Match Your Messages & Your People (Case Study)

We’re long-time members of the local JCC (Jewish Community Center, sort of a Jewish Y). Our daughter was there for daily pre-K care but now we’re there mostly for the pool and gym rather than the Jewishly-oriented cultural and learning programs.

Big Change: New members with diverse cultural perspectives
There’s been a big change at the JCC over recent years, as the membership has grown to include many who are not Jewish. When the JCC needed to funded a major facilities redo a few years ago,  the leadership decided to invite the larger (i.e. beyond Jewish)  community to join—focusing on use of the athletic facilities—and made changes, such as opening on Shabbat, to support their wants.

Challenge: How to connect with new members without losing the base
Brilliant idea and it’s worked well, but I watched eagerly for the JCC to revise their core messages (shaped to a shared Jewish context) too.

How could the JCC re-shape those messages to be accessible to members who aren’t Jewish, without losing the foundation of shared Jewish culture on which the JCC is built? Tough task.

Nothing is more basic to the operations of a community center than the process of making a complaint. And the JCC has always had a front-and-center complaint form—displayed at the front desk to be available at entry and exit. That’s what I’ve been watching.

Traditionally, this form has been titled Kvell and Kvetch (Yiddish for sharing joy and pride, and complaining). Great idea to soften a complaint (few of us go out of our way to share our pleasure when things are done well) with a bit of humor.

But that message was absolutely inaccessible to the non-Jewish members. In fact, its very existence sent a “you’re not one of us” message. Ugh!

Solution: Reference the traditional but make it accessible to all, with a smile

Relevant nonprofit messages
I was thrilled to see this revised form (at top) early this year. The JCC team has retained a bit of “the old” in this core message but makes it accessible to new members, all with a gentle sense of humor.

Kudos to these communications artists for a simple but effective message reframing that is a warm invitation “in” to all.

What challenges have you faced (or face now) in matching your messages with your people? Please share your challenges, or the solutions you’ve developed, here.

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Nancy Schwartz in Relevance Rules | 1 comment
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