Applied Jewish Wisdom from Sukkot
By Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D.
Many Jewish organizations, both innovative and legacy, express difficulty recruiting new lay leaders who are outside of their current circles of engagement or those that follow the natural progression of Jewish pathways. Many organizations wish to engage a new crop of lay leaders who have mid to no Jewish background and low to no current engagement, but they lack the resources and know-how to do so.
As someone who has scrappily and successfully engaged this population, in both Israel and the United States, and has volunteered with many organizations to yield these results, I’d like to share simple, innovative,and effective techniques to exponentially increase your organization’s engagement pathways.
This is part one in the series “Jewish Adventures in Growth Hacking” in which your institution will be able to implement these successful grassroots and research-based growth marketing techniques to exponentially increase new and current engagement.
Applied Jewish Wisdom from Sukkot
Regarding the Sukkot holiday, the Talmud in Sukkah 27b asserts that “all who belong to the people of Israel will live in sukkot.”
While no Sukkah can physically house the entire Jewish population, the very notion of a Sukkah is similar to a platform that can accommodate millions of Jews. Say that platform allowed us to communicate directly with our audience – just think of what having an open microphone in this “Sukkah” could mean for Jewish communal engagement.
What Jewish organization wouldn’t want access to that microphone? Access to this microphone is growth hacking.
What Is Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking is a technique to generate exponential meaningful social leads for the least amount of resources possible. Organizations from startups to corporations use growth hacking to develop their audience and boost their engagement base. To truly leverage growth hacking, organizations must ask the following questions:
- Startups ask, “How can we engage a high number of early adopters and a substantial customer base?”
- Nonprofits ask, “How can we increase our lay leadership and donor base in an efficient way?”
- Jewish communities ask, “How can we boost our engagement base in a way that allows us to reach those who aren’t currently engaged with our community?”
To answer the third question and advance my current knowledge base, I met with two of the world’s leading growth hackers.
What Did I Ask These Growth Hackers?
I asked them a question related to my organization, for the purpose of applying an effective growth hacking strategy. Specifically, I wanted to know how my organization, Career Up Now, could employ simple growth hacking techniques to engage a relevant audience.
One of the growth hackers shared a unique idea. He created an algorithm on LinkedIn using a strategy that allows him to systematically engage hundreds of people at various companies each day. As a result, he fills his calendar with more business than he can manage.
This strategy expanded my mind to advanced possibilities, and I immediately thought of the tractate from the talmud: “All of Israel are in one Sukkah” (Sukkot, 27b).
That Sukkah is LinkedIn. Through growth hacking, it became clear to me that a significant batch of unengaged lay leaders could be reached on the platform.
So at the end of an hour-long strategy session, with this new information in my arsenal, I launched a growth marketing campaign to address three of my organization’s goals:
- Increase gender equity and balance, as we needed to increase new female lay leaders to serve as mentors and advisors
- Engage industry leaders who identify as Jewish yet have low to no current Jewish communal engagement
- Grow our mentor and advisory base
My short-term goal was to engage 100 new people with Career Up Now as mentors within a week.
Accordingly, my strategy required the use of LinkedIn and a few of the platform’s special features. LinkedIn, it’s worth noting, allows you to target people who are looking to serve on a nonprofit board or become pro bono volunteers.
At this point, I selected the key identifiers I wanted to engage. First, I identified mid-to-late-career Jewish individuals in the four cities where I am building our micro-communities. Then, I chose the search terms that would yield results featuring industry leaders who surely or likely identify as Jewish.
Key Identifiers: Applied Jewish Wisdom
When I created the key identifiers, a number of Jewish texts came to mind:
- Israel was redeemed from Egypt because they did not change their names [nor] their language (Midrash Vayikra Raba 32:5).
- The Torah is equal to the combined rewards of all other commandments (Mishna, Peah 1:1; Yerushalmi ad loc; Bavli, Moed Katan 9b).
- And they learned in the Bet Medrash of Shem and Ever (Likutei Halachot, Yoreh Deah, Laws of First Shearings 5:9:1).
Accordingly, my initial identifiers fell into three categories:
~ Egyptian Redemption
This category included people with the word “Jewish” in their profiles, as well as Hebrew language speakers and those with common Jewish last names.
~ Torah Study
This category featured people who studied at Jewish institutions like Yeshiva, Brandeis, and Ort universities.
~ The Yeshiva of Shem v’ Ever
This category included people enrolled in Israeli learning institutions like Technion – Israel Institute of Technology or Hebrew University.
For the sake of brevity, I won’t list all of my search terms in this article. I will, however, share that I used a common Jewish last name as a search term during my growth hacking efforts: Cohen.
How Many Cohens Were There?
- 122,000 Cohens on LinkedIn (*2nd and 3rd connections)
- 66,000 Cohens in the United States
- 3,500 Cohens as *2nd connections (meaning I had a mutual connection with them on LinkedIn, but they weren’t yet in my network)
- 838 Cohens as 2nd connections in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta (four of the cities where I am currently designing programs)
- Over 8,000 Cohens as 3rd connections (meaning I had no mutual connections with them on LinkedIn)
*2nd connections are valuable since they are “warmer” leads. Second connections have a mutual connection with you and thus they are more likely to respond when you reach out to them.
The Cohen Actions and Results
In my first three weeks, I messaged 250 2nd and 3rd connections with the last name Cohen. Here is the message template I used to engage the 2nd connections:
“Hi [Name], I noticed our mutual connections and your interest in nonprofit volunteering. I am the managing director of CareerUpNow.org. We have some volunteer opportunities that may interest you. Could we set up a time to speak?”
And here is the template I used for my 3rd connections with the last name Cohen:
“Hi [Name], I noticed your interest in nonprofits. I am the managing director of CareerUpNow.org. We have some volunteer opportunities that may interest you. May we set up a time to speak?”
The Cohen Response (all numbers are rounded)
- 60% (approx. 150) of the 2nd and 3rd connections I targeted accepted my LinkedIn request. We are now 1st connections.
- 30% (approx. 75) responded that they were interested in speaking and setting up an appointment.
- 8% (approx. 20) scheduled an appointment with Career Up Now within a week of receiving my message.
- 10% (approx. 25) joined Career Up Now as mentors.
Keep in mind that these numbers only represent one of my searches. In turn, for a more comprehensive look at my growth hacking campaign, here are the results after one month:
- Contacted: 1,000 2nd and 3rd connections
- Accepted requests: 40%
- Gender breakdown: 40% women, 60% men
- Appointments scheduled: 142
- Committed to being involved with my organization: 130
- Women who joined as advisors: 24
- Percentage not currently engaged in Jewish life (of the 142): 42%
Do these results seem significant to you? I certainly think so – and overall, I found this growth hacking strategy extremely useful for my organization. Ultimately, I hope this article gives you access to our collective Sukkah and the information you need to launch your own growth hacking campaign on LinkedIn.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like to explore growth hacking for your nonprofit.
Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D., is the co-founder of Career Up Now and believes the power of the Jewish people is our people and our unique value proposition is Jewish wisdom. He is a Birthright Israel Fellow, UpStart alumnus, Eli Talk Fellow, a member of the Schusterman ROI Community, is the co-founder of the City of Beverly Hill’s entrepreneurship incubator and is currently enrolled in a leadership program in spiritual entrepreneurship at Columbia University. He is co-author of 48 Sensibilities for Professional Success, blogs on Modern Application of Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the workplace, and is always open to helping nonprofits exceed their goals. He can be reached via email: email@example.com