The Jewish Federation of Ottawa has conducted an extensive survey of families with young children to determine levels of community engagement among these families.
Using information gleaned from the 2011 National Household Survey, Federation estimated there were about 600 families in Ottawa’s Jewish community with at least one child under age six and used a variety of methods to reach out to those families and ask them to participate in the survey – which was conducted in April by a third party, Measuring Success, a Washington, D.C. firm specializing in data analysis for non-profit organizations and foundations. Measuring Success has worked extensively with Jewish communities in Canada and the United States.
The cost of conducting the survey and engaging the services of Measuring Success was covered by donors.
Extensive efforts were made to identify families with young children and invite them to participate in the survey, which was conducted online.
Drawing on lists of families participating in PJ Library and other programs in the community for young children, as well as social media, e-blasts and personal contacts, Federation was able to identify 415 families in the Jewish community with young families. It also identified a number of “key connectors,” people in the community, parents with young children themselves, who were able to reach out to other families and encourage them to participate in the survey.
Among the key connectors was Stacy Goldstein, director of family and youth programming at Congregation Machzikei Hadas and a Federation Board member, and a parent with young children.
Goldstein said conducting the survey was important because the data will help Federation, congregations, schools and other organizations serving young families make better decisions on how to allocate resources and design programs.
Goldstein said she reached out to contacts among families with young children to invite them to participate in the survey and was impressed by the “incredible response rate,” noting that almost every family she contacted participated in the survey.
Daniel Chiat, vice-president of Measuring Success, noted the response rate of about 50 per cent of the families with young children in the community was almost unprecedented for surveys of this type; while Bram Bregman, Federation vice-president of community building, said the response rate “shows how much families want to connect with the community.”
Of the 415 families Federation was able to identify (of the estimated 600 in the community) there were 322 responses from 295 households (in some cases, each parent responded).
The survey revealed data in a variety of areas including perceptions on how welcoming the community and its various institutions are as well as on satisfaction rates for programs that are offered to young families and on how such factors as cost (and financial incentives), distance, class sizes, etc. may affect decisions on whether or not to participate in programs and whether or not families will recommend programs and institutions to others.
The survey also showed the distribution of young families by neighbourhood, religious denominational affiliation, family income, and the differing perceptions of respondents depending on such factors.
For the record, 28 per cent of families with young children identified as Conservative, 23 per cent as Orthodox, 13 per cent as Reform, eight per cent as secular, and seven per cent as other. Quite interestingly, another 23 per cent identified as “just Jewish.”
The survey also showed that families with young children in the community are spread out throughout the city and suburbs – a situation that is very different from generations ago when Ottawa’s Jewish community was concentrated in Lowertown and neighbouring Sandy Hill and virtually all Jewish institutions were within walking distance of home.
Reports on how the survey data affects each of Ottawa’s schools, congregations and agencies offering programs for young families is being shared confidentially with them so that each can make use of the data to better serve their constituencies. For example, a particular congregation will receive the specific data as it pertains to that congregation, but not the data for other congregations.