By Nanette Fridman, MPP and JD
My 11 year old like much of the world was aware of the Apple iPhone 6 reveal date and hurried home from school to watch it on YouTube. Apple knew that enthusiasts and investors alike anxiously awaited the day and that they had an excited and captive audience.
In the synagogue world, there are two big “reveal” days coming soon: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Temple administrators are busy preparing logistics and sending out tickets. Rabbis are writing sermons. Cantors are arranging and practicing melodies. Volunteers are busy organizing ushers.
Will your synagogue make the most of these highly anticipated gatherings? Besides leading meaningful prayers and services, here are seven things that synagogues may want to consider to set the tone for the coming year and take advantage of their captive audiences:
- Let congregants know how happy you are to see them. Train ushers and professional staff not just to show people to their seats but to smile, to greet members enthusiastically, to tell them how happy they are to see them and of course, to wish them a happy and sweet new year.
- Offer congregants a future reward. Apple did so with a U2 free album and the Apple watch. The high holidays are all about congregants paying: dues, tickets, fundraising appeals and Israel bonds. What can you give them? The answer will vary by synagogue but for most, fifty-two weeks of Shabbat services, a break from the hustle and bustle, a community, spiritual exploration, stimulating learning, a place for technology-free family time, counseling and interesting programs. These are rich rewards to be offered! Advertise!
- Highlight the top two or three achievements of the synagogue this past year and briefly tell what made them successful and how they fit into the congregation’s strategic priorities. Your investors are in the audience. Assume they didn’t come to the annual meeting or read the annual report that you sent by mail.
- Talk about the top two or three priorities for the coming year in a way that everyone can remember and repeat at their holiday table and beyond. Encourage people to get involved and tell them how.
- Invite congregants to use your building space for permitted purposes. Playing cards with friends? Sign up to use the library space. Coming to Hebrew school? Come early to hang out in the teen lounge. Looking for a place to host your next birthday party? Members can use the fill-in-the blank with no room fee. Work from home? We have free Wi-Fi and maybe even coffee. The so-and-so space is available for people to work or hold a meeting.
- Invite congregants to engage on social media. Ask them to like your Facebook page and follow you on Twitter and Instagram if applicable. Members can share pictures on throw back Thursday #TBT, post pictures from events and share articles of interest (if in line with your social media policy) etc. Give them your hashtag and invite them to tag away. #applesandhoney #5775 #onetribe #templeyourname #shofarsogood
- Ask for their input and ideas. The days of awe are steeped in tradition, but synagogues need to also have an eye toward the future. Invite ideas and innovation. Tell your members that you want to hear from them and set up a separate email account and idea box for sharing thoughts. Most importantly, let them know how the ideas will be evaluated and report back.
For those critics who say the time for temple business is at the annual meeting, I ask you simply: When do you have a bigger audience? How will you use the Jewish days of revelation to inform, engage and excite your congregants? #HappyNewYear
Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is founder and principal of Fridman Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development and governance for nonprofits. She is the author of the forthcoming book, “On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits and Board Service.” Nanette can be reached at email@example.com.