Clubhouse conversations

Using the Data we already have is the $10 Million Dollar Idea

This past Monday evening, just hours after my inbox had been flooded by friends and colleagues asking me if I had heard the big news about the JCRIF $10 million grant, I found my way on stage in a Clubhouse room that was discussing that very topic. Clubhouse is a rising digital platform that relies not on visuals, but actual voices. In short, Clubhouse is a community where people get together… to talk. I was thrilled to be invited onstage with many of the leading funders of the grant.

I had plenty to say when I took the stage.   

The Covid crisis made it necessary for brick and mortar institutions to rethink everything. As CEO of the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic, the impossibility of hosting in-person concerts, and touring internationally, made us suddenly mute. Having lost our voice, we needed to find another avenue for reaching our audience. So we leaned into digital — and data. Audiences around the world streamed into our digital concerts. They visited our website, reading fresh content we created. They donated to help our musicians because we built relationships with them through email and social media.

What I learned from this crisis is that infrastructure changes are needed to access the data already at our fingertips, to build a stronger tomorrow. And, we need to start those infrastructure changes today. We can learn about resilience and agility from for-profit companies, especially e-commerce. 

Much of the past several decades was spent wondering about and then searching for unaffiliated Jews or trying to increase literacy and involvement of Jews already in our fold. It seemed that the barrier to increasing Jewish engagement was finding and connecting with Jews who were living on the margins of our community, either geographically or because of lifestyle choices. Hundreds of projects and organizations have addressed this need, too many have done it successfully to list here.

We no longer need a brilliant idea to reinvigorate a specific Jewish movement, cause or even the Jewish community as a whole. We have technology today that can literally do it for us, while we are sleeping. Every Jewish institution has priceless data, the question is – why aren’t we utilizing it more effectively? As I transformed my organization, I saw that in the Jewish community, we are not utilizing targeting and data resources that could advance our goals. Though nobody is at fault, a majority of Jewish businesses, organizations, and cultural institutions lack the necessary foundation to build for tomorrow’s challenges. Like the Israel Philharmonic, these businesses need to relearn how to use their voices. They need to spend more on digital advertising. They need to understand and utilize geolocation data, how to crunch numbers, analyze metrics and patterns. 

These needs are creating an opportunity to act locally and expand globally. During the pandemic, we produced a dozen performances that were seen and shared by millions. Our donor base, once the territory of loyal concertgoers, ballooned. In 2021 our infrastructure investments will eclipse those of 2020. Now is the time to upgrade our thinking. Now is the time to embrace the opportunities that can only be reached by accessing the data we already have, and are collecting each day, as individual organizations (whether we realize it or not).

As a community, we can and must use big data—for good. We must take steps that are disruptive and scary. We must get with the program and together make a virtual aliyah to the digital world. That is where we at the Israel Philharmonic found our new voice—and it is stronger than ever.

Danielle Ames Spivak is CEO at American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic.