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Does the future of Jewish nonprofits rest in social media?

Fourteen months since we published JTA’s 100 most influential Jewish Twitterers, many Jewish professionals seem eager to leverage popular online communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook to engage their constituents — and to raise funds.

The latest effort to make sense of the social media craze was the Future of the Jewish Non-Profit summit on July 27, a daylong event featuring panelists from several industries — airlines, nonprofits, and some familiar faces from the Jewish federation world — discussing case studies in social media usage.

Dave Weinberg, the 28 year-old organizer of the event, has a recent history of entrepreneurship related to Jewish professional networking. His strategy was to emulate the caliber and style of technology conferences like TED and SXSW, in an effort to "move Jewish industry forward." According to Weinberg, social media is a cost-effective way for Jewish nonprofits to promote their activities.

The keynote speaker of the day was Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org, an award-winning charity that connects public school teachers with an online community of small donors who contribute to projects that match their interests. DonorsChoose.org often drums up support through friendly competition by pitting readers of different blogs against one another to see which blogging community gives more money. As part of his advice, Best proposed a surprising maxim: When it comes to blogs, size doesn’t matter:

The first time I realized the utility of Twitter was Thanksgiving weekend 2008. I was comparison shopping for a new iPod nano. On a whim, I entered a search query for "Jewish" and was horrified to discover a chain of tweets pointing to the unfolding terrorist attack at the Chabad House of Mumbai. Motti Seligson, who works for Chabad-Lubavitch’s PR and online communications, explained that the crowdsourcing of information that day provided invaluable updates, outpacing the rate at which the FBI and other authorities were able to gather information: 

What do you think is the most valuable use of social media? Is its value overstated? Please comment below.

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