YAD taking innovative approach
By Leah Vann
Keeping millennials and GenZers involved in their local Jewish communities is becoming more challenging as they enter their professional lives.
During an online Town Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 2, new leaders of the Young Adult Division (YAD) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas proposed a plan for restructuring its program to increase involvement and encourage retention.
One of the most notable changes will be redefining groups within YAD. Rather than using age, YAD will define members by their demographic life stages: early career, established career, young and married couples and young families. About 7% of YAD constituents are in the early career category and 34% are in the established career category while young married couples and young families make up 29% and 30% respectively.
“It’s important to notice that our early career demographic is low,” Austin Pecora, YAD gift chair, said. “And that’s likely because our early career demographic is more likely to give their time and participate in events, rather than commit financially with a big gift.”
These demographics have different needs when it comes to programming, and financially are contributing at different levels. Something common with most categories, though, is that they want to see that their money goes to something tangible, rather than a blanket donation to the Federation itself.
“Millennials are going to say, ‘The Federation raises millions of dollars. They’re not going to miss my $18. I’ll just go to Starbucks or go get a drink; I’ll give it to another charity that I saw pop up that looks interesting,’” YAD Vice Chair Brett Steiger said.
Seeing where the money is going makes young adults more willing to donate.
“They can say, ‘Oh wow, that $18 can help feed a family at Jewish Family Service. It can help with counseling or emergency relief if a tornado hits us again,’” Steiger said. “It makes them feel like $18 is not just going to a pot of money that no one knows, that they’ll never really understand or see again.”
But also, it’s more important to get the early career demographic involved through low-cost, low-commitment events first, like a “Newish and Jewish” happy hour rather than a long guest speaker or donation-based event. Once they feel engaged by meeting casually in social events, they might want to do something different, like attend volunteering events or leadership development groups.
In addition, YAD is hoping to expand its social media presence to get the word out on its new programming.
“We really want to start looking at the big picture, and not just the dollars but really paying attention to all the different elements that we feel like the community brings to the table,” YAD Chair Michelle Berger said. “We just want to measure our impact within the community. And then we’ll do that through expanding our metrics.”