"We have built organizations, but how Jewish is their membership? Our synagogues are beautiful, but our homes are a wilderness. We have developed forms of living socially as Jews. Jews attend Jewish meetings, belong to Jewish organizations, and contribute to communal and national funds. But when left alone, or retired in our homethey are poor in religious spirit. The American is known as a joiner. And we have made a cult of belonging. The true goal includes becoming a Jew as well as belonging to a synagogue. And this is a lifelong process."
-Abraham Joshua Heschel
Spring is almost here and now is the perfect time to get ready for your spring and fall membership inquiries by taking a look at what your board and congregation are doing to welcome prospective members. This month, Membership and Outreach programs are being featured on the URJ homepage, as the URJ highlights ways to Welcome the Stranger.
Read below for three terrific examples of resources that promote both recruitment and retentionPutting Out the Welcome Mat, Membership Phone Survey and the NCEJ advertising grantto help you welcome the stranger and check in on your current members.
Wishing you all the merriment and laughter that Purim can bring. Be happy, it's Adar II!
Kathy Kahn Membership Specialist Union for Reform Judaism 212.650.4231 email@example.com
Recruiting and Engaging New Members
Every congregation thinks that they are warm and welcoming, but often are surprised to learn that it is not necessarily the way others see them. The URJ's Putting Out the Welcome Mat questionnaire has been created to assist your Board of Trustees, Membership Committee and House Committee to evaluate your congregation's efforts at welcoming. Go through the questionnaire with your Administrator or with your Membership Committee and make a presentation to the board about what changes can be made to make your congregation truly warm and welcoming!
A great way to make your community members feel supported and appreciated is to call them periodically to "check in." Prior to Passover is the perfect time to organize your board to make phone calls to your membership. Give each board member a list of members to call to wish a "chag sameach," ask how things are going and whether their membership needs are being met. Use the URJ's short Membership Phone Survey from The Life Cycle of Synagogue Membership as a guide. Make sure that the callers inquire whether your members have a place to go for a seder, or whether they plan on attending the community seder (if your community is hosting one). If a member does not have a seder to attend assist them in finding one in your community!
We are always trying to think of innovative ways to attract new members, and advertising is essential. While advertising can be costly, there are grants available to help subsidize the cost of your advertisements (for programs such as Introduction to Judaism, A Taste of Judaism or a similar class) in the secular press. Consider applying for an advertising grant from the National Center to Encourage Judaism (NCEJ).
Increase Your Membership and Create Lifelong Members
March 31April 3, 2011 - Join us in Cleveland for four days of comprehensive training on all aspects of Membership: recruitment, integration and retention at the Schindler Fellows Program for Membership Certification. Participants will assess the challenges and strengths of their home congregation and learn best practices from across North America to plan an effective Membership strategy for their synagogue community
Please note that limited scholarships are available for both small and larger congregations. Small congregations are eligible for scholarships by filling out this application. Larger congregations should contact Kathy Kahn through her contact information below.
Registration for this valuable program is open. Visit us online for details about the program, scholarship information and to register today! Contact Kathy Kahn at 212.650.4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
The Belin Outreach Awards have been designed to encourage and honor Reform synagogues with outstanding Outreach and Membership programs that actively welcome and integrate those new to Judaism. Awards of $1,000 each will be made to ten congregations at the URJ Biennial in National Harbor, MD, December 14-18, 2011, and the Awards Committee will designate at least two of these awards for small congregations (under 250 member units). Award-winning programs will be included in The Outreach and Membership Idea Book, a program guide for congregations. A limited number of honorable mentions will also be named at the discretion of the Awards Committee and included in this new publication. In addition, all honorable mentions and winners will be publically honored at the 2011 North American Biennial.
In addition to honoring congregations that have developed uniquely innovative and effective Outreach programs, the Belin Outreach and Membership Awards also solicit programs that engage and retain members of our congregations. Winning programs are available in the URJ Press publications:
The winning programs of 2011 will be featured in the Outreach & Membership Idea Book Volume IV.
Exciting News! The URJ has established a Congregational Membership Networking Group composed of lay leaders, professionals and clergy who see Membership as a means to sacred community. Those who would like to join this networking group will take on leadership roles, helping the Membership Specialist and other URJ staff to vision ways to ensure that Membership is a lifelong covenant between congregant and congregation.
Our mission is to address the challenges facing our congregations and share best practices in the three areas of Membership: recruitment, integration/engagement and retention. Those of you who wish to join will participate in regular conference calls and learn about existing resources while developing new materials and resources that address congregational needs. I hope that you will consider this invitation to shape Membership in the Reform movement. To find out more, visit our Networking Groups web page.