A Powerful “Depth Hack” that Will Revolutionize the Way We Do Nonprofit Engagement: A Simple Solution for Digital Onboarding

Photo credit: Chimelong Water Park, Guangzhou, China.

By Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D.

The giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai was the greatest onboarding experience in Jewish History. So what happens if we start thinking our nonprofit organizations on-boarding of new volunteers, donors, and all with whom we interact as receiving our organization’s “Torah”?

Rather than dumping our entire organization’s Torah on individuals at once, or hoping they “get it” over time or through their own research, or even less effective – through newsletters that are rarely opened, or social media that isn’t engaged with, we have a systematic way to to give over our organization’s Torah in a way that is a personalized, digitally empathetic, and an action oriented journey.

The Simple Solution: Digital Marketing Funnels

In this article I will walk you through the digital marketing funnel principles, how we do it at Career Up Now, and provide tools so that you can begin to implement this process as well.

But First what is a Funnel? Think Jews Wandering the Desert for 40 Years

A funnel describes the various stages of a prospect’s or lay leader/participant/donor’s journey (which I will refer to as “customer”). This is from your prospect or customer’s first interaction where they “step into the funnel” where there is a specific objective and to the point where they step out of that digital funnel, or “exit” the funnel, and have accomplished the objective you set when you designed your funnel. They then move onto the the next funnel.

The objectives/goals could be volunteering, donating, joining the board, or whatever those objectives are for them along the digital and onboarding journey. With technology, funnels can be digital onboarding experiences … which I will get to later.

Show Me that Fiery Pillar, Surround Us by Clouds of Glory & Take Us to The Mountain

The Jewish people seemingly “wandered” through the wilderness for 40 years (Exodus-Deuteronomy) guided by a fiery pillar at night and covered by the Clouds of Glory by day (Exodus 13:21–22).

The “wandering” really wasn’t wandering at all. Although it may have seemed like wandering to the Jewish people it was carefully designed and purposefully guided tour. The Creator of the Universe had a divine plan, and knew where we were going. We were headed to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah, but in the meantime were guided to different stops along the way, learned lessons, and experienced messages that lead to receiving the Torah on Sinai. Each step in the journey took us into a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals and members of the people of Israel.

Side Note: Oh Messiah!

Interestingly, there is a strong Jewish basis that the entire Jewish narrative is an “onboarding experience” with the final step in the journey being the “final” redemption and the Messiah (Ezekiel 37:26). And will will see that G-d shepherded us spiritually along this journey (Isaiah 30:20; 40:5) seeing that each step was for the good (Maimonides Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:5)!

My Problem

The problem Career Up Now had was, due to the success of the growth hacking methodologies I created and implemented, we had way too many prospects and customers for us to handle. Literally, we piloted in 9 cities engaging over 3,000 people and are scaling in 5 cities with my co-founder Rabbi Adam Grossman (part time), and some interns.

Finding the Solution

About a year ago I joined an elite community of funnel hackers, who are new-age for-profit digital marketers and growth hackers dedicated to cultivating the onboard digital experience. While primarily used by these digital marketers to sell their own products or services, and making hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly – I asked, how can we in the Jewish nonprofit world use these methods to yield tremendous growth and engagement for our meritorious organizations and communities? And Eureka! What I found is working … more to come on this.

Steps to the Funnel & How We Use It

There are many different steps to the digital marketing funnel for for-profit endeavors. To simplify, I’ve created a funnel that we use to grow our Career Up Now community, that will likely be helpful for your nonprofit. To make it easy, just replace Career Up Now with the name of your organization.

Phase 1: Awareness – This is the first time a constituent becomes aware of the Career Up Now community. Typically, it’s someone that I have engaged on LinkedIn, through a referral, on social media, or one of our gatherings. This means that Career Up Now is on their radar and they are on ours.

