By Dave Sorter
If you’re a member of a synagogue, work out at the Aaron Family JCC, have a child at a Jewish day school, donate to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas — or have any connection at all with some Jewish organization in the Dallas area — you’ll likely be invited to participate in the federation’s Community Scan.
And even those who aren’t invited can participate.
The scan, which goes live at www.dallasjewishcommunityscan.org on Tuesday, May 28 and will be up for about three weeks, will feature questions on demographics, interests, wants and needs of Jewish community members in Dallas, Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties and other parts of the region not served by another federation.
This is the first time such a project has been undertaken in Dallas since 1986, according to Susan Bates and Krista Weinstein, the co-chairs of the scan’s Phase II, the data-collection stage. The data will not only provide a demographic picture of the local Jewish community in 2013, but it will also help the federation and other agencies determine programming priorities for the future.
“Hopefully, we see ways to work together,” Weinstein said. “We want to come together as one community.”
Added Bates: “In this climate where’s there’s all sorts of challenges, this is the time for the community to come together. I can’t imagine any agency trying to go it alone.”
If you’re wondering where in the world the people behind the scan got your name and email address, the answer is simple: The Jewish organization(s) with which you’re affiliated provided that information — all confidentially.
“We invited every single organization in the community — synagogues, schools, organizations — to an informational meeting about the scan with our consultants,” Bates said. Those meetings took place in February. “More than 50 agencies and community partners agreed to participate.”
The participating organizations submitted their databases to Measuring Success, a Washington-based consulting firm specializing in assisting non-profits. That company was chosen during Phase I of the scan process, chaired by Lindsay Feldman and Seth Kaplan.
“We had a very open process with a lot of input,” Kaplan said. “We were looking for someone to think outside the box who can look through the lens of non-profits and look at needs that are not met.”
Once the Phase I committee chose Measuring Success from among three candidates, Bates, Weinstein and their Phase II committee of about 20 people got to work to ensure the data-gathering phase goes smoothly.
Part of that, they said, is protecting the data. No federation staff member or lay volunteer will be privy to any personal information submitted by the participating organizations, nor will any of those organizations see any other organization’s database. Only Measuring Success holds the information and is bound to keep it confidential.
Also, people who participate in the scan will do so anonymously, though they will be able to ask a question of an agency and give their name if they wish. They will also have the option to post the fact they took the scan to their Facebook page.
With just a couple of weeks before the live scan begins, Bates, Weinstein and federation officials are focusing on getting the word out.
“It’s important at this stage that the organizations help market the survey; to encourage their people to take the scan,” Bates said.
In fact, the email invitations will likely come from organization leaders they are familiar with. For example, Bates, a member of Temple Emanu-El, expects to get an email signed by Senior Rabbi David Stern. The invitee then clicks on a link provided and begins to answer questions.
Though there will be hundreds of questions, no one person will answer more than 20 to 30. Demographic questions will come first; then technology takes over so that, for example, a senior citizen isn’t asked about preschool needs. For a fee, an organization can devise questions geared specifically to it.
The scan will be live for about three weeks — “according to the consultants, there’s a big fall-off in getting answers after that,” Bates said — after which Measuring Success analysts will begin crunching numbers.
“That’s when the project really begins,” Weinstein said.
Preliminary statistics should be available by mid-August, with more detailed numbers ready later that month. Each participating organization will receive an overall report and a report tailored from that group’s own database.
That’s Phase III, the chairs of which have yet to be named. “Krista and I will be officially off the clock,” Bates said.
Jewish community members who aren’t invited can take part in the scan by linking from a friend’s Facebook page or by visiting www.dallasjewishcommunityscan.org. Those who aren’t computer literate can call the federation and take an over-the-phone version, according to federation chief operating officer Bradley Laye.
Then, the federation and other organizations can gear programming to interest and need.
“I believe that this process will help us prepare for the next 25-30 years of growing community and, too, secure philanthropic development for the entire Jewish community,” Feldman said. “It was very powerful to hear firsthand how our community’s agencies and dedicated volunteers value the opportunity to sit down together for common cause. I encourage you to take the survey and take an active part in offering feedback on what you want from your community and to speak out about what you feel is missing.”