A UNITED HATZALAH ambucycle is seen with Jerusalem in the background.
(photo credit: SHIRA HERSHKOPF/UNITED HATZALAH)
On the surface, nonprofit crowdfunding seems like a merely a means to an end. Organizations need money so they go online and turn to the masses for help.
If you zoom out just a little bit, however, you’ll see a very different picture.
You’ll see communities right here in Israel taking control of their futures. They are envisioning a better tomorrow, articulating what change looks like, and explaining exactly what others can do to join the cause. Nonprofits are getting more serious and more proactive about their destinies.
They are marrying old-school, grassroots, fundraising techniques with a digital system that allows for transparency, reflexiveness and mass (but personal) communication.
Take Yissachar B’Oholecha, for example. With 1,785 learners, it is the largest kollel network in all of Israel.
Yet over the last 18 months, they experienced a dire financial crisis.
Donations declined. Their deficit soared. Debts accumulated. Before long, Yissacher B’Oholecha was unable to pay their kollel members, most of whom rely on stipends for daily sustenance.
They could have closed up shop.
They could have turned inward and washed their hands of the whole mess. They could have given up.
Instead, they rallied.
With the blessings of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the most recognizable rabbi in haredi (ultra-Orthodox) society, Yissacher B’Oholecha, raised more than 33 million shekels from 52,000 donors in one day to pay their kollel members what they owed. They used a combination of guerrilla fundraising, coordinated call centers across the country, and strategic messaging, each seemingly a separate method, but part of a systematic, coordinated crowdfunding effort.
The kollel fundraisers outlined the problem for donors. They demonstrated the clear and important impact that each donation makes. They made donors feel like heroes for saving the day, and donors responded in kind.
Another example: Hatzalah Beit Shemesh. A rapidly growing city, Beit Shemesh sits more than 35 minutes away from the closest hospital. Hatzalah Beit Shemesh is one of the most active EMT units in the country, which means that their ambulances need regular (and expensive) maintenance.
In less than 36 hours, more than 1,000 donors donated a million shekels to provide the most up-todate equipment and technology for ambulatory services. The organization turned their fundraising efforts into a celebration of the city. They turned it into a celebration of life.
Organizations like Yissacher B’Oholecha and Hatzalah Beit Shemesh are putting the joy back in charity.
They have demonstrated that donating isn’t an action we should perform solely out of obligation.
We should feel awesome about giving. We should feel pride knowing that we have changed the world, that we have put food on the plates of a family, or that we have provided medical services to victims of emergency.
These displays of unity, energy and activism have breathed new life into the third sector. They represent the very best of Israeli society, and they demand the attention of other communities searching for paths toward growth.
The organizations that succeed in crowdfunding recognize the possibilities. Done right, they mobilize a group of supporters; they ensure that donors feel ecstatic about their impact; and they inject more good in the world, all in one fell swoop.
The writer is social entrepreneur and digital philanthropy expert and the founder and CEO of CauseMatch, a leading crowdfunding platform for social causes.
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