We recently chatted with Aviva Tilles, Director of Summer Programs at USY (United Synagogue Youth) in New York. Aviva works year round on USY’s two big summer programs, their North American Wheels program and their Europe and Israel pilgrimages. USY also puts on an annual convention as well as leadership programs in addition to their regional programming.
At first, they were in need of an online program registration software and event registration software that allowed them to register their participants for their summer programs and larger yearly events. They had a straightforward paper application that needed to translate itself effectively into an online format. As with most companies we work with, USY began using more and more aspects of the Regpack system in order to fit their needs. That’s the beauty of Regpack, it is so flexible that your needs are always met, and if they are not… you tell us about it and we make it happen!
Check out our interview with Aviva below!
What is USY and what specifically is your role at the organization?
USY stands for United Synagogue Youth. We are the Middle School and High School age youth movement for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
I’m the Director of USY Summer Programs. While we run year round programming, we also run 2 major summer programs. There are multiple programs that fall under those two umbrellas. One is North American based and one is Europe and Israel based. So it is my job to oversee itineraries, registration and recruitment, and the personnel for all these programs during the summer. Additionally, I also oversee the registration for our very large, 1,000 person Convention that’s held every December in different North American cities.
What are some examples of the programs you offer USY members during the summer?
Our North American based programs, called USY on Wheels. The program is a 4, 5.5 or 6.5 week trip where our participants travel on a bus that travels around the country. Our 4 week trip goes up and down the East Coast, our 5.5 week program just goes out to the West Coast, and our 6.5 week program goes New York to Los Angeles and back to New York. Participants see the sites, both Jewish and North American, they sleep in hotels or in peoples homes and congregations throughout North America.
Our Israel and Europe program with USY is our pilgrimage, which is anywhere from 4-6 weeks. At least 4 weeks in Israel touring, and some of our groups spend time in Poland, Germany, Czech Republic or Italy before they get to Israel.
How did you get started working with Regpack?
Asaf (CEO of Regpack) came to our office since he was visiting a client in the area that told him he has to help us out. At the time we were looking to move to full online registration for our programs, which we had never done before with our Summer Programs. I began working with Asaf and our Project Manager at Regpack to create our online application. Our online application has 15 steps. The application includes everything from general information to references to health history, really anything you think we’d ever need to know about a child is in this system. So the system was created so that we could then have all the information at our fingertips.
This transition was especially helpful because while I’m based in New York, we have a fully functioning office in Jerusalem for our Israel programs as well as group leaders on the road for our USY on Wheels program. Having the online database means that we are able to send the information on the road with our group leaders or across the ocean to Israel, and everyone has access to participant information wherever they are. In the case of our group leaders on the road, it allowed them to have access to all their kids information without our New York office having to prepare and send them these heavy binders full of paperwork.
The online system also became an email tool for us as well, and a tool to create reports for our staff. All the information we would ever think we needed is now in one place, whereas in the past, it used to be in five different places.
How did you transition your old paper application system into Regpack’s program registration software? Was it difficult to translate what worked on paper into something that functioned just as well, or better, online?
We sent our paper application over to our Project Manager at Regpack and we adapted the paper application so that it flowed a bit better online. One of the reasons why Regpack is great for us is because these same teenagers registering for a summer program are the ones that participated in our programming during the year, and they participate summer after summer. Many of them who go on our North American trip will then go on our Israel and Europe trip within 2 years. One of the things the parents would always say is, why am I filling this out again for you? The name, address and birthdate haven’t changed, so why am I doing this again? So Regpack’s system gives them that ability to say okay, this is the information I need to update but they don’t have to start from scratch.
Additionally, we now started to use the program for both our annual large Convention and even our smaller leadership programs. So now parents are using the system several times a year, and we’re really happy Regpack makes this easier for us.
Participants in Jerusalem, USY Summer Israel Program
When you first started working with Regpack, you weren’t using every aspect that the system has to offer until now. Do you feel like you were able to grow organically with the system based on your needs as they arose?
Once we started using Regpack and I would realize we needed a certain function that we didn’t currently have, I was able to go straight to the programmers at Regpack and say, I need this sort of thing. More often than not, the response I would get was “oh yes, that function is coming soon in the next rollout”. We knew we were coming in during the testing level and I feel like one of the great things about that was that any time I said, I have a question or how do I do this, if there wasn’t already an answer, the answer was “let’s work on that” and within a month or 6 weeks, what I needed would be ready and usable. So that was one of the great things about it, it wasn’t just us growing organically, but it was a real partnership, that the system was being created to help with what we needed, and that was greatly appreciated.
What has the response been from parents now that you are using Regpack?
It certainly got better! As with any new thing, it’s a little scary. And many of these parents have had their children go through our process either this child or a sibling, so a couple of them it took some time to get used to it but certainly 4-5 months in we were only getting positive responses back from all users, whether it be the parents side or the administrative side, that the system was exactly what we were looking for.
So the response from USY staff who are also using the system has also been positive?
Everyone has enjoyed using the system. Whether it be the group leaders on the road, the secretaries in the office or me, we’ve all been very happy with it. We do feel like it’s made our work life much easier.
Since you’ve now used a paper system and Regpack’s registration software, would you say the online system saves you time?
It certainly has made things easier. Whether it’s reduced the workload, I think is yet to fully be seen because I think we are still dealing with the transition to the online system with our users. So I don’t know if it necessarily helped that work load but it certainly helps in that all of our information is in one place. We no longer have to combine information from several different places in order to create reports and that has certainly been a helpful step.
And I believe yes, it’s made my life easier and for those following in my footsteps, it will make their lives easier as well. Also the fact that I can be on the other side of the country and still be able to work effectively with USY staff in other locations is great as well.
Would you recommend Regpack to others? Anything you’d like to add?
I would. We were given a contact from an organization similar to ours and they gave us recommendations that led to us working with Regpack. I would certainly be willing to give anyone a recommendation to use Regpack.
I’d like to add that I do think that Regpack’s customer service is just great!
Thanks Aviva! We love hearing that our registration solution helps organizations who are doing such great work! That’s why we wake up in the morning! If your’e interested in learning more about Regpack, check us out or be in touch!