by Louise Szczerb
A few years ago, eJP published an article about how Pardes got it right when it comes to videos.
I think we’ve done something right again.
Three years ago, around the same time we made that video (with nearly 10,000 views to date), we started a blog, “These and Those”, and handed it over in its entirety to the students. It was intended as a forum for students to share their experiences in Israel, including but not restricted to their time at Pardes.
We started the blog as an experiment, and at the time some believed that giving students so much uncensored airtime could potentially be a bad thing for the institution.
In reality however, our student blog has been a huge hit and a testament to the importance of transparency and engagement across the organization.
Not only do our students relish the stage we created for them to share their personal journeys and adventures, but the blog has become one of our most important recruitment tools, with potential students telling us time and time again that they love reading it as an unadulterated way of getting to know the institution.
Our board members and donors have never felt closer to the student body. Through reading the very intimate, passionate and sometimes raw posts over the years they, together with students’ friends and family, get to share in the Pardes experience as it is happening.
Perhaps the most important twist from the fundraising perspective has been the unexpected involvement of our alumni. With many alumni ‘guest posting’ on a regular basis, our alumni community have found a new, interactive medium to reconnect to Pardes.
Last week, Sara Brandes, a student at Pardes over a decade ago, posted to the blog about her memories and feelings towards the institution. She recalls Pardes as, “The beating heart of the Jewish world,” and in just one post she expresses what our fundraising team is spends countless hours trying to do. The PR value of such a positive, sincere and unprompted endorsement is second to none.
Undoubtedly, with the diverse student body that Pardes boasts, there have been posts that have made for uncomfortable reading for some – but giving students, faculty, alumni and donors a space to address and respond to difficult subjects has only served to bring the community closer.
Starting and developing the blog has been a win-win investment for Pardes. A small bet with a massive return.
If only everything in fundraising was that easy.
Louise Szczerb is the Director of Communications at Pardes and has been working in nonprofit marketing and communications for over ten years.