Phase 2: Consideration – This is where they consider getting involved (staying in the funnel), or stepping out (exiting the funnel). This is where I begin to directly educate them on our organization. Typically it happens on a 15 minute phone call with action steps to follow. My number one goal in this phase is to get a definitive I want to be involved or I’m not interested. The most painful people in this phase are the lurkers … the ones that don’t engage at all in the funnel. I kick them out to keep the funnel clean. I think of them like the mixed multitudes that caused problems with the Jewish people when leaving Egypt. The lurkers who don’t open my emails increase my spam score, and I want to keep my list fresh. I don’t delete them, I just archive them, and relegate them to other campaigns.

Phase 3: Joining

At this point, they’ve decided they want to be part of the Career Up Now community. Now this is where the magic begins.

Phase 4: Digital Onboarding: Where The Magic Happens

When someone joins the Career Up Now community, either as an advisor, donor, or participant, they enter into a digital onboarding funnel sequence and varying sequences (over time). This initial sequence is templated emails that were crafted in advance, and once we “press play” go out periodically over the following months based upon the specific interests of the individual and how they would like to be involved.

These onboarding emails consist of a mix of educational (information or articles about our organization), informative (related to upcoming programs or volunteer/engagement opportunities), action items (sharing a post on social media, referring a friend, setting up a phone call with me) and friendly correspondences (happy holidays, notes of appreciation, etc.)

Each of these Funnels consist of 6 to 11 automated emails to take them through the Career Up Now community onboarding journey.

Some of our funnels include:

  • Women of Wisdom Funnel
  • College Student Funnel
  • Advisory Group Funnel
  • Donor funnel

**Important: These correspondences are NOT newsletters, they are short, personalized emails set through sequencing.

The Importance of Transparency in Automation

You may be wondering why I’m telling you that I automate my personal correspondences. Let me be clear, I inform our constituents how we digitally onboard, as I believe a key to nonprofit success is transparency.

Automation has the ability to blur the lines between genuine interactions and what some could see as deceptive bots. Thus, in the tagline of my funnel onboarding emails I say something like “My goal is to inform and inspire … not spam … thus, this is a sequenced email that was personalized for you. If you don’t want to hear from me again click here.”

How Many Opt Outs Do You Get?

I also explain to constituents in our first conversation that we use this process, and often reiterate in the initial email. Most people think it’s really cool! After having entered over 3,000 people into various funnels, I’ve only had 20 opt-out (0.66%) with a 40%-70% ongoing open rate.

Major Benefit: Hey Kavannah!

Through funnels and digital onboarding, you set an intentional repeatable sequence which, while it requires some planning in advance. In the long term, you can set it and forget it. It will save you hours of time in the long term, and keep you in front of your constituents in a way that is meaningful to them.

For the Future

Looking forward I’m working with a core group of computer programmers and beginning to incorporate AI and Machine Learning into our funnel sequence. This will yield empathetic pop-up interactions and personalizations across many different channels, text, social media, snail mail, and phone. I’ve even started working with other major Jewish organizations both startups and legacy at implementing this process. I’m excited to share our findings as our guided tour through the funnel wilderness unfolds.

The Big Questions

How do you onboard your constituents? Could you shift to a funnel onboarding system? I’d love to hear from you, or if you have questions please feel to contact me or comment below.

Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D. descends from a great line of Jewish innovators dating back to Rabbi Nehunia Ben Hakannah of the first century, and Rabbi Joseph Ben Ephraim Caro, the codifier of the Shulchan Aruch (a funnel of its own kind). He is the co-founder of Career Up Now, Executive Director and CEO of Growth Exponential, a Schusterman ROI community member, and founder of the City of Beverly Hills’ Entrepreneurship Incubator. He speaks in communities around the world on Growth Hacking & Depth Hacking for Jewish Engagement and helps startups and legacy organizations implement these tactics for which he is soon releasing a book. He can be reached at BradleyCooks@gmail.com.