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The Zone of Jewish Engagement

By ginaschmeling   /     Feb 27, 2015  /     Jewish Innovation, Uncategorized  /     0 Comment

In digital speak, engagement means an interaction between people or organizations. Ok. Online, and usually on social media. It’s sought after because it leads to SWW (stuff we want): loyalty, donations, trust. My friend Miriam has put it so elegantly, she’s been memed!

campfire quote

I think a lot about how we interact Jewishly. And how to bring along digital engagement for the organizations I admire. Innovation, social media, new thinking for long-time and just sprouted do-gooders – that’s where I see potential.

So I emailed and handful of creative, vital and smart Jewish thinkers with this,

Without thinking too much, send me a one-liner (“Personal Tweet?”) about what Jewish engagement means to you.

Game rules: engagement is public, known, transparent and involves at least two people. Bonus if it involves at least two institutions.

This first answer is . . .  well I’ll let you take it in,

To be fully engaged in something is to be in a state of flow, to be in the zone, so that nothing else matters. Athletes experience it, as do musicians, but why can’t we have enough flow experiences in the Jewish world? – one answer to the question “What does Jewish engagement mean to you”

This one is really lovely,

Jewish engagement means finding and honoring the intersection between the grand Jewish narrative and that of the Jew with whom I am engaging. 

Another made me guffaw. And brought me down to earth (I had some lofty ideas!),

When I hear the expression “Jewish engagement,” I want to run in the opposite direction.

There are thoughts on community,

Our organizations need to model the Jewish community we want to see: a pluralistic network where Jews support one another through life transitions with love and authenticity.

And about a project that is actually an online community,

JEDLAB. The only place in the Jewish universe that invites everyone to speak up and have his or her own say. And then responds . . . 

There’s mentoring,

I tell this to rabbinical students: the second you think to yourself, ‘what should a rabbi say in this situation?,’ you’ve already lost them.

And person to person, bound by an idea or a place,

Jewish engagement is, to my mind, about the deeply human interaction between two individuals and some third “entity,” a big idea, a text, a value, or belief. In an “engaged” place, (we) allow the other person to change us, and the ideas to change us as well. 

I don’t want to create a hierarchy, but invoking flow and being in the zone is just brilliant. I notice something similar to a runner’s high when I feel connected in a uniquely Jewish way. Not disembodied, but a lightness when entering another person’s frame of experience.

My own thinking is we can do more. I think Jewish engagement is about connecting honestly with another person even if it means leaving your comfort zone. And then taking that partnership into the world. Blog it, post it, share it, own it.

Then we can really shake things up.

Note: The responders include three people I met on social media (FB and Twitter) whom I now treasure as fellow travelers, one new email intro, and one friend for a decade. I love transparency, but it felt right to not reveal who they are.

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Corral D

By ginaschmeling   /     Nov 04, 2014  /     Family, Nonprofits, Running  /     4 Comments

IMG_5276My designated start in the 2014 Chicago Marathon this October.

Corral placement (sounds equine, I know) is a predictive way to keep large races orderly. Faster in the front, middle in the middle, slower in the back. Thoughtful design embodied by 45,000 people.

The longer the race, the more likely things may not sustain. More miles mean less control. Course conditions and unplanned, uh, stuff play a part.

The day before the race, I got a cold. Many runners are vulnerable to getting sick the days before a race. Lucky for me, it was not too bad. Unlucky for me, it meant a slower run.

In the hours of not sleeping before my race day wake up, I mulled my plan. Physically and mentally. Since July, I had some big goals. Big fundraising for my charity (I did great!), a major Personal Record, and a doable Boston Qualifying time. It was within reach. All I had to do was run smart.

The story changed. Now some hard choices. I could ignore the symptoms, break the rules and take all sorts of nasty stuff on race day. Or I could dial into what was most important. While training, I’d envisioned Lake Michigan. Images of Downtown and Lincoln Park entered my mind as I ran long on NY’s West Side Highway.  I am a fourth generation Chicagoan. This was Home.

This day would be about the city. Not so much my time. With that, I finally fell asleep at 1AM.

Taping CHGO NATIVE to my back, I started with Corral D. Many miles, Kleenex later (let’s say Chris Christie would not have let me into NJ), I finished with the good people from Corrals F and G. Exactly where I needed to be to enjoy the race, take in the city, feel proud. My time goal was still in my heart, if not run by my feet. And a near miracle! My mom was at the finish line to see me get medaled.

I apply my running experience to my work. I adore planning, and admire staff who work in a team. As with ongoing fundraising campaigns and longer “marathon” plans, time and other factors shape outcome. I talk to so many runners about their dreams. And nonprofit leaders about their goals. It is easy to celebrate success. But how do we handle setbacks or midcourse changes?

Here’s what worked for me. I hope some of these are useful for you, too.

