We Don’t Pivot, We Simply Adjust

By Rachael Farber

Pivot is the buzz word of the year – at least in the nonprofit community. We’ve learned to adjust from in-person donor meetings, programming, and receptions to virtual ones. But if the modality of delivery is the only thing changing during this time, is it really a pivot?

During this unprecedented time, the Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts) stayed true to its mission. We’ve continued to bring people together to explore and celebrate the diverse world of Jewish arts, culture, and creative expression. At JArts, we’ve even begun to make a more meaningful case for our tagline – let culture connect us.

Though we haven’t been able to gather in person, we have been able to provide meaningful virtual programming – highlighting artists and their reactions to the current situation. We’ve introduced JArts to those who never would have been able to attend our in-person programs because of geography, crowd size, or dietary restrictions.

As Development Director, I’ve had some of the most engaging conversations with donors and community members in the past several months about how we, at JArts, are not pivoting, we are adjusting. Our programs utilize various art forms to spark tough conversations rooted in inspiring Jewish values and traditions.

While we are proud of what we’ve done programmatically, it has been a challenge to understand how we fundraise to support these programs. I’ve had the opportunity to brainstorm and dream with some of our most creative leadership about fundraising in the fall, and what our milestone programs, like Beyond Bubbie’s Kitchen at Home and our Donor Appreciation Reception during Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights at the MFA, could look like.

In fact, it was a board member who suggested an idea we’re excited to plan – a combination of the two programs in which people will celebrate in homes across the area through virtual tables.

Running with this idea, I consulted others – many of whom loved the idea and others who had concerns about the health of those over 60 attending such a program. I convened an ad hoc committee to brainstorm potential possibilities, ranging from a special invite list for a free candle lighting, to a 10-person ticketed dinner at someone’s home (providing the Governor keeps us in Phase 3).

This brainstorming session with leadership couldn’t have gone better. The committee discussed various options, resulting in an amazing outcome: the ability to purchase a virtual table and enjoy a holiday dinner with friends, while meeting everyone at their various comfort levels (either virtually or small group in-person dinners).

The logistics of this program are still being finalized, but one thing is certain: JArts remains committed to providing innovative programs to the community by meeting people where they are – both on their Jewish journey and in their distancing practices.

While I don’t yet know the program’s outcome – I can already call it a success from a leadership engagement perspective. Switching the mode of program delivery offers nonprofits an opportunity to adjust with the times, rather than “pivoting” from their mission.

Rachael Farber is the Development Director at the Jewish Arts Collaborative in Boston, MA. She currently lives in Boston with her husband and one-year-old mini-bernadoodle.