Innovating Millennial Engagement through Technology
By Tommy Bledsoe
and Amanda Abrams
Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is taking steps to engage millennials in Jewish life. One method that embraces this approach is GrapeVine, a platform new to Atlanta that provides personalized recommendations for involvement in Jewish Atlanta. Since Atlanta is home to approximately 9% of Jews in the Southeast and boasts a vibrant and growing young adult population, Federation is excited to partner with the organization to see how it can help engage Jewish Atlantans during the pilot program.
Federation began conversations with Grapevine in 2012 after learning about how Grapevine utilizes a combination of big data and predictive technology similar to that seen in Amazon.com or Netflix to recommend Jewish opportunities to individuals based on their unique interests, life stage, geography and other factors. Since GrapeVine’s official launch in September 2014, it has helped the Atlanta Jewish community reach over 22,000 individuals.
“Providing opportunities in one central place makes it easier for young Jews to build community, which is in line with Federation’s goals of building a strong Jewish community through engagement. We saw the success of Grapevine in other communities such as Portland and New York, and believed the program would serve our needs by providing an avenue for Atlanta’s young, transient and geographically challenged Jews to get involved in Jewish life,” stated Amanda Abrams, Federation’s Senior Vice President, Strategy, Planning, and Impact. “We’ve been blown away by GrapeVine’s success. We originally opted to partner with GrapeVine with the goal of 10 Atlanta-area organizations participating in the pilot. Today we have over 30 partnerships with synagogues, agencies and organizations in town, offering a greater variety of experiences to young adults and families.” GrapeVine is a collective impact effort, developed around the concept that organizations are more effective when they work together and have insight into the populations they are serving. Federation acts as the “backbone” organization for the project, supporting and facilitating the involvement of the other organizations in the community. By pooling information about programming for young adults and young families, and customizing recommendations for each recipient, GrapeVine is an excellent resource to enable the Jewish engagement Federation seeks to provide. The mobile application and website recommend experiences that are convenient geographically, based on an individual’s interests.
Federation found that certain areas in town were overprogrammed based on demographics, and other events were being planned in locations where the populations were shifting. Grapevine is a way to track data such as this. Federation saw Grapevine as a way to put the user at the center, give them access to the programs they are interested in, and direct them to partner websites.
Additionally, partner organizations can track users’ interactions with the platform to demonstrate their impact on their members’ ongoing engagement with the Jewish community – important information for grant funding. As participants complete their GrapeVine profiles and use the application and website, the system constantly learns more about the community to provide relevant data to partner organizations about their constituents and where programs should be planned.
The value of the data is already apparent. PJ Library now uses this data to understand the engagement levels among different populations. “GrapeVine has given PJ Library data points that we use to pinpoint where our target audience is least engaged and plan accordingly,” commented Lisa Lebovitz, PJ Library and Engagement Associate for Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. “It also gives us a snapshot of what kind of programming we are offering versus what families are interested in by neighborhood. It’s a remarkable tool that helps us better serve Jewish families in our community and improve our program marketing.”
For organizations looking for new ways to reach young adults and young families, GrapeVine also compares existing programs to users’ interests and suggests underserved program interest areas. Mark Rudel of Temple Beth Tikvah commented “Since we started using Grapevine, we have been able use the app’s interaction data to track individuals who are interested in attending our events and are new to our synagogue.”
Federation has also seen young adults and young families who use GrapeVine move from other cities to Atlanta be able to quickly connect to local Jewish life by simply updating their location in the app. As this exciting initiative grows, Atlanta will continue tracking success stories to understand how people use GrapeVine to enhance their lives. Federation’s purpose is to care for Jews in need and build a strong Jewish community, and GrapeVine is a perfect example of how it does so.
Tommy Bledsoe is Associate Director of Outreach and Engagement, GrapeVine Atlanta and Amanda Abrams is Senior Vice President, Strategy, Planning & Impact at Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.