You Can’t Tweet Your Way Out of This Dilemma

I had a number of conversations with professional and lay leaders in the Jewish philanthropic world over the past week that made me wonder if they had all attended the same high anxiety-over-technology-and-me session.

The good news is that lots of people who either wanted to ignore or minimize the importance of the rapid rise in social media, are now paying attention. The not-so-good news is that they are stressing over their own ignorance about how to effectively use the new tools, how to respond to pressures from some of their younger, hipper supporters to get proficient and get onboard, and most importantly worrying about where to find the talent to lead their newly important technology-driven marketing and communications efforts and make them look good.

The truth is there is no easy way through this ever-changing new world of communications. You have to admit what you don’t know, find someone or some way to learn how to get into the game, and become an avid advocate for developing the talent pool that will nimbly unleash the power of this valuable medium. And the sad truth is that some of the most talented young tech-savvy talent have left the Jewish community because there were no career advancing opportunities, few champions for their ideas, and little in the way of compensation to keep them inside the tent.

For too many years I have listened to nonprofit leaders dismiss marketing as a less-than-significant enterprise that devalues the mission of their particular cause. While I understand and appreciate that many people view their work as a mission not a product to be marketed, these missions needs to be effectively communicated in order to thrive.

Maybe the word “marketing” is distasteful. That is fine, so let’s call it education, or storytelling, or communication. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that now, thanks to the technology communications run-up, many more Jewish leaders are realizing that in order to be relevant – especially to the growing base of savvy, younger supporters – they must figure out this new set of communications channels and the ones yet to be created.

They and we must invest in developing a cadre of talented younger Jewish professionals who live in the social media world, are seekers of new channels and how to leverage them and who want to contribute to our Jewish communities so that they remain vibrant for them and their children.

So, if you really want to make an impact on both the relevance of your organization and contribute to the talent pool that will be needed to keep our community alive and thriving, let’s find a way to identify, nurture, compensate and position your young marketing talent to grow into leadership positions. This is an area ripe for someone’s philanthropic investment. Right now, there is a big gap between those in charge and those who can really deliver.

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional who currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.