Beis Moshiach Magazine/By Dov Levy
Thousands of children filled the large shul at 770. It was the first day of Chanukah 5752 (December 1991) and the cause of the celebration was the fourth annual “Chanukah Live” satellite broadcast.
One of the Crown Heights boys sitting there when the Rebbe spoke to the children was five-year-old Yehuda Gurwitz. Little did he know that what the Rebbe said on that day would become his life’s mission.
The Rebbe spoke about the many good things that can be done with satellite technology, like electronically “transmitting” funds to the other end of the world for tzedakah.
The technologies developed since, and those children grew up. But the core has remained. Jews are using high-speed technology to give tzedakah, and some fellow Jews are actually helping them do it.
As a young bochur, Yehuda (32) shared two passions; Yehuda always had a strong passion for shlichus and for helping others, but Yehuda was also blessed with a business mind; the business world always appealed to him.
He constantly had an inner battle as to which road to take. “I wanted to make an impact in both fields,” says Gurwitz. “I wanted to be a part of the Rebbe’s holy work of transforming the world for the better but I also wanted to have a business of my own.”
And that’s how he became the founder and CEO of Charidy.com.
“Throughout my years in yeshiva, I got involved in quite a few fundraising campaigns. Over the time I realized that while every organization is run by people who care and are good at what they do – helping people, still, they may be at a loss when it comes to understand the fundamentals of fundraising.”
“That’s when I discovered my ‘dream career’. I found a way to create my own business, at the same time being part of the world of shlichus.”
“Once I had the concept in my mind, I set out to put together a team.” Charidy’s first recruit was Ari Schapiro, Gurwitz’s first cousin. Schapiro, a networking professional came on board to help out.
“I remember our first campaign,” he reminisces. “We managed to raise about four thousand dollars.”
Moishy Hecht, the CIO (chief innovation officer) joined Charidy soon after. His marketing expertise brought Charidy to the forefront of the fundraising world.
Slowly but surely, word got out there and the small team started doing larger campaigns. It was just a matter of time before they managed to launch a campaign that raised a quarter million dollars (!) just from the crowdfunding donations, excluding the donations of the three matchers.
Over two years ago Shay Chervinsky joined as COO (Chief Operations Officer) helping Charidy expand its global presence and bringing it to the next level.
Charidy is based on a belief that all people at their core want to do good. They just need a bit of motivation.
“Every Jew is like the earth,” the Baal Shem Tov teaches. “He is full of good midos like the earth is filled with precious gems and minerals.”
They just need to be mined out by professional geologist and Charidy developed a winning formula to mine the tzedakah the Jew wants to give.
Charidy built their platform based around this concept thus provided non-profits with a powerful tool to “extract” the funds that like-minded people would love to share with them.
So how do they do it?
These days, with technology moving faster than the speed of light, an organization or company trying to advertise has approximately one half of a second to capture the target’s attention before the he or she scrolls over to the next part of his life. It’s crucial to catch the potential donor in that tiny time-frame.
The key-word: thrill. Charidy works because it’s exciting. This excitement and thrill of the campaign engulfs anyone involved with the organization that’s running a campaign.
The Thrill That Trickles Down
It starts from the very top. From the shliach or a school-principal that heads the organization.
When talking with people who used Charidy for their fundraising campaigns, I discovered something amazing. They all tell me that “Charidy gave me the courage to ask for a donation!”
Typically, when strategizing for a campaign, a Charidy coach will get the leaders of the organization to take a step back and map out what the organization is really about; what are its goals and what its purpose is. This method helps the organization remember why it exists and why do its workers dedicate their lives to this cause. “True success has to start from within, only then can it reach outward,” Yehuda tells me.
Charidy will not take on a campaign if they do not believe in its success. Before taking on a project, Charidy does thorough research on the organization and helps you set a goal they believe can be reached.
Charidy, together with the organization’s heads, ask themselves three why’s:
Why is it they do what they do, why is it necessary, and why is that so-called necessity important.
