The Ramat Beit Shemesh community had seen explosive growth over the past decade, and was in need of a new mikvah to meet the population’s needs. Construction had already begun to build a mikvah that would be of the highest standards both halachically and aesthetically. But the fundraising was moing very slowly and they didn’t have enough funds to move forward with the construction. They approached us to help them take their fundraising to the next level.
Since mikvah is a private topic, publicity posed a particularly challenge. At the time that we were approached, very few people in the community were aware of this new mikvah project; we needed to find a way to quickly spread the word while still maintaining the inherent tzniyus of the subject.
We felt that if women in the community could actually see the building and understand the grand scope of this project, they would connect to it more. But how could we bring masses of people to a construction site?
That’s when we came up with what sounded like a completely outrageous idea: to create a women’s art exhibit inside the building site! The strategy behind this:
1. By producing a women’s event in a construction site, we hoped to create a major buzz around town that would draw curious women to the event
2. The art exhibit would be produced by community women. The more local women we could involve in the event, the more we could be assured of word spreading organically.
3. We chose Eishes Chayil as the exhibit theme, appropriately focusing on the woman’s role in Klal Yisrael.
4. We formed 22 groups of women, with each group tasked with creating an artistic interpretation of one pasuk in Eishes Chayil. We drew up a floor plan of the second floor of the building (just a shell with raw brick dividing walls that would eventually be mikvah preparation rooms) dividing the space into 22 exhibit areas.
5. With 24 groups and 10 women per group, that meant 240 women involved in this project. If we could assume that each one would tell at least 5 friends about the exhibit, then we could expect over 1,000 women to participate.
6. After generating a high enough level of communal awareness, we would move on to phase 2 - a major crowdfunding campaign.
We launched the project through a series of parlor meetings. The women were extremely enthusiastic about participating in the art exhibit. We provided each group with a budget and also had an art professional available for consultation.
Meanwhile, we were faced with the mammoth task of transforming a construction site into an exhibit and event hall – in a matter of weeks! This meant removing all dangers, giving the site a major hosing down, and getting it ready to host hundreds of women. We needed to connect electricity and bring in a sound system. The Eishes Chayil exhibit would be displayed on the second floor, while the ground floor was to host a day’s worth of special programming – speakers, presentations and workshops that included Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, Rebbetzin Rina Tarshish, a cooking demo by Jamie Geller and more.
In addition, the night before the big women’s event we held an invitation-only wine-tasting evening at the mikvah for a select group of men, to encourage high-level donations.
The event was a huge success. Women came out in droves; there was a non-stop stream of viewers the entire day. Everyone who came had to sign in with their email address, generating an instant large email data base for the mikvah.
The Crowdfunding Campaign
Our next step was to build on the momentum and run a mega-fundraising campaign. This was back when crowdfunding campaigns were just starting to become popularized; the elements that today are considered an essential part of a campaign did not yet exist.
1. We created a Call Center model which didn’t exist in those days: an exciting hub, equipped with phones, computer stations and food, where volunteers would come together to reach out to potential donors. (CauseMatch was so blown away by the results of the campaign that afterwards they encouraged their other clients to follow the same model.) 2. To motivate women to sign up for Call Center slots, we ran a “Portuguese Auction” – a Chinese Auction with a twist! Instead of purchasing auction tickets with money, they were purchased by commitments: how many hours in the Call Center, how many contacts they’ll reach out to, how much money they commit to raise. 3. To encourage women to come to the Portuguese Auction and commit to volunteering during the fundraiser, we brought in guest speaker Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi.
Several Years Later: A New Campaign
Several years later, with the mikvah having just opened its doors, it needed a significant infusion of funds to get it up and running. They approached us again to run a campaign. As this was during Covid, we needed to come up with an idea that would galvanize the community within the parameters of social distancing – and, of course, while maintaining the inherent tzniyus of the topic.
We devised a campaign called “Don’t Break the Link.” There were several layers to this theme:
1. We created a stirring video, for women only, conveying the message that as Jewish women we are a link in the chain of our mesorah, passed from mother to daughter, and that the mitzvah of mikvah has preserved the Jewish home throughout the ages. 2. We used the video to create a digital brochure, which became the center of a fun, community-wide competition, along the lines of a chain letter: “Don’t Break the Link.” Women who received the brochure needed to watch it and then pass it on to a friend; the brochure that managed to pass through the most number of women earned prizes for the entire group. 3. According to the rules of the game, each woman had to call us to let us know when she’d passed on the brochure – giving us an opportunity to encourage her to donate.
We were aiming to attract a crowd of about 1,000 women to the Eishes Chayil art exhibit; over 2,000 women came. The exhibit made a huge buzz around the neighborhood and beyond; it was even written up in Mishpacha magazine.
The subsequent fundraising campaign wildly succeeded expectations as well. The fundraising goal was $1,000,000. We raised a whopping $1,800,000!
Following the Don’t Break the Link campaign, enough money was raised to enable to mikvah to open and operate.