  • Be consistent, smartly aggressive, push for measurable goals. Data colors the story, but you are the author.
  • Keep your numbers in a system. Understand and analyze trends. Ask an expert to interpret what’s going on.
  • Agree on the real “real.” Is a number goal supreme? Or community engagement? Personal achievement?
  • Know the difference between giving up and redirecting. Olympian Frank Shorter calls this “reframing.”
  • Own your result. Share it.

Now get back out there for your next big goal.

Mine is the Brooklyn Marathon, this November 16th. Hope to see you in Prospect Park.

Gorgeous Chicago. This is my first neighborhood.

Gorgeous Chicago. This is my first neighborhood.





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2014 NTEN Conference Report

By ginaschmeling   /     Apr 11, 2014  /     Conference Report, Fundraising, Nonprofits, Social Media Series  /     1 Comment

Listening & Pull:  A synthesis of the social listening thread from the Nonprofit Technology Network Conference, March 13-15 Washington, DC.

The annual gathering of NTEN (#14NTC) brought the focus on donor experience to a fine point. For fundraisers, the message was clear. Listening is a vital development skill.

Social listening rarely evolves organically. For most of us, there’s a scramble just to get in the game. If your organization was an early adopter of social media there are solid ways to refine listening. The challenge is to keep our sea legs while preparing for what’s ahead.

Social fluency may seem overwhelming.

A quick, honest look at at your organization’s social, digital, and print should tell us something. Do you:

  • Invite response and conversation, beyond gifts and actions
  • Let constituents know what you offer, and where to find you (web, social, offline)
  • Give voice to different members of your community (board, staff, participants, donors)

If not, you are directing your messaging out. One-way blasting can be a pitfall. Worse, it can seriously hamstring future goals and fundraising.

Let’s agree. Social media is not a straight-up marketing tool. Social listening is not a luxury.

The amazing and wise Danielle Brigida (@starfocus) of National Wildlife Federation nailed it: “Social is not a check box. No more pushing!”

If you are listening, you will have pull.

Pull means a host of engagement data, or what constituents offer: donations, comments, posts, shares, stories, photos, sign ups, etc. If your crowd gives, you have pull for real.

Here are channel-by-channel ways to enhance social listening. Many from @AlecStern (Constant Contact) and his session, Grow Your Nonprofit with Social Media and Email, #14NTCctct, and Bridging the Gap Between Social Media and CRM, #14NTCSocialCRM with Danielle and two Heller Consulting teammates, Jenn Smith @jennlunalucy and @BryanGiese.


Ideally, your site is the starting point. It feeds your email list, brings in donations, ties in social media.

  • Easy Email list sign up. The best way to build your numbers.
  • Prominent Donate button. Attractive, fun, mission accurate.
  • Clear Social buttons. Not tacked on.
  • “Commonality” (Alec’s term) between web and emails in look and messaging.
  • Mobile is changing everything. Prepare for mobile optimization, or know that you will need to.

Email (Alec’s tips for Email genius)

Email for story-telling and engagement. Both? Yup!

  • New fun thing: Cliffhangers or installment emails.
  • Keep emails short, simple, easy to read on mobile.
  • Key action “above the fold,” instantly readable on mobile.
  • One action per email.
  • Include Social buttons.
  • Add Join Email list link to staff signatures.
  • Make Welcome or Thank you email fresh and personal. Change it, review it, own it.
  • Pro tip: Write subject line after composing email, and include your org’s name or acronym.


Social media is a gathering place. If nothing is being exchanged, it’s not working. I found Jenn Smith’s 5 rules re: Social Media incredibly useful, worth citing verbatim. (Thank you Jenn! I like her voice here.)

  1. You don’t have to be everywhere. Really, you don’t.
  2. Know where you can find your audience.
  3. Two-way engagement – it’s not just a stupid marketing term.
  4. Know what you are trying to answer or solve through you social media strategy.
  5. Think beyond growth.

Great orgs also:

  • Put social engagement data on par with donation data, measuring and analyzing. Even loaded into your CRM.  The result is a stronger profile of your people.
  • Review social media “voices.” No reposting the same info across platforms.
  • Ask – yes! – for posts and shares, MTs and QTs.
  • Pro tip for Facebook (from Alec): Video increases engagement 100%, a single photo 120%.  Wildly, photo albums bring a 180% uptick. Perhaps they tell a fuller story still with a quick look?

Legitimizing listening unlocks forward thinking. These are a few ways into that future. You don’t have to go it alone.

Please share what works for you. I would love to hear! If you are not an NTEN member, consider joining. Many cities have NTEN 501 Tech Clubs, where you will learn tons and have a ball. Connecting with the techies might even make the hard work seem like fun. The way it should. 

For more conference takeaways, check out Connected Cause’s Social Snapshot.

Related to this post

Andrea Learned (@andrealearned) who lives up to her name with every post, on why Social skills = Leadership skills.

Heather Mansfield on the mobile future for nonprofit social media.  It’s coming! Are we ready? (@nonprofitorgsMobile for Good.



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