Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Can We Afford to Publicize our Programs?

I could begin by arguing that we can’t afford NOT to publicize - most Jews, let alone interfaith couples - are not reading the Jewish News. But the fact is, if you don’t have the money, you can’t spend it.

So, let’s talk about money
Most people see the word “publicity” and think in terms of a monetary outlay for advertizing, something few non-profits can afford anytime but especially now. However, in today’s internet dominated environment any organization, even an organization without a website, can promote their events on free calendars and social networks.

But don’t look for fast results. Unless you have the money to advertize on TV you won’t be seeing sign-ups rolling in. You must go for what I can, the Grand Canyon Method - drop by drop, incessant bits of information raining down on your community. Put your events, every one of them, on the Jewish online calendars, the secular online calendars, all the local newspapers online and in-print community calendars. Don’t do it hoping to fill a program; do it to get your message out.

What result are you looking for?
When I moved onto a new street and met my neighbors one of them was a woman, a Christian, not married to a Jew, just a gal who reads the paper. She said, “Are you that lady who offers Jewish classes? I see them listed in the Montclarion.” (The Montclarion is a small, neighborhood paper that comes out twice a week.)

You must be tenacious and not expect immediate gratification. You are in this for the long haul.

Get yourself a website - a free one or just a Facebook page. You need a place to post your events. People no longer look in the phone book, they look on the internet, so get yourself a public face.

What should you say on your page/site?
Browse the sites of others in the interfaith outreach business. What do they offer that you want to emulate? Pictures? Stories? Links?
Be sure your site has your tone - that is, that it sounds like you/your program. Do you want to sound casual and accessible? Professional? Experienced? Compassionate? Be true to your own message and you’ll be fine.

If you want to talk to someone about your efforts, you may contact one of us from the column at the right.

A Definition of "Interfaith" "Outreach"

It might strike you as odd that I put two words in quotations in the title above. I did it for a reason. I hear many people tossing those words around singly and together without fully understanding what they mean. This cavalier use of the words means that they are often misused and that misuse leads to loss of support for and engagement in true “Interfaith Outreach.”

What is an INTERFAITH and OUTREACH Program?

An interfaith program specifically addresses the issues and concerns of interfaith couples and family members.

Many programs can function as part of an interfaith program that are not true “interfaith” programs. Some of them are: any introduction course, how-to classes for holidays and life cycle events, spiritual/theological education like A Jewish View of Jesus, social events like Israeli Folk Dance or Kosher Wine Tasting. Wonderful as these programs are, they do not help an interfaith couple dissect and evaluate the challenges that two different religious/cultural traditions bring to their relationship. They need programs that discuss personal identity, couple identity, community, children, and personal choices. They need that to happen with others who share their interests and concerns.

This is education on a very adult level. These couples must look deeply into themselves and evaluate their own interests and values. They deserve an experienced and knowledgeable facilitator. They deserve workshops that trust their emotional curiosity and intellectual integrity.

An outreach program is publicized beyond the membership of the sponsoring institution.

Any program that is publicized only to the members of the hosting organization is not an “outreach” program. Hoping that your members will spread the word or that people will cruise your website shows a total lack of understanding of Marketing and Publicity.

A program is only an “outreach” program if you specifically invite the outside world to participate.

Unfortunately few people are doing programs that are both INTERFAITH and OUTREACH.