Once the organization itself is sure about its purpose, it’s much easier to approach a potential donor. But first the organization must give its crowd something to believe in, and this can only happen when the leaders of the organization truly believe in their mission.
Seeing the excitement of the higher-ups rubs off the volunteers. It becomes their own personal mission to reach the fundraising goal set before the deadline. People who never took part of any of their organization’s fundraising efforts stay up into the wee hours of the morning, making phone calls to the other side of the world asking for donations. The feeling of unity and excitement that fills the room of volunteering callers is indescribable. You need to take part in one to understand. Every volunteer makes it his own business to succeed.
A Team With No Fans…
What attracts people to concert halls and sport stadiums for the better or the worse, is also the Charidy secret. People love being part of a great thing. Its human nature, and as Chassidus taches, it was put there to serve Hashem with.
But the human nature also likes to be recognized. At galas and dinners, we get to see wealthy people honored for their generosity. It’s a good thing, it’s a mitzvah in-fact to publicize people who do good things, so people can emulate their ways.
Rarely, however, does an ordinary person get to see his or her own name up on the screens. The Charidy platform makes every donor visible, the donor becomes a visible part of a larger picture. He’s not only a fan or spectator, he’s a valuable player on the team. Those who shy away from publicity still have the option to remain anonymous…
Donors also get to see their personal donation multiply; they see that their small contribution has a much larger effect.
Donors Become Volunteers
Thrill is contagious. Donors use Charidy’s user-friendly social buttons to share the campaign with their friends on social media platforms. What happens is that organizations that used Charidy started getting donations from people who have never donated to them before! You get donations from people who never had any interaction with the organization. That’s what happens when supporters become partners.
Just one example out of many. Charidy recently did a campaign for the Belz institutions in Yerushalayim. From the 8,000 donors the organization had on their list, Charidy multiplied that list by more than six times to over 50,000 donors, raising 25,000,000 NIS (about $7M) from the crowd alone!
More donors means more funds. Very often organizations using Charidy fundraise sums substantially beyond their planned goal. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the set goal! That’s because the donors become fundraisers themselves.
Throughout the campaign-day, people who may have nothing to do with the particular organization find interest in its success and are seen closely following the campaign trail. Waiting and anticipating the exciting moment when the goal is finally met. When the goal is reached, all take part in the joy. L’chaim is said amidst joyous wishes of Mazal Tov. Music and dancing also ensue.
It’s a big accomplishment, and all who took part deserve to rejoice.
How does an organization generate new donors, people who never had anything to do with the organization?
What the organization needs to do is to stand out from other organizations. The key to doing this is to share your story properly.
The story behind an organization is fundamentally important, because fundraising is getting people to commit their money. Storytelling is about getting people to commit. Stories have their own way into a person’s heart.
In order for a campaign to succeed, your pool of donors must fall in love with your story. A good story has the power to bring your vision and your mission to life. “But what’s important to remember as well,” says Yehuda, “is that you don’t fit your campaign into your story. Rather, your campaign is your story! The story you’re selling.”
When an organization portrays a properly done story about what they do, it shows the reader that the organization is doing something they are proud of. That prompts the reader, who is the potential donor, to take pride in it and to take part of it. Hearing a good story makes you want to be part of it, weather you personally are involved with the organization or not.
Doughnuts for Charidy…
Besides for the regular campaigns, Charidy constantly tries to raise its bar of achievements and progress forward. They’re latest initiative was launching a Charidy app. As soon as the app was released, Charidy managed to make a large buzz on social media. Anyone who downloaded the app were rewarded with a free doughnut from a kosher bakery in a city near him.
Once you download the app, it allows you to track the impact of your donation, so you can see what you are a part of. People like seeing their money being used well. The feature updates the donors on where the organization is holding and what their latest projects are. Every organization to ever run a Charidy campaign is now permanently on the app and donors can continue to support them at any given time.
The Three D’s
In the weeks leading up to the campaign, Charidy offers