Linking you to your communities

Rabbi Dov completed his training through Ner LeElef in 2005. Since then, along with Rabbi Michael Harrouch, he has been promoting and growing their organization, Jewish Experience, located in Montreal, Canada.

I am writing this post because I feel like we’ve found such a fantastic tool that it’s something that every Jewish educator, everywhere, should be using.

At the beginning of August, Jeff Zigman, one of the founders of ComLinker, wrote a blog here about how it could be used to an educator’s advantage (see here). After finally using it to organize our most recent Shabbaton, I’m writing this article now to urge each and every one of you, no matter how big or small you are, whether you do Shabbatons, classes, trips, parties, or any other kind of event, that if you’re not yet using it, you should start. Today.

Jeff came on our Israel trips in 2009 and 2010. His background is in Software Engineering and he graduated from McGill University. For the last 8 months, he had been pushing me and pushing me to try to use it, telling me how much easier it will make our lives at Jewish Experience and how much time it will save us. Honestly, there was no way I could have understood without experiencing it ourselves on this past Shabbaton (October 11th-13th) in Montreal. ComLinker, by the way, is a site intended to link people to their communities. (The Jewish Community, for example), and it does this through a grouping system (similar to on Facebook), combined with extensive event-management capabilities, with everything from ticket sales, to attendee tracking, to collecting information through questionnaires. (We used this to easily determine how many people needed accommodations, how many people each attendee that lives nearby could accommodate, how many needed a space on the buses from Toronto, New York, and LA, and other similarly important questions.)

We ended up with about 40 more people this year (about 170 total) than on last year’s Shabbaton. We are positive that this was because of ComLinker – partially because it lets you show the list of attendees so that people who haven’t bought tickets yet are more inclined to buy when they see who is actually attending – unlike on Facebook, where that list is pretty meaningless.

Not only did we end up with about 40 more people, but we saved 30+ hours of work that normally went into all of the annoying parts of organizing an event, like trying to collect money from people, tracking who has paid or hasn’t, finding out all of that questionnaire information, and coordinating amongst ourselves. Every hour we waste on all of these details is an hour that we could have spent learning, teaching, or otherwise helping the Jewish communities around us.

It takes 3-5 minutes to set up your event and then it does everything for you automatically – and it’s so simple! You don’t need to keep track of anything. It notifies you (a Facebook-like notification, plus an email) when someone buys a ticket. It lets you control whether the number of registered people is visible and whether the list of attendees is visible, and a lot more. It’s just so easy and saves so much time, we literally couldn’t believe it. We were even angry at ourselves afterwards for allowing some people to pay in cash.

And to add to it, it cost us nothing to use ComLinker! In fact, they’ve done some things on the programming side that even allow you to pass the typical PayPal/credit card processing fees on to the ticket buyers (if you choose to). So for those of you who have a website that allows people to just pay by PayPal or credit card, using ComLinker will actually save you hundreds, or even potentially thousands of dollars that you would normally be losing to the credit card companies over time. Tickets to our Shabbaton were $65 each and we took in exactly $65 from each person, instead of losing 2% to the credit card processor.

After this event, we have already decided that every future event we do will be done through ComLinker and we are recommending it to everyone we can. If anyone is still not sure about using ComLinker, please contact me at: rabbiharrouch at jewishexperience dot ca.

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