Note: Although this article is from 2010, and many camps have made huge improvements to their online presence, many of the ideas in this article still apply.
National research on synagogue websites found them sadly lacking in their ability to deliver on the core missions of synagogues to effectively engage members and build Jewish community. In 2010, Lisa Colton, President of Darim Online, gave her perspective on this research and what it means for synagogues on eJewishPhilanthropy.com. Here at JCamp 180 we've been considering how the websites of Jewish camps measure up. We continue an ongoing process of reviewing camp websites to evaluate their effectiveness; here is our current assessment.
The truth is that while Jewish camps' websites and other online efforts are faring better than the typical synagogue in meeting their mission, there is lots of room for improvement. As Mitch Joel pleaded at the March Foundation for Jewish Camp Leader's Assembly, there are some key areas lacking in many of the camp websites. For example, most camps now offer online giving (vs. only 40% of the synagogues in the study) but, too many camps do not have obvious "Donate Now" buttons throughout their websites. More importantly, camps are still missing opportunities to promote their online giving through other channels (eNewsletters, social media, direct mail) to ensure their offline and online cultivation efforts are synchronized adequately.
Similarly, we find that many camp websites could use a refresh. Most importantly, camps should be able to easily update the content on their own sites without paying an outside consultant. New content management systems for maintaining websites are easy to use; they don't require technical expertise to keep the content online fresh and engaging. When the site is easy to update you will be able to keep images and information up-to-date. In addition, we found many camp websites are still text heavy and difficult to quickly find pertinent information. In our review, we found that websites that share the camps' treasure trove of pictures, video, and stories appeal to and emotionally engage prospective families, current parents, campers, staff, Alumni, supporters, and donors.
And, once you've gotten your users' attention, make it easy for them to act. Many camp websites currently have no obvious way to register for an event, update their contact information, or submit paperwork online. Most people seek your camp website only when they need something from you: your address and phone number, an application, or information. If they can't find it easily when they need it, they will never return. Be it prospective camper families, current families, new staff, Alumni, or donors, make finding information and submitting applications as easy as possible 24/7.
Beyond Your Website
Finally, Lisa Colton makes a great point in her article about the allocation of resources for managing websites and other online outreach tools (eNewsletters, Facebook, blogs, etc.). Everyone wants to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) for time spent writing an eNewsletter article or blog post, or responding to questions on Facebook. But "We don't have time for Facebook <or an eNewsletter or updating the website>" is simply not an acceptable statement any longer in the Jewish camp community, because your constituents are already actively engaging with each other online with or without your participation. Just as you would never leave a bunk of campers without a counselor all summer, you should not ignore your camp community online throughout the rest of the year. We assert that how and what you communicate through your Facebook Page, eNewsletter and website is mission delivery.
Would you like an assessment of your camp's website and technology use overall? Or need help managing your various online tasks effectively? Contact the Technology Program to set up a Technology Assessment today.