By Laura Belinfante
Act Now. It’s vague but attention-grabbing. It is a command to do something. The “what,” of course, is open to interpretation. For years, Repair the World has used the words, “Act Now,” in the context of MLK Day to call on and to empower young Jews to engage in local service opportunities and learn about racial justice (the campaign name itself derived from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s repeated call to act with “the fierce urgency of now”). On each MLK Day, a national day of service, we helped organize and curate volunteer service throughout the country and offered relevant resources to help spur challenging conversations and reflections. By most measures, the campaigns were successful.
Yet, the groundswell of service and impact created around MLK Day was hard to sustain throughout the year. In fact, we heard from our audience that they wanted more opportunities to serve meaningfully and to engage in critical conversations with their communities year round.
This was the impetus for Repair the World’s experiment that started last Rosh Hashanah. We launched the year-long Act Now campaign, choosing five moments on the calendar that would serve as clarion calls for service and would be a way for young adults to fulfill their desire to create social change. Over the last year, Act Now included the High Holidays (Act Now for a Different Kind of Service), Thanksgiving (Act Now Against Hunger), MLK Day (Act Now for Racial Justice); Purim (#ShareHerStory), and concluded at Passover (#MemorytoAction). For many Jews in my generation, our lives extend to the digital realm. Our multifaceted and diverse Jewish community’s practice and engagement happens online and in person; in both secular and religious spaces. Social media can be a cause of disconnection, but it can also be an opportunity to connect, to organize, and to build partnerships. In my role at Repair the World, we have built on the momentum that already exists among young adults, and have found ways to link our digital campaigns to the causes about which they are passionate. Below we share what we learned throughout the year – about what resonates; how resources are used; what opportunities have the largest impact; and how to sustain a campaign for ten months.
Meeting People Where They Are Increases Impact
We thought long and hard about how people are already engaging with holidays or moments during the year, and what we may be able to offer them during those moments. We learned a valuable lesson here: if people are already having discussions around the table, during Passover for example (when questioning is encouraged), our campaign resonated and reached our audience in powerful ways. But, when people are gathering and not exactly craving content-focused discussions, during Thanksgiving for example, our resources like “Addressing Hunger Together: Discuss root causes and impact of food insecurity” and “A Plateful of Grateful: Untangle the impact of food waste and hunger,” were not as widely used.
Don’t Bite Off Too Much When Crafting an “Ask”
Our Purim campaign, #ShareHerStory, created in partnership with Jewish Multiracial Network and Jewish Women’s Archive, achieved major engagement success. And, it was the moment on our calendar where we asked the least of people. #ShareHerStory offered people short, easy-to-share vignettes of modern Jewish women of color, Mizrahi, and Sephardi women and their incredible work in Jewish community. It was truly a digital focused campaign about awareness and celebrating continued leadership of incredible Jewish women of color, whom for centuries have been leaders, teachers, storytellers, and changemakers in the Jewish community. The campaign’s clear goal of awareness enabled its success, as it had a 223K+ digital reach.
As #ShareHerStory showed, a focused offering can have the most impact. When the “asks” of a campaign were too much, or too complicated, such as bringing discussion guides to a Thanksgiving table, fewer people engaged. In this era of being bombarded by social media and relentless online resources and offerings, an easy-to-digest thoughtful, and usable resource is key.
High Quality Visual Resources Can Be Key to High Engagement
We’ve started devoting more resources to art related to our campaigns. This pays off. We heard from people around every campaign when they were attracted and drawn into the materials we offered because of the visual images developed. In particular, the images designed as part of #ShareHerStory included artistically designed pictures, by Shannon Wright, of the women being profiled all together. The captivating and personal illustrations helped drive the over hundreds of thousands shares on social media that the campaign garnered.
Leverage Partnerships to Amplify Reach and to Bring More Experts on Board
In almost everything we do at Repair, we collaborate with partner organizations, both locally and nationally, to help ensure that volunteer experiences are authentic, meaningful, and impactful. Our incredible partners collaborated with us and often led the way as we developed resources together that sparked challenging conversations and explored the root causes and impact of issues such as food justice, education justice, and racial justice. Throughout the year, our partners were integral to reaching and engaging broader audiences and to creating nuanced, thoughtful resources.
Repair the World has found that during special times in the calendar year, people are looking to root their celebration in issues that they care about. In addition to the digital engagement of #ShareHerStory, nearly 10,000 people volunteered in person as a part of MLK Day’s Act Now for Racial Justice campaign. Connecting specific moments in the year to timely and very relevant issues can increase mobilization, as people look to root their celebration of a holiday with topics they care about.
Act Now created opportunities to develop authentic service experiences and engage in challenging conversations throughout the year. One moment lead seamlessly into the next, building momentum and helping us see that we are all part of a powerful movement. Act Now is a reflection of the issues we face today and a reflection of what our community is craving as we move through our own life journeys. We are eager to build on our learnings from last year to continue growing awareness and impact in our communities.
Laura Belinfante is Director of Digital Campaigns at Repair the World.