In response to the community need for quality, non biased education relative to the issues one faces either when preparing to retire, is already in retirement or is caring for an aging and/or ill family member, Temple Beth Ami decided to put together a day long multi faceted educational Expo to address these issues. We opened the program to the entire community and did not charge for admission to the program. W.H.A.R.F.F. stands for Wellness, Health, Aging, Retirement and Financial Freedom. This program was quite unique in our area. Most other programs that we have seen and visited at other synagogues were smaller in scope and typically were “health” fairs with a few speakers and a small exhibit area.
Since we all learn differently, we used several modalities to educate our attendees. We ran classes in several different tracks including:
- traditional medicine,
- integrative medicine,
- resources and housing options for the aging senior,
- financial/legal issues and
- retirement lifestyles.
Our goal was to empower our attendees to take control of their retirement and make it a productive, secure and proactive time in their lives. The general theme was “Retirement is Not a Rocking Chair.”
We held 25 classes in the above tracks in the religious school classrooms. Each class was 30 minutes long with a 15 minute question and answer period, followed by a 15 minute period to change instructors. Attendees could either stay in one room and follow a track or pick and choose from among the tracks. Our speakers were experts in their respective fields and came either from the congregation or the community at-large. Classes were educational and not sales oriented. Each speaker was encouraged to buy a table in our exhibit area or place an ad in our program guide if they wanted to sell their services.
We set up our Social Hall as an exhibit hall with 45 exhibitors. We placed them by track and color coded the schedule, classrooms and tables to make it easy for our guests to find services they might be interested in. We had large corporations (i.e., Marriott, Charles E. Smith communities etc.,) exhibiting along with smaller businesses and non-profits serving the community. Everyone paid the same amount for their 6 ft x 7ft booth and got a discount if they purchased both a booth and an ad in our program guide. We set up each booth using rented poles and drapes, tables, chairs etc. The pole and drape arrived at 5am the day of the expo, it set up quickly and the company came back at 4:30 that same day to tear down the exhibit hall.
We had six health screening clinics set up in smaller rooms around the synagogue. These included oral cancer screening, glaucoma testing, podiatry, chiropractic, dermatology, blood pressure checks and offered flu shots for sale (the cost for the flu shots were the only charges unless attendees wished to purchase lunch). Physicians were not charged but it did give them an opportunity to introduce their services to individuals.
We set up our smaller chapel area for practitioners of the healing arts. We took out the chairs and set the room up in a sundial pattern. We fed in new age music, dimmed the lights and had massage therapists, reiki, essential oils, etc and gave attendees a chance to register for 20 minute free sessions to sample these services. Practitioners put out their literature in a quiet reception area we set up outside the chapel.
In addition, we ran a silent auction with various products and services related to the topics addressed. Donors of items over $75 got a free ¼ page ad in our program guide.
We sold raffle tickets both for the three months prior to the event and on the day of the event. Our first cash prize was $5,000 with a second prize of $1,000, a third prize of $500 and a fourth prize of $100. We charged $50 a ticket. We promised an in-development local free medical clinic 5% (with a maximum of $5,000) of the profits from the raffle sales.
We marketed this event heavily to our congregation and the general community. We were interviewed on network TV and local cable. In addition, we used the local papers and provided 15,000 flyers to be distributed within the zip code that is closest to the synagogue. We also had a half page ad in the local paper. We sent mailers out to our congregation, put it in our weekly listserv and had a website developed for us with a hot link from our website. We also had a hot link from the network TV station website to our site. Several of us who have private practices marketed it to our clients and patients. We had a pre-article in our local Jewish paper and a post article in our local paper.
Approximately 500 people attended the event and all the feedback indicated excitement and positive regard for the event. We are holding our second W.H.A.R.F.F Expo on November 1, 2009!
RESOURCES: Video highlights/advertisement; complete summary, including lessons learned; sample presenter packet; sample exhibitor packet; sample budget; detailed timeline; track and session listing; promotional pieces; Expo program