Innovation Station

Should Marketing Play a Bigger Role in Your Congregation?

When you think about recruitment and engagement of members in your congregation, you don’t necessarily think ‘marketing.’ But, you should. In terms of membership, marketing within your congregation means thinking smarter and utilizing new techniques to appeal to the changing needs of synagogue life. Luckily, these ideas are now more accessible than ever.

Bob Leventhal, USCJ Transformation Specialist, hosted three workshops throughout Southern California last month to share his wisdom and lend insight on keeping up with the current needs of congregations in terms of membership, marketing and communications.

Bob has an extensive background in business and marketing as well as congregational consulting and synagogue life. Bob ran the sales and marketing for 23 years for his family’s business, a national consumer products company. He also taught marketing at the University of Dayton in Ohio before going back to school to become a congregational consultant. He began his synagogue consulting practice for 11 years at the Alban Institute in Washington DC.

He was brought in to USCJ in 2011 to help create a system of leadership for affiliated congregations. While the larger Sulam programs help leaders provide direction to the board, within these boards are committees with specific tasks to address: marketing, membership and communications.

“All these committees need direction,” explains Bob. “And it’s the President of the congregation’s responsibility to create and manage these committees, so the aim of the workshops is to help by attempting to create exposure to the ideas of membership, a conceptual framework for thinking about membership recruitment and engagement in a synagogue setting.”

Participants began with a text study on welcoming members. They were then given a case study where they’d figure out which concepts belong to marketing, which to membership and which to communications. Then they complete a task audit—basic membership and marketing tasks are listed that represent the types of things membership committees need to work on that leaders may not have thought about before. With the concepts in hand, they chart what they do and don’t do. Now they can develop an outline for their membership and marketing committees that will translate into tangible next steps.

Elana Vorspan, Director of Marketing and Communications at Encino’s Valley Beth Shalom, was a participant in the Los Angeles workshop and left with helpful takeaways for her congregation. “It was incredibly helpful in the sense that there was a discussion and clarity about the difference between marketing and membership,” she explains. “We talk a lot about having separate committees, but they’re often combined. The notion of utilizing surveys and a lot more of the follow up from events and exit interviews seemed to me to belong to marketing rather than membership, so it was eye-opening to determine what responsibilities lie where.” She also commented that the check-off sheet for the task audit was very beneficial, and she’ll be bringing these ideas back to others in her community who would benefit, too.

Mark Weinstein, President of Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge, also attended the workshop and left with ideas on how to better engage with the potential members in his community. “Once you see how important it is to make people feel that the synagogue is an integral part of their lives, that will be the bond that brings them in,” he shares. “If we can get members more involved, they’ll see the advantages of being a member. Hopefully, in the long run, that can also lead to members staying even after the last child has become B’nai Mitzvahed.”



Webinar Series

Bob reviewed three USCJ Membership and Marketing Webinars that are available to leaders.

  1. Learn how to welcome prospects, help them join and then deepen our relationship.
  2. Learn how to develop meaningful relationships at all levels of the congregations—between leaders, in committees, at events, in auxiliaries, in affinity groups, etc.
  3. Learn how to reach out to prospects to make them aware of your congregations. Build a desire to join and learn how to close the deal.

Bob argued that, “Learning to understand the needs of prospects and to engage them in a new way takes different skills than most membership committees have. A marketing and communications committee, task force or ad hoc team, even if part-time, can provide fresh ideas.”

If you believe your community could benefit from these teachings but weren’t able to attend the workshops, don’t fret. The lessons, case studies and exercises are all available online in the form of a webinar, which includes the PowerPoint with voiceovers, content and task audit. All membership committees can view, practice and engage with this with just a click of a button. Find the link below to get started!

Membership Webinar #1:  Membership Retention and Renewal, Recorded on 11/16/16

Membership Webinar #2: Member Engagement: Building a Relational Community, Recorded on 1/17/17

Membership Webinar #3: Membership Engagement: Marketing to Membership Prospects, Recorded on 3/30/17

For more information about other Sulam leadership programs or to discuss bringing a workshop to your synagogue’s leaders, please contact Kehilla Relationship Manager Rachel Sisk at

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