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Not Your Bubbie's Social Club

Thursday, December 19, 2013
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Dear Miriam,

I'm an active member of a Hadassah chapter. Like most of our active members, I'm in my 60s. Do you have any suggestions for getting younger members involved in our programs?

Signed,
Not Your Bubbie's Social Club


Dear Club,

I am a member of Hadassah because it meant something to my Bubbie and it means something to my mom. I honestly don't know anyone in their 20s or 30s who is a member of Hadassh because it means something to them personally. Hadassah has come across to me like a quaint leftover from another time period where Jewish women had to have their own social and political club because they weren't invited to join co-ed or secular organizations. Sure, they have a glossy magazine and do great work, but what does it have to do with me?

In order to answer your question from a more knowledgeable place, I just went to Hadassah's website. It turns out Hadassah has a lot to do with me. The group's homepage talks about working to prevent violence against women. The advocacy page states that "Hadassah members advocate at the local, state and national levels for women's health, reproductive rights, pay equity, domestic violence prevention, gun control, Israeli security, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and more." These are things that many young women care about. The biggest issue here may be one of marketing, wherein the younger set just doesn't know what the organization is about. I also suspect that local chapters differ significantly from the international organization in sleekness of publicity and depth of advocacy.

The vision page of the website states as its first bullet point,"To attract and engage younger women," but it doesn't specify what constitutes "younger" or exactly what they'll be engaged in. Wanting younger members is admirable for the long-term sustainability of an organization, but any organization with that as a stated goal better have a plan for doing so. Both the Leadership Fellows program and the Professional Networking Councils sound great from their online descriptions, but the upper limit of the 35-50 age range isn't so different than your current members. One thing that I've learned from my work with women in their 20s and 30s is that mentorship is hugely valuable in nearly every professional field, and Hadassah seems uniquely poised to provide those types of contacts for women starting out in their careers. I've also seen similar organizations that tend to attract older members co-sponsor happy hours or other events that young adult-focused organizations are already hosting. That could be a great way to get Hadassah's name out there, and then Hadassah representatives can talk with attendees about ways to get more involved.

One of the best ways to attract younger members is to have younger members do some recruiting for you. Start with the children of your current members. See if you can organize one-on-one meetings to find out their interests. Consider issuing individual invitations to a special event or networking opportunity geared toward younger adults. Then encourage them to invite their peers to the next opportunity and be explicit about what the organization has to do with them. As much as I believe in the importance of paying for opportunities that are of value, if an event costs too much or has a fundraising component, it's not going to be a good entry point. Start small and consider every new participant (rather than member) under 40 to be a success.  

Good luck, and be well,
Miriam

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