Websites: An Essential Tool For Today’s Synagogue

I think a lot about technology.  It is a big part of our everyday lives in so many ways. When my wife and I want to go to a movie, we look online to see what is playing at nearby movie theaters.  We read reviews and even purchase tickets.

Same is true for restaurants.  I am known to be a creature of habit in terms of eating out at places I know and like. But when we hear about a new restaurant, we look online for local reviews and hope that the restaurant we are considering has a website so we can look at its menu.

My friend Steve and I were recently talking about our father-in-laws. Both were very successful physicians who also served in the Army in World War II.  And both continue to enjoy retirement. Dick, my father in law, has an array of software to allow him to enhance his piano playing abilities on an electronic keyboard connected to his computer. Marty, Steve’s father-in-law has become quite successful in managing his own stock portfolio online.

While technology has certainly dramatically changed medicine in the past 20 years since their retirements, who knew how technology would play such an integral role for Dick and Marty in this phase of their lives.

I learned at a recent planned giving seminar that 15% of American 70 years old and up conduct most of their business- checking, banking, shopping, stock portfolio management-online. And that number increases for baby boomers and each subsequent age cohort!

Today, I read an interesting article on ejewishphilanthropy.com about “millenials”, the term used to describe children of baby boomers. In a survey asking about not-for-profit websites, 9 out of 10 “millenials” who responded first go to the page describing the organization’s mission.

As technology dominates so much of our lives, a synagogue’s website is now a critical communications vehicle.  Congregants will look to the website for scheduling.  If you have a member only section that is password protected, you might consider having the membership directory available. I am not just thinking of the alpha listing with names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.  You could also have pictures and bios of members.

People new to the community who are thinking about joining a synagogue might hear about your synagogue through a friend or neighbor.  You can be certain that they will then go to the synagogue’s website. They will look at the program and service schedule.  Pictures and videos will also be important. Will the people who are “shul shopping” see people who are their peers, who are at a similar point in life’s journey?

Now, you can’t just throw up a website on the Internet and not pay much attention to it. Whether it be a member of the synagogue staff or a volunteer, someone must pay a great deal of attention to updating the synagogue’s website and keeping it current. I am always struck by the number of synagogue websites I visit where the schedule information is from several months ago.

Here are some synagogue websites that I like:

Congregation Beth Tikvah – Worthington, OH

I must comment that I spent Sunday with the leadership of Congregation Beth Tikvah leading a Board retreat on financial resource development. A great sacred community with a great website and wonderful people.

Temple B’nai Abraham – Livingston, NJ

Shir Tikvah –Minneapolis, MN

The fundraiser in me must call your attention to the “radio button” on the home page encouraging visitors to make a contribution.

Barnert Temple-Franklin Lakes, NJ

A “shout out” to the synagogue where my in-laws are members!

Temple B’nai Torah –Bellevue, WA

In terms of next steps, if you are affiliated with a Reform synagogue and the synagogue is current with its MUM dues, take a look at RJ WebBuilder 2.0. In terms of costs, this would be very manageable.

Other resources you may wish to look at:

JVillage Network

The Whole Megilla

 

 

 

 

 

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