By Blake Becker
For nearly 100 years, across more than 50 countries, BBYO has been at the forefront of leadership development and identity strengthening within the Jewish teen community. Since their founding in 1924, BBYO has worked alongside teens during their high school years (8th – 12th grade) with the goal of empowering them to take charge in their communities and proudly engage with their Jewish culture. The organization’s mission is achieved through an enriching platform comprised foremost of leadership development, experiential education, community service, and programs that prepare teens for a successful, impactful adult life.
BBYO’s Vice President of IT Strategy and Measurement, Karen Alpert, and Movement Strategy and Operations Associate, Nolan Hausler, joined Cloud for Good to discuss the organization’s mission, the changes made to deliver on that international mission during a global pandemic, and how their Cloud for Good-implemented Salesforce technologies have facilitated a rapid, successful shift to the online setting.
Starting on the Right Foot
“Let me begin by saying I’ve never had a project go as well as our first Salesforce implementation with Cloud for Good,” opens Alpert on an exceedingly positive note, no doubt a reflection of her infectious optimism and radiant personality. “BBYO is all about setting up Jewish teens, during a pivotal time in their life, to become productive members in society and engaged within their Jewish community. Salesforce really helped us during a pivotal time, too,” follows Alpert. As a largely in-person organization whose work has historically been “on the ground,” spanning various local chapter, regional, and international levels, the COVID-19 pandemic brought forth an unexpected cultural change for BBYO. Although some growing pains were expectedly faced, the necessary evolution and virtualizing of programs embraced by BBYO have effectively prepared them for a more innovative and engaged future for their central mission.
Funded by a split revenue stream where half of the organization’s support stems from philanthropic donations and program/event-driven revenue comprises the other half, BBYO found themselves in need of intelligent solutions and an experimental approach in order to circumvent the difficulties of COVID-19. Regional conventions and in-person teen events were canceled, a host of varying summer programs were shut down, and the organization scurried to figure out how to continue their support for members, their families, and organizational staff. Luckily, as Alpert proudly asserts, “BBYO is fantastic in a crisis.” Thinking on their feet, BBYO carefully considered how to continue serving their mission, how to serve their teens, and what they could implement virtually to remain financially stable and culturally productive. Then, BBYO placed its trust in two of the organization’s most important tenets: teens and technology. Over the course of just a few short days, BBYO created and rolled out BBYO On Demand, a sprawling online platform fueled by teen-generated content and experiences.
“We knew we didn’t want to simply recreate regular programs online. BBYO On Demand allowed us to open things up and offer our teens a platform to submit their own ideas for new virtual programs,” Alpert elaborates. Reflective of the importance BBYO places on empowerment and development, BBYO teens turned On Demand into an engaging hub of connective content, seemingly overnight. Chat rooms, book clubs, Netflix watch parties, and virtual exercise groups were organized, while BBYO staff created a wide variety of programs centered around at-home training and vital skill development. Within a matter of weeks, hundreds upon hundreds of programs had been submitted, many resulting in networking sessions attended by hundreds of people at a time. “Not only do we say we’re teen-led, but we mean it. And we prove it,” Alpert definitively declares.
Nolan Hausler manages the program strategies and initiatives connecting all BBYO teens, and he played a pivotal role in the organization’s transition to online. His experience and understanding of the Jewish teen experience led him to a critical perspective: “The teen demographic is always on the cutting edge of technology. It’s not good enough for us to simply translate everything to Zoom meetings and think everything will be the same.” Despite the isolation experienced by all while confined to their own homes, BBYO has effectively created an evolutionary tool for their organization born out of necessity, a tool innovating in ways, perhaps, not possible in the traditional physical setting. On-Demand has allowed BBYO to experiment and cater to high-profile appearances from speakers and alumni, resulting in events like an intimate Q&A session with entrepreneur Mark Cuban, a 1-on-1 interview with ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and a members-only virtual event with the cast of Netflix’s Outer Banks that attracted over 2,000 teens and brought in 200 new BBYO membership sign-ups.
Sustaining & Advancing with Salesforce
BBYO is, fundamentally, a paid membership organization; a one-time fee provides teens with a membership lasting the entirety of their high school years. Innovative On Demand events are helping maintain sustainment, and even growth, during a time when so much else seems up in the air. Fundraising membership programs are handled through BBYO’s Salesforce instance, and the funds raised go towards supporting the organization, as well as developing innovative content for teens, alumni, and families. Salesforce allows BBYO to segment and target donors, create custom messaging for supporters, and showcase the engaging events created by teens within On Demand. Fundraising innovations have even led to the launching of their Women’s Leadership Initiative, bringing together highly successful women with a connection to BBYO in an effort to raise both support and awareness for the mission.
The reliability made possible by Salesforce’s all-encompassing technological support is helping BBYO manage their 140 paid staff members, 600 volunteer adult advisors, and over 3,000 teen leaders. It’s also enabling the organization to not just sustain but also innovate and develop even with the uncertainty surrounding this present moment. Hausler concludes, “We all know there won’t be a simple switch that makes everything go back to how things were pre-pandemic. We’re looking at different ways of incorporating our virtual successes into the traditional physical experience model moving forward.”
A Cloud for Good Partner since their initial Nonprofit Cloud implementation in 2016, BBYO has continued to utilize Cloud for Good’s services throughout their journey. This maintained relationship has culminated in the Cloud for Good Managed Services team stepping up to strategically plan and prepare BBYO for upcoming Salesforce releases so that they can take full advantage of new tools on the horizon. The result of these implementations and optimizations connects back with BBYO’s founding principles of involving Jewish teens with a more meaningful Jewish experience. Backed by Salesforce and internal innovations, over 70,000 teens around the world are bonding with their communities through technology, deepening their connection to the Jewish experience along every step of the way.