The Community Scorecard – How Do We Grow Stronger?

By making community performance available to the Jewish public and by collecting and reporting data about current programming, market share, individual behavior, and attitudinal perceptions, organizations can make better-informed decisions about strategic direction and prioritization, which will ultimately lead to more coordinated efforts to strengthen our community.

by Meryl Ainsman and Raimy Rubin

Three years ago, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and its ten beneficiary agencies participated in a process where each organization reimagined their individual missions, visions, and values statements. At the end of this process, the presidents (lay chairs) and professional executives met to discuss the merits of this endeavor.

They came to the realization that, perhaps not surprisingly, they all have remarkably similar visions. No one had ever articulated the agencies’ different missions in terms of a singular vision, but it all made sense. The day schools serve one purpose, and the senior facilities may serve another. But, they are all cogs in the same wheel – moving pieces of a larger collective – all striving to build a strong(er) Jewish community.

So where was the coordination?

As is so often the case, the meeting-after-the-meeting – the one that generally happens in parking lots, proved to be very valuable. Three of the CEO’s met “off-line” and came back to the Federation as the unifying funder and asked that we join together in developing a more structured, organized approach to creating a vibrant, thriving, and engaged Jewish Pittsburgh. The result was the creation of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard, a tool that collects and reports data that ultimately paints a picture of how effectively the Jewish Community in Pittsburgh operates.

By making community performance available to the Jewish public and by collecting and reporting data about current programming, market share, individual behavior, and attitudinal perceptions, organizations can make better-informed decisions about strategic direction and prioritization, which will ultimately lead to more coordinated efforts to strengthen our community.

Here are some lessons we’ve learned in building this tool:

  • The key to a successful Scorecard is a staggering amount of data. In order to help on that front, the Scorecard has hired Ukeles Associates, Inc. to help build the data collection process. With more than 150 measures to collect from nearly 100 different Jewish organizations (including synagogues) in the greater Pittsburgh area, the process will be ongoing and evolving.
  • The key to collecting a staggering amount of data is a strong relationship with the service providers supplying it. Without the organizations that create the actual impact in the community, the Scorecard would not have comprehensive enough data to accurately report about Jewish life in Pittsburgh. As the project grows, so too will the involvement of agencies throughout the area.
  • Beyond institutions, we wanted to provide ample opportunity for community members’ themselves to provide feedback. Surveying individuals provides a much more comprehensive assessment about the needs in the community and the attitudes of its members. As of this writing, we have disseminated a 5-6 minute survey to Jewish households throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. The crux of the survey asks qualitative questions about Jewish life in the city though many demographic questions are asked as well.
  • Without strong leadership, we wouldn’t have direction. The Steering Committee that has guided this project from the beginning is comprised of lay leaders and professionals with diverse areas of expertise. They have different religious affiliations, reside in different Pittsburgh neighborhoods, and have different professional and lay backgrounds. However, regardless of their personal beliefs and interests, they have demonstrated a true community-building doctrine; the driving question that helps us at every crossroads is: How do we continue to build a more vibrant, thriving, and engaged community?
  • Lastly, we need patience. There is only relative value in absolute numbers, especially considering Pittsburgh’s last Jewish community study is now 12-years-old. So the number of adults attending Kol Nidre services each year has no accurate denominator. However, we will likely see that numerator rise or fall over the next year or two or three. Similarly, the number of seniors living in a Jewish residential facility says little of the quality of service provided there. But we know that the Scorecard will continue to develop and evolve, both as it tracks trend data and improves its measuring sticks.

The data that the Scorecard collects allows us to measure how well the community is doing at enabling a high-quality Jewish life. The selection of metrics was done with careful consideration of those that describe the most important dimensions of the community. They are organized by themes and, from there, subtopics that measure outputs, outcomes, benchmarks, and trend data.

We will review and interpret community performance, and discuss community-building strategies and priorities in response to the findings. The project helps identify which particular areas within the Jewish community require greater attention, and can help focus on action plans that will impact planning and research; marketing; resource development; and strategic collaborations.

And in that way we can begin the rigorous process of evaluating ourselves as community-builders and begin to effect the change we all hope to see.

Meryl Ainsman chairs the Community Scorecard Steering Committee and Raimy Rubin manages the project.

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Comments

  1. David Chivo says

    Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Jewish community for having created such a powerful tool to move Jewish life forward in your city. Too often, non-profits are criticized for putting mission before metrics, emotions before outcomes. Of course, your scorecard will not only benefit the decision-makers, the funders and the community at-large, but it also creates the transparency about what is important to your community and how you make progress toward your goals. We can all learn from your great work. Kol Hakavod and may you continue to succeed! Chazak Chazak v’nitchazek!

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