JSCA Professional Development

The Jewish Communal Service Association is a wonderful organization that offers support for Jewish communal professionals throughout North America. The JCSA has provided many networking and professional development opportunities in the past, and is currently assessing its offerings in order to serve the needs and interests of its members.

The JCSA has opened a survey to better understand the community’s professional development activities and interests. Your input is valuable, whether or not you have participated in any previous local or national JCSA events.

Take 5 minutes and answer the questions here. Thanks!

Making Your Media Matter 2009

The Center for Social Media is hosting the 5th annual Making Your Media Matter conference — a perfect opportunity to learn and share cutting-edge practices for creating media that matters. Held at American Universitys Katzen Arts Center in Washington, DC February 12-13, the conference brings together filmmakers, non-profit communications leaders, funders, and students to share and learn about using the latest tools and trends in creating, distributing, and fundraising for social issue media. Danny Alpert, a producer at See3 and others will be speaking in a number of panels. The best part? Only $100! ($50 for students).

If you’re going, let us know so the Jews can get together!

IDF Using Social Media for Gaza Public Relations

The New York Times reports that the Israel Defense Forces are using video on their YouTube channel and a Twitter based news conference to bring their message to audiences far and wide. The Times reports:

“Since the definition of war has changed, the definition of public diplomacy has to change as well,” said David Saranga, the head of media relations for the Israeli consulate in New York, which conducted the Twitter news conference on Tuesday… Tuesday’s online dialogue, which was open for questions from anyone with a Twitter account, was “the first governmental press conference ever held on Twitter.” And he made no apologies for using common text-messaging abbreviations 2 for to, 4 for for, and r for are, and other shorthand like civ for civilian in his answers. “I speak to every demographic in a language he understands,” he said. “If someone only speaks Spanish, I speak in Spanish; if someone is using a platform like Twitter, I want to tweet.”

While the 140 characters allowed in a “tweet” (a posting on Twitter – see CommonCraft for a brief explanation of Twitter) may not be able to dive into the nuance and details of the conflict, the Twitter-based PR efforts seem to be more intended to build relationships. Those who participated felt they had a direct ear to someone with authority, and being able to engage in dialog, even 140 characters at a time, is in fact a small step towards greater understanding and use of words (or at least partl 1s) instead of weapons. Experts from the Twitter Q&A follow, as reported by The New York Times. See the full article for more.

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explore4corners: How many attacks have there been against IS in the last 6 months? How many casualties? The MSM doesn’t report that here.

israelconsulate: ovr 500 rockts Hit IL in the 6 mts of CF. per the last 72 hrs mre thn 300 hit IL. kiling 4 ppl & injuring hndrds

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carrotderek: On what conditions would Israel consider a ceasefire?

israelconsulate: CF must ensure no more rockets on IL no arms smuggling. btw crossings for Human Aid r open and trucks are entering

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backlotops: 1 side has to stop. Why continue what hasn’t worked (mass arial/grnd retaliation)? Arab Peace Initiative?

israelconsulate: we R pro nego. crntly tlks r held w the PA tlks on the 2 state soln. we talk only w/ ppl who accept R rt 2 live.

If you’d like a challenge, “translate” the above tweets and post your translations in the comments of this blog post so others who don’t “speak tweet” can understand it!

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.]

A Social Media Thanksgiving

Given the recent economic developments, the conversation in the nonprofit-social-media-world has turned significantly towards raising money. While social technologies are valuable for many reasons, their potential to help nonprofit organizations raise funds in these challenging times is making even the skeptics pay attention. On a live online chat hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy yesterday, many questions focused on the bottom line. (Transcript is available here.)

To demonstrate the power of social media, Epic Change, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, launched a 48 hour campaign to raise $10,000 to build a classroom in Tanzania, called Tweetsgiving. The campaign launched on Tuesday at noon eastern time. My friend Michael Hoffman (CEO of See3) posted a tweet around 5pm. Four hundred and seventy nine people follow him on Twitter. I’m one of them. I learned about it from him around 10pm and posted a tweet of my own. Beth Kanter has been posting progress over the last day. Over 5000 people follow her on Twitter alone. (She’s also blogged about it.)

Status as of 3:40pm Eastern on Wednesday
Status as of 3:40pm Eastern on Wednesday

So right now, at 3:40pm eastern on Wednesday, Tweetsgiving is 27.5 hours into a 48 hour campaign. That’s 57% through their time line, and 65% of the way to their goal! Amazing! To date, 223 people have contributed, which makes the average contribution just under $30. It was a no brainer for me to give a $10 contribution just based on a) recommendation of friends; b) innovative idea; c) urgency of the campaign (only 48 hour window).

The site suggests you tweet (post a twitter update) what YOU are thankful for, and then include the #tweetsgiving tag, and maybe a link to the Tweetsgiving site. This tag is the sixth most popular tag on Twitter today (behind “Black Friday”, “Christmas”, “Happy Thanksgiving”, “Magpie” and “Twilight”). This means thousands of people are spreading the word, even if they are not giving themselves to the campaign. Both are essential for success.

It’s a fascinating project to learn from. And… if you’re reading this before noon eastern on Thanksgiving Day, will you consider joining me in supporting the cause, even with a $5 or $10 donation?

P.S. Three more people donated while I was writing this post! Check the site for updates and to donate.

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.

Baltimore Jewish Leaders Assembly, Powered by Teens

Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum
Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum

Allison Fine, author of Momentum was the keynote speaker at ACHARAI, the Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute’s “Technology: Threat or Promise” event on Thursday, November 20. After setting the stage to help participants see the landscape of the field, Allison pointed to the group of teens seated at the back tables. These people are the future employees, and consumers of what our Jewish organizations have to offer. Allison urged us to listen to them, carefully. How are they using these tools, how are they making decisions, what do they want? The bottom line: communities are no longer being built from the top down, they are powered from the bottom up. We must empower and engage these young people to bring them into our community and organizations.

These teens came to the program to both learn and teach. One of the several break out sessions, led by Darim’s Director of the Learning Network, Caren Levine, employed the teens to help participants get hands-on experience with social media tools, such as wikis and blogs. The teens were able to help lower barriers to entry, so participants could experiment with the technology in a safe and supportive place.

Teens debrief at the end of the day
Teens debrief at the end of the day

While the teens were instrumental in assisting the program, I think they walked away with more than they expected. Those who attended my session on social media theory and practice told me they had many “ah-ha moments” — that while they don’t think twice about the technology, they’d never paused to think about how it can be used strategically to help achieve a specific goal, and they were excited to see examples of really fun stuff happening online in the Jewish world.

Hats off to Debs Weinberg and her team for organizing such a thoughtful, educational and inspiring event. In my vision, the next stage of Jewish organizational life will fuse experienced strategic thinkers with younger “we’ve grown up on this stuff” staff to shift organizational practice into relevant 21st century modes. These young people may have walked in thinking they were contributing to the teaching, but they left with much more. Sitting in on the debrief after the conference, I was amazed to hear what they had learned. The skills they developed in this one day will position them to be incredibly valuable in the job market as they graduate in the coming years.

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!