • Helping Preserve the Places You Cherish — LandChoices

Many organizations don’t even have a tagline. Do you?

The entertaining and informative report can be found on her website, www.gettingattention.org

Darim’s tagline is: Internet Strategies for Jewish Organizations and Their Communities. What do you think? Got suggestions for us? Leave a comment!

Volunteer Graphic Design Services Through Idealist.org

One critical element of a successful online (or offline, for that matter) strategy is professional graphic design that conveys the culture, energy and vibrancy of your community. This was one of the observations that led me to found Darim 8 years ago. Many Jewish organizations (and nonprofits in general) struggle wit budgeting for such professional design services. But it’s really worthwhile, and one good design can provide a foundation for many related designs in the future. A well designed piece (web site, blog, brochure, etc.) conveys that you are high quality in everything you do, and thus grabs a reader’s attention long enough for them to actually absorb what you are saying. The greatest content in a crappy design may never be appreciated.

Idealist.org recently launched a new pro bono program that helps match graphic designers with nonprofits who need such services. (Thanks to the Wild Apricot Blog for bringing this opportunity to our attention!)

Idealist.org has just introduced its Pro Bono Design Project, in cooperation with the Art Directors Club. Nonprofit organizations can post their requests for the services of designers

This could include anything design-related, from a banner to a new brochure, a website re-design to a promotional video…. Once you post your listing, it will be visible on Idealist as a volunteer opportunity. Then, ADC will reach out to designers all over the world to get them involved.

For more information about how to post your listing for the Pro Bono Design Project (or any other listing at Idealist.org), see the FAQ on the site. Note that there is no deadline for listing and its free for nonprofit organizations, although there is a fee for consultants to register and be listed in the consultants directory.

Have you invested in professional graphic design? Share your experience with us! What was worthwhile? How do you think the design has impacted your relationships with your constituents? If you’ve tried pro bono services (though Idealist, or a local design program or elsewhere), how did it work out. We welcome your words of advice. Leave a comment!

Our Recommendations, and Yours

Part of our goal in this blog is to turn you on to great stuff, and we’ve just set up an aStore through Amazon.com to provide even more recommendations. The aStore allows you to set up your own store with your recommended products that Amazon sells. Any organization can do this, and through your affiliate relationship, get a percentage of each sale. The real value, however, is that you can turn on your constituents to the products you think they’d most enjoy or benefit from. This is a great way to plant the seed that parents and grandparents buy Jewish-themed gifts for Hanukkah. Instead of thinking that this is a great way to raise a few bucks, market it as a service you are providing to your community. And consider the affiliate referral fees just a bonus.

Check out our aStore here. And you can learn more about setting up your own (really, a 30 min undertaking to get going) here.

We also want to hear what you’ve been reading or using that you’d like to share with others through our aStore. This can be about anything: Jewish, nonprofit, technology, media, etc. I’ve even set up a kid related category as a resource for Hanukkah gift ideas. Leave a comment below with your suggestion, and we’ll add it to the store! I’ve also added a link to our store on the left side of this blog, so you can find it easily in the future.

When I speak at conferences or professional development events, I always try to leave something in my wake. After a shot in the arm of social media, usually the people in the room are hungry for more. I always mention books, web sites, blogs, and other recommendations, and provide a handout with lists of this info. After nearly every event, I get emails from participants saying “I love that blog!” and “I read that Managing Transitions book — thank you, it was so helpful!”. I hope our store can provide this ongoing resource for you. When you finish your next book, come browse!

The Gift of Time and Organization. For Free! It’s Called RSS.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. With a name like that, you’d think it would be so simple. While RSS can seem confusing, it really is so simple, and so valuable. Imagine a single newspaper delivered to your door every morning with articles on your favorite topics by your favorite authors. And nothing else to slog through. Welcome to RSS!

Common Craft, a great little firm from Seattle has produced a fun, short video to help us understand RSS:

I use Google Reader. There are many good readers out there, but I’ll use this as an example. Down the left side are all the “feeds” I subscribe to. When I run across a blog that I like, and want to keep up with, I click the “subscribe” button — commonly shown as this orange icon. That blog is then added to my reader.

Each morning when I sit down at my computer, I open my Google Reader. It shows me all my feeds down the left. I’ve organized them into folders by topic. The bold titles are the feeds with new posts. I can then scan the posts in the main part of the window, and click on any headline to open a new window to go directly to the blog. This way, I don’t have to remember all my favorite blogs, and remember to go to my “favorites” and take the time to check on each one, or waste time if there is no new content. It all comes to me.

I scan my feeds — I don’t read every single post of every single feed. And if over the course of time I find I’m skipping more than I’m reading, I can unsubscribe in one click and remove that feed from my reader.

This is a very useful way of organizing your own reading to keep up with the most amount of high quality and useful information in the least amount of time. It is also useful to know that this is how an increasingly large percentage of your constituents are aggregating and consuming content online. By RSS enabling your content, your readers will be alerted every time you post something new.

I add new feeds to my reader regularly, as I’m turned on to a new blog, or a trusted friend makes a recommendation. By pulling all of the greatest content together, it makes catching up on my reading a real treat — sometimes even a reward after I’ve completed a big task. What’s on your RSS reader?

G-dcast.com Animated Torah Lessons

Date: August, 2007. Place: Atlanta. “The Conversation“, an amazing gathering of professional and lay Jews.

My Ah-Ha Moment: Sarah Lefton showing a small crowd a new project she’s been working on: G-dcast. A short animated online video that captures the story, the lessons and the larger questions of the Torah portion. Wow. Fun, entertaining, insightful, thought provoking. Accessible. Really accessible. I was impressed.

Fast forward approximately one year. Sarah’s attracted funding, support and a lot of energy as she’s produced a series of G-dcast.com films, which launch today. The narrators include Lawrence Kushner, Esther Kustanowitz and many other hip, household names. Some episodes are straightforward storytelling, while other parshiot are told as country songs, hip-hop tracks or mystical discourses on the nature of the universe.

G-dcasts goal is to raise basic Jewish literacy among youth and young adults in an accessible and fun way. In order to affect as wide an audience as possible, G-dcast is delivered online for free, and they offer a downloadable curriculum guide for each episode (great for teachers as well as parents). The series will also be available as a video podcast, so the cartoons can be watched and collected on ipods and mobile phones. Each episode offers embed code so you can easily add it to your web site or blog (see below). While Lefton and her colleagues imagine the animations targeted to a relatively youthful audience, I happen to think the wit, insightful nature and creative style will appeal to a very wide audience, both online and in a live gathering, such as a classroom. What do you think?

Check it out: G-dcast.com.

copyright 2008, g-dcast llc

Update: The New York Times raves about G-dcast.com!