AVI CHAI concluded its general grant making on December 31, 2019.

The Winners Tell All: Day School Video Academy

Posted by: Deborah Fishman

March 20, 2012

Following the inaugural Day School Video Academy, AVI CHAI asked our winners of the Popular Vote category to share some tips and lessons learned from the making of their award-winning videos. This should be especially helpful for those looking to enter Jewish Day School Video Academy Awards: The Sequel. Submissions open on March 22.
One theme running through the winners’ responses relates to the power of networking. The schools found that a combination of in-person, word-of-mouth, and social media networking to constituents (and being creative about who those constituents may be) leads to great impact regardless of a school’s physical size. It also provides new ways to engage and strengthen that community.
First Place: Columbus Torah Academy
Second Place: Lander~Grinspoon Academy
Third Place: The Greenfield Hebrew Academy
Columbus Torah Academy in Columbus, OH
Our Strategy
The video produced in our Film Studies class, “If a Picture is Worth A Thousand Words,” which won first place in the public voting, had a few goals:
1.    To be unique. We have made our share of the typical, one-shot, talking-head kind of promos, and those are vital to the marketing of our school.  But considering we wanted to “go viral,” we needed an approach that would create a product our viewers and consumers would be inclined to not only “like” on Facebook, but actually be compelled to recommend others view.
2.    To reveal genuinely positive images through video and music. Our favorite videos in the contest were ones in which that positive vibe comes across.
3.    To highlight specific achievements or areas of strength. I thought all the videos did a great job focusing on the excellent academic, religious, and extracurricular programs of Jewish day schools. Small class sizes, personal attention, and a community approach are all great parts of the message of day schools everywhere.
Getting the Word Out
Even though didn’t think we stood a chance against other bigger schools with a much bigger reach, we kept plugging the contest on our announcements as well as on our weekly newsletter and emailer. Sustaining word-of-mouth enthusiasm from teachers, students, and administrators even in a small school led to the networking of families in the entire day school community nationwide.
On Facebook, we tagged every alum we could find, because, technically, each appears in the video. Each week throughout the contest we created Facebook Events, which prompted all our viewers to watch and rate videos, as well as gave them a deadline to do so. Maybe being prompted to participate again and again got a little annoying to some, but in the end that’s what not only got people to rate (instead of just “like”), but also expanded our reach to other networks. By the end of the contest, we were getting positive replies from Africa and Europe. Since the contest, our Facebook page membership has shot up significantly.
Networking Lessons
The contest has shown us that a campaign coordinated among the various message outlets combined with a program you believe can reach much farther than we thought possible. We had always seen social media as the visible part of the iceberg of publicity. We learned that a little bit of organization and collaboration does indeed go a long way.
Furthermore, the entire campaign, from word of mouth to the internet, has strengthened our community. Networking has both reconnected many of those with whom we’ve lost contact and has strengthened the connection of those active within the community. Every student in the Film Studies class is indeed proud of their accomplishment, but so too are all those students, parents, teachers, and alumni who participated in the contest and made a difference.
Lander~Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA
How did Lander~Grinspoon Academy, a school in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts with just 95 students, win second place for the popular vote in the Day School Video Academy contest? How did we beat out much larger schools in much, much larger communities? It was partly about the product. A group of committed community members produced a stunning video that told a compelling story about our school. It captured the essence of who we are and what makes LGA so special.
But the other part was that we used all of our resources to get the word out about the contest. Once the video was produced and submitted into the contest, another team of people went into action, promoting our video at every turn. Our admissions director, who is active in the local Chamber of Commerce, used her networks to promote the video. We asked parents, alumni, and current students to send out the video to everyone they knew. We used social media – in our community, the Jewish day schools have a combined presence on Facebook.  Practically every Jew in the Pioneer Valley (and a lot of non-Jews as well) knew that LGA was participating in this contest.
But we went a step beyond that and got really creative. I had lunch with a number of colleagues from the non-Jewish independent schools and asked them to promote the video in their faculty communities. One of our sister schools even sent it to all their families! Our Federation director wrote her weekly message about it. The synagogues in the community put an attachment in their e-messaging. We learned that our network is greater than we think — which felt good.
This past summer, LGA launched a very successful micro-philanthropy campaign called Double Chai. We were looking to expand our donor base by asking 1,818 to donate $36 each. While we didn’t reach our donor number, we raised our goal, which was more than $65,000. This time, we went back to each donor and asked them to vote for our video. It felt right to reach out and show them what their money was going toward. We are continuing to build momentum, reaching out to segments of the population who didn’t fully understand what we were about. That feels REALLY good!
The Greenfield Hebrew Academy in Atlanta, GA
GHA is excited to have placed third in the public voting track of the AVI CHAI Day School Video competition, with a video created by an 8th-grade student, Nicole Nooriel.
We advertised a page we created listing the videos we had entered into the competition in all our outgoing emails, including our weekly N2K (Need2Know) to our parents and a bi-weekly Divrei GHA to a much larger group in the community, and also on our Facebook pages.
A frustration with the competition was that there was no indication of how we were doing in numbers of votes, so we could not be responsive or generate excitement. We had no idea if our digital strategy was working.
However, we could keep better track of our votes by asking people to vote in person in the school building. Re-focusing our strategy in this way was really fortuitous because during the time frame for the competition we had some of the busiest foot traffic of the year in our building. We hosted the North Atlanta Jewish Students Technology Fair; we held our Parent Teacher Conferences, where we had almost every family in the building; and we had the 4 performances of our annual school musical, “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” In addition, we walked the carpool lines asking people to vote; we had room parents email parents; we added a voting reminder to our reader boards; and we had our front office ask/remind everyone who came into the building to vote for us on laptops we put throughout the building.
GHA has some experience in this type of competition having entered (and won) the “Our School Needs” competition held by Microsoft Bing. That was much more time consuming because people had to vote for our entry every day, and we had to strike a careful balance between reminders and flooding email boxes with requests. The lesson we learned from that contest and from the AVI CHAI competition is that a good mix of digital and in-person nudging seems to work best.

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