Cover Story: All for One
UJC also looked into branding as a possible cause of its difficulty in keeping and acquiring new donors. To get an understanding of where its brand stands, the organization conducted its first-ever branding research in the fall of last year, looking into what people think it stands for, who is familiar with it and how it stacks up against other nonprofits.
It found that local Jewish federation familiarity was pretty good (about 50 percent), but there was a significant familiarity gap for younger Jews. For example, 57 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds who already donate to Jewish causes are not familiar with their local Jewish federations.
"Because familiarity is the basic building block of any branding activity, you cannot, obviously, become a donor or a loyal donor or an advocate for the charity before you are aware that the charity exists," Smolyar says.
It doesn't help that unlike other large federated systems like United Way, American Red Cross, YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs, federation names or logos are inconsistent, which creates confusion. About 90 percent of the 157 dues-paying federations have "Jewish Federation of" and then their geographic locations as their names, but they aren't visually consistent.
"We have 157 entities that show their different faces to the public from a branding perspective, whether visual logos and messaging and so on and from a media overlap perspective," Smolyar says. "Obviously the media markets don't recognize the 157 [federations] that we have.
"Branding's primary job is to actually clearly communicate who you are, how you're connected and what you're about."
To right this, the organization is in the process of changing its name from United Jewish Communities to The Jewish Federations of North America to correspond to the names of most of its federations.