Our EveryAction Hero: Jewish Voice for Peace
This month, our EveryAction hero is Jewish Voice for Peace. As a a membership driven organization, JVP works with chapters and members across the country advocating for human rights, justice, and equality for Palestinians and Israelis. I recently called up Samantha Brotman, Membership Manager, to learn more about JVP’s membership program and recent fundraising strategies that have been successful.
How did Jewish Voice for Peace get started?
Jewish Voice for Peace has been around for 20 years, We’re a national organization with over 70 chapters and 15,000 members across the country. We do everything from legislative organizing to engaging in campaigns that seek to put nonviolent pressure on the government both in the US and Israel to respect international law. We’ve endorsed the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. We also do a lot of work within the Jewish community. We have a rabbinical council as well as a network of small groups that gather together to observe rituals and observe Shabbat together. We also have an artists council, an academic council, and a student program.
Your members play such a huge role in your organization. How do you go about acquiring new members?
We’re always looking for ways to acquire new members. Right now, the most effective way we bring in new folks in is through peer-to-peer. We encourage our existing members to talk to their friends, family, and communities to bring them in, both to the movement and to the organization. We also encourage our members to put on events like sponsored talks and film screenings. It really gives our members a platform to talk about the work that we do, and these are the connections that we really count on to grow.
Speaking of which, I heard that you you crushed your membership goals this year! Can you talk a little bit about that and how you use EveryAction in your membership drives?
Last July we set out to get 5,000 new members this year, including focusing our efforts around our May membership drive which we’ve done for the past three years. For the May drive our goals were to get 1,000 new members and 1,000 renewed, and we accomplished both of these goals!
We use the peer-to-peer fundraising tool to recruit new members by having participants set goals in increments of $18 since those are our membership dues. So, to recruit 10 friends your goal would be $180. Members get an email every time somebody signs up on their page and then they can go to the back end and see all the names of those they’ve recruited!
I think we had 107 members sign up to create their own pages and about 60–70 of them actually got friends and family to give through their page, and that’s a big number compared to our turnout previous years! Also, something we did for the first time this year with our chapters is have them draft an email. I created a template and chapter leaders would adjust it to fit their local context and we would send that out through EveryAction so chapters could reach people in their area. It was more of a local pitch for membership! We really rely on those local personal connections as one of our greatest means of acquiring new members.
I noticed on your website that you have a special membership for monthly sustainers called the “Chai Club.” I thought that was really clever! What other strategies do you use to encourage monthly givers?
We have almost 2,000 monthly givers and every now and then we run Chai Club campaigns where we segment by folks who have a giving history of making multiple donations throughout the year. Then, when we do our regular fundraising drive sometimes we’ll pull a segment and instead of asking for a $50 or $100 gift instead we’ll ask them to be monthly donors. Occasionally we’ll give these donors an added incentive so there’s a feeling of community that we try to foster in being a sustainer as well.
You mentioned that you have over 70 chapters across the country. What kinds of activities do these chapters do and how do they engage with your mission?
Chapters are all so different from one another. We have chapters that are really focused on legislative organizing and we’ll help them figure out ways to meet with their elected officials and create campaigns directed at a specific bill or a specific congressperson. Other chapters are much more focused on ritual so they’ll do things like Shabbat and Passover with a social justice bend to them. Some chapters are also really well equipped to do rapid response. For example after the recent attacks in Gaza, our New York chapter got together and organized a bunch of people to protest front of Chuck Schumer’s office. 20 people got arrested for the protest trying to get him to take a stand against this violence.
As a membership driven organization, how does that impact your fundraising strategy?
As a membership organization for our fundraising strategy we have to adopt a different way of talking to donors and members, especially because our policy is set up so that everyone who gives $18 or more is a member. So when we’re talking to our donors we’re talking to our members for the most part. Our members are able to vote in board elections. They have a say in big strategic decisions we make as an organization, such as whether to endorse a certain policy. This creates an insider quality to our communications with them that I haven’t personally experienced as a donor myself with other organizations. With JVP our messaging is really that us and our donors are in this together. Rather than just contributing to the work they’re a part of it.
In terms of technology we actually let members use our tools. So for example a member could email me and say “hey, I’m in the middle of Utah and I’m a member and I’d like to find other people near me”. I’ll work with that member to draft an email and send it out from EveryAction to people with 30 miles of their zip code. Another example is our chapters will put on an event and they’ll use EveryAction as the RSVP page or use the event feature. Our member leaders are actually logged in to the tool with their own accounts. We’re definitely trying to bring in our members to the digital universe that we live in as staff so that we’re working together on our various efforts. It’s been much easier to do that with EveryAction than it was with our old database. The fact that we can give members access without compromising privacy of our other members has been huge!
To learn more about Jewish Voice for Peace visit their website here.
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