What are the characteristics of a strong synagogue website? While all synagogues are unique and it’s hard to compare a 50 family congregation in a sleepy rural area to an 800-plus congregation in a bustling urban center, there are certain must-haves that all synagogues should include on their website to better engage current members and appeal to prospective members.
Here are our top 5
(1) Focus on Welcoming Prospective Members
More often than not, your website may be a prospective member's first introduction to your community. The text, images, and content used on your homepage are powerful and should mirror the vibrancy of your community. It's not enough to simply write that you are a welcoming and diverse community, the images on your website by displaying folks of different age, gender, ethnicity and race are critical in supporting this statement. If you find yourself experiencing trouble sourcing images to use on your website – remember, ask your community for help.
A well-rounded and robust membership section is a must. Whether you include a stand-alone main menu item as Kol Shalom or nest it within an About Us menu item like Congregation B’nai Tzedek, it needs to be easy for prospects to gain information how they can join your community. There isn't a one-size fits all approach, but at minimum a strong membership section contains the following characteristics: (a) a direct and clear way for prospects to contact a member of your staff or a volunteer to learn more (b) a section detailing the benefits of membership to your synagogue (c) information how to become a member like “next steps”. Allowing folks to complete an online membership form is great, but if your membership form is multiple pages long and may require a website visitor to spend a half hour to complete, online may not be the way to go. Instead, a simplified form where a prospect requests information by mail, email, or phone is worth considering. You succeed in grabbing the immediate energy of your prospect and begin the process of starting a conversation with this potential member.
(3) Spotlight on Early Childhood
Whether you have a wait-listed preschool program, a monthly Tot Shabbat or only have an annual community Hanukah party for the under-five set, a focus on early childhood programming on your homepage is absolutely critical. Why? By highlighting early childhood programming, you are telling the world that you are a growing congregation with lots of young families, which in turn will attract more parents who want to provide their young children with a foundation in Jewish life and culture. Even if your early childhood programming is very limited, highlight it on your homepage. New parents are eager to connect with other young families. Show that your community is a place that understands this need.
(4) A Dynamic Calendar
After your homepage, chances are the second most visited place on your website is your calendar. Take a look at your calendar with an eye toward the prospective member experience. How are you using your calendar to highlight upcoming events? Sometimes simply posting the event title, location, start time and end time is enough. But for an event that is designed to attract a large crowd like your annual Purim Carnival or Spring fundraiser the inclusion of images, supporting text and a link to register go a long way in generating enthusiasm.
(5) Spotlight on Clergy
It should come as no surprise your clergy page is one of the top ten most visited pages on your website. Aside from names, photos and bios, what are the other must-haves for this essential page? Your Rabbi may be uncomfortable publicizing her email address directly on this page, but information on how to contact her is key. Harness the interest your website visitors already have in this page by giving them additional opportunities to explore related topics. Linking to the Rabbi's blog, sermons or the Cantor's recordings are a great way to capitalize upon the inherent enthusiasm prospective members have in learning more about the spiritual leaders of your community.
Join us for a webinar devoted to this exciting topic on Thursday, June 23 at 2 PM Eastern.
Registration is open and all are welcome!