Getting the ‘tzedaka’ flowing

Israeli startup JGive wants to streamline charitable donations.

'All the charities and all the donors can meet,’ says JGive Founder and CEO Ori Ben-Shlomo (photo credit: ALON TENENBOIM)
'All the charities and all the donors can meet,’ says JGive Founder and CEO Ori Ben-Shlomo
(photo credit: ALON TENENBOIM)
When the World Giving Index, an organization that measures the levels of charitable giving in various countries, came out last year, Israel found itself in an unenviable position.
The Jewish state was ranked 75th out of 130 countries in the survey, falling behind Iran (32), Saudi Arabia (47), and Iraq (38). Not such a prime spot for the light unto the nations.
However, a Jerusalem start-up wants to change all of that.
“People want to give in Israel. They go to the army and give three years because they want to give something back,” says Ori Ben-Shlomo, the CEO of a non-profit start-up called JGive, whose mission to get the tzedaka flowing again.
JGive is an online platform where, in Ben-Shlomo’s words, “all the charities and all the donors can meet.”
JGive currently has 300 charities to which people can donate on its website. For Israelis, all of the charities are tax deductible. “It’s not just that you can get money back from the government, it’s also that someone checked and double-checked it,” he says, emphasizing the credibility of the charities on JGive’s site.
Ben-Shlomo, who lives in Jerusalem, first got the idea for JGive when he wanted to donate some of the money he and his wife were given for their wedding.
Yet he saw that there really wasn’t one platform where you could compare organizations and see how they would be using his donation. After this experience he spoke to a close friend about his experience and they decided that they would build a platform themselves that would provide as much information to donors as possible. To make the donation experience much more transparent, they also wanted to create a single website where donors could monitor their donation history, receive receipts for tax deductions and be a “one-stop shop” for everything related to charitable giving.
Ben-Shlomo predicts that JGive will predominantly help out the small and local charities in Israel. A small charity in Givat Shmuel, Ben-Shlomo says, doesn’t have the resources to create a website and seek funding on an online platform. JGive has the solution – all they need to do is sign up and they’ll be able to receive donations online, a resource they didn’t have previously. Ben-Shlomo recounts the story of a volunteer who was working for a small charity with a telephone and an old-fashioned credit card reading machine. Now, the charity is on JGive and it can send out links to donors who are able to quickly and efficiently process payment online.
Big charities are aided by JGive too: Well-known charities have reported that they’ve received more donations since partnering with JGive.
Ben-Shlomo thinks that though Israelis are generous people, their innate generosity doesn’t necessarily translate into charitable giving because charities have a negative image in Israel and people are skeptical about donating to them. “Most of the charities are doing good and working hard, but a few bad apples spoil the bunch.”
To combat this, JGive offers a solution to ensure the trust of donors.
In charitable giving, “a lot of the money goes to raise money,” Ben-Shlomo says. In fact, telemarketers in Israel take anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of a donation as a commission. “We want a safe place for donors to give to charities… We do that with a transparency index,” an online tool that shows how much of each shekel is going to the cause that the charity supports and how much has to go to the overhead.
A unique feature of JGive is that donors can share on social media their donation portfolio, which shows what percentage of their total donations goes to what causes, but without showing the actual shekel amount that they donate.
“From our point of view, the amount is not the matter. We want people to just donate – it’s not a matter of how much, to where… We want people to do the activity of donating to somewhere,” Ben-Shlomo says. He hopes that by sharing the donation portfolios, they will encourage their friends to donate as well.
JGive is also targeting Diaspora communities, saying that a Jew in Chicago, for instance, wants to see as much of their donation going to a lone soldier as possible.
As a result, they’re currently working on getting donations from abroad certified as tax deductible too.
Whatever your political leanings, whatever your interest, you will be able to find worthy organizations on JGive, which doesn’t filter out any of the charities that apply – both right- and left-wing charities are included. “We don’t have any agenda,” Ben-Shlomo says. “We just want people to donate.”
When asked if he thinks that the advent of JGive will result in a better ranking for Israel in the World Giving Index for next year, Ben-Shlomo emphasizes that they are in it for the long haul and want to change the culture of giving in Israel before concentrating on the numbers in the index.
“Like any change, change starts from education. We want to work very hard with young people.”
He floats the idea of giving away JGift gift cards to bar- and bat-mitzva age Israelis to teach them how to donate and choose causes close to their hearts.
With the younger generation, they seem to be making headway. The donors that are backing JGive are young people, Ben-Shlomo says.
“Their dream is to invest a million dollars that will… [make] the crowd bring a hundred million dollars to charity.”