Building Relationships, Building Membership

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Rabbi Einhorn’s SynaBlog is a new innovative blog that shares tips, tactics, strategies and best practices that enable Shul growth and promote Shul vitality.

Much of our ability to fundraise in synagogue and/or build our membership base is based upon the relationships that we are able to form. A Shul president or membership committee chair and Rabbi don’t always have the extensive amount of time to invest in a relationship before converting a prospective member/donor. Is there any way to accelerate this process?

Israeli social psychologists and best-selling authors Ori and Ran Brafman wrote a book called “Click – The Magic of Instant Connection.” This fascinating project looks at the ingredients necessary to speed up a relationship that you are interested in growing. I will adapt his key elements for the purpose of our discussion. The Brafman brothers identify 5 markers to accelerate a relationship:

  1. Vulnerability – When you are willing to show your audience that you are real and not just putting on a show, that is a huge payoff. Opening up about challenges that the synagogue faces also awakens an untapped sense of responsibility that people often have.
  2. Proximity – Using a handshake, a hug (when appropriate), or some other form of tactile engagement is intuitively a powerful accelerator. Every synagogue leader needs to be acutely aware of the appropriate format and boundary for contact but do understand that a shul that displays the right dosage of warmth usually catches more fish.
  3. Resonance – Words have the power to move us. If your shul’s mission statement, branding and what you’re about is clear and bold it really has the capability to resonate with untapped parishioner base. Try to figure out what moves the person you are speaking with and articulate how your institution matches that passion.
  4. Similarity – This one isn’t so simple because sometimes those that are starting to attend your synagogue maybe a world apart from your current membership. Do your best to introduce your new guest to a member or a program that seems to be right up their alley.
  5. Safe Place – At the end of the day we stand before G-d because we are looking to feel safe and protected in our lives. Letting new attendees know that you are not here to make their lives more difficult and on the contrary your synagogue will do what it can to mitigate the drama in their lives then you have created a safe place for them.

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Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn is a Musmach of Yeshiva University. He has served as the founder of WINGS a Synagogue Consulting group. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Rabbi Einhorn was the Rabbi of Manhattan’s West Side Institutional Synagogue where he helped grow the membership by 70% over 4 years. Currently, he is the Rav and Dean of Yeshivat Yavneh.