By Julia Hubner and Amy Mendelsohn, MAJNM/MCM ‘17
I’m not interested.
I don’t believe in G-d.
My mom’s not Jewish, so I don’t know if I am.
I had a bar mitzvah but didn’t really connect to anything after that.
There are innumerable reasons people give not to engage with their Judaism. Each reason results in Jews disengaging from Jewish nonprofit organizations, and organizations are often at a loss for how to reconnect with these Jews.
As dual-masters students in Jewish Nonprofit Management and Communication Management, we wanted to address this nonprofit issue through the lens of communication. We explored which communication and marketing methods currently work for nonprofits that are engaging disengaged Jews.
We interviewed 17 staff and 5 participants from 13 nonprofit organizations that we determined are actively engaging disengaged Jewish populations. We asked staff about their organizations’ missions and structure, how their organizations measure engagement, and the marketing practices they utilize. We asked the participants about their past engagement history, how they became involved with their particular Jewish nonprofit, and the success of the marketing strategy the nonprofit implemented. And we conducted content analysis on the websites and social media of the 17 organizations interviewed, plus three additional organizations also excelling in engaging disengaged Jews.
Our findings highlighted the importance of identifying target audiences. The organizational staff we interviewed had a keen understanding of their audience and created messaging for their websites, social media platforms, and print and email marketing with their audiences in mind. The staff determined where their audience congregated (in person and online) and actively sought them out in those spaces.
We also observed an ongoing need for organizations to embrace relational Judaism. Organizations utilize “radical welcoming” to make outsiders feel more comfortable and connected to an organization from the first entry point. The organizational staff took radical welcoming a step further by inviting prospective and new participants to join them for one-on-one meetings.
If Jewish organizations are seeking new ways to reach out and communicate with disengaged Jews, our findings and recommendations will be a useful tool.