By Ben Weiss, Past NFTY-CAR President (2012-2013)
I’m pretty much the perfect target for Hillel. I’m Jewish (duh), in college (freshman at Northwestern University), and quite active in Jewish activities (former NFTY regional president and such). Over the summer I’d heard from the Northwestern newsletter that Hillel had a pre-orientation program the day before freshman move in day, but without any knowledge of the program or knowing anyone else that would be doing it, I didn’t pay it much attention.
One day in late August I was hanging out with friends when I saw an incoming call from an unknown number located in South Carolina. I debated answering until the final ring, then picked up the phone and excused myself from my pals. The guy on the other line was named Adam, and he was calling on the behalf of the Northwestern Hillel. I connected with him right away. He seemed like a really cool guy, had attended Kutz (so had I!), and we shared a close mutual friend. He told me about the pre-orientation program: a chance to meet other Jewish kids at Northwestern, go Whirlyballing, and eat a barbecue dinner (sounds vaguely like a good youth group event, right?). We talked for roughly 12 minutes, in which he gave me the low down on the event, how to sign up, and even gave me some useful tips about college. When I got home I briefly brought the event up to my mom, who didn’t sound pleased that I was considering going to school a day earlier than expected to attend some Jewish event that I’d have to pay additional money for (it was only $17). I didn’t care enough to push the subject any further and went on with my life.
Two weeks later I received a newsletter from Hillel about the event and it once again piqued my interest. I thought to myself, “if I get one more call about it, I guess I’ll sign up.” That call never came, and I didn’t sign up for the Hillel event.
Now thinking about it, it’s like I’m in NFTY round two, and these board members are trying to get me, a wee little freshman, to sign up for my very first event. The first call caught my attention and educated me about the program. But even though Adam’s sale’s pitch was flawless, I wasn’t going to sacrifice my time and money to attend this Jewish event in which I wouldn’t know anyone else attending just yet. The newsletter brought the event back to my attention, but once again wasn’t enough to get me to pull the trigger. What I was really looking for was a second call from Adam – one in which I could further establish a connection with him and in which I could tell that I was truly wanted there. So while the first call was a good start, a second call would have clinched it. This is something that was true for me in attending my first two NFTY events, but not something that I truly picked up on until now. That second call, the follow up, is so incredibly important in getting people to go to things. The first call should be looked as one in which you form a bond with the potential participant – you should talk about your event and program, but should seek to build a connection first and foremost. The second call should be the one where you follow up, show you care about the person, and push the event a tad bit more. In fact, the calls shouldn’t stop until you’ve heard a definitive “I’ve signed up” or “I can’t make it because…”. Otherwise, you’re losing possibly participants.
I’m missing this Whirlyball kickoff event, but I’ll probably attend Hillel events in the future that are more convenient and such (ha, sounds familiar again).