Pro Bono Consulting: Focusing on the Mission

Dispatch from Congregation Beth Jacob

At Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, the Federation’s Pro Bono Consulting Practice has had wide-ranging impact. Eric Stone, the synagogue's past executive director, spoke warmly about the Federation’s presence in the community: “One thing that’s so great about the Federation is they’re very proactive in offering things to synagogues and other agencies. It’s really an integral part of the function of our community and it’s good at recognizing the ways in which it can be most useful, and the Pro Bono Consulting Practice is one of them.”

When the Federation reached out to the congregation to see whether it could benefit from the Practice, it didn’t take long to identify areas in which such help would be useful. Congregation Beth Jacob applied for assistance related to its marketing and communications. Eric reflected, “We’re in a situation where our marketing and communications were excellent the last time we really updated everything. But it’s been 5 or 6 years, and things start to go stale and maybe get a little inconsistent, and our use of technology has fallen a bit behind.”

Specifically, they were looking for someone to guide them in “determining the right mix of means of communication, whether website, email, print, social media, use of the telephone, or the TV monitor in the lobby,” explained Eric.

The Federation arranged for the congregation to work with Josh Mason-Barkin, an independent marketing and communications consultant in the Bay Area, on assessing its current infrastructure and making formal recommendations on how to move forward. Josh recently launched his business, Motech Agency, which, he explained, works “with Jewish nonprofits, essentially helping them utilize technology and design tools to their best advantage.” He continued: “The majority of Jewish nonprofits don’t have an internal tech infrastructure, which is usually fine. The disadvantage of this is that when these organizations need something technological, they end up having to bring in someone who has no idea what they do or how it works. For some things that’s totally fine, but if you’re looking to rethink all the moving parts of some aspect of your tech infrastructure, it often only has a little to do with tech, and a lot to do with a lot of other things.”

Josh reflected that much of his work is helping organizations “find the right tools, or to think about how they operate so that they can take advantage of tools they might not otherwise be using.” He offered that, “The idea of changing is sometimes really hard because staff know that their time is limited. So a way that I’ve been able to – I think – be helpful to clients is by saying, ‘yes it’s scary, but it’s my job to ease that fear or make sure that the things you’re scared about don’t come to fruition.’ I kind of come in to be the middle person, to make sure the transition works.”

Congregation Beth Jacob certainly experienced this aspect of Josh’s work. Eric commented that, “We were all very impressed with him. It was easy for us to see ourselves working with him because he consults to synagogues. He works with synagogues that are similar to us, similar in scale, similar problems. We really felt it was easy to talk to him and he very much understood us. So we had a lot of confidence in what he would deliver to us. I can’t see how it could have gone better.”

Josh reflected that what most drew him to offer his services through the Pro Bono Consulting Practice was the awareness that “there are plenty of nonprofits who can’t afford to bring in someone and who don’t need so much that it’s even worth it. They might need something really basic and it would be silly for them to pay someone to come in a do that and so the opportunity to come in and help out. So, for me, I get to meet and spend some time with interesting and inspiring Jewish communal professionals and on the other side for them, it’s something that can really help grow and develop their organizations.”

Josh continued that, “the whole notion of what I do in general is that I want communal professionals to focus on serving the people they serve and keep their eyes focused on their mission and not on tech. I think in some ways the opportunities in the Pro Bono Consulting Practice are even more powerful because, for those organizations, just a little bit can mean a lot. So the opportunity to affect such organizations in far reaching ways is really incredible.”

Would you like to be a pro bono consultant? Share your skills. Are you a nonprofit seeking assistance? Request pro bono help.

For more information about the Pro Bono Practice, contact Bab Freiberg, Director of Strategic Consulting.


September 10, 2015


Noa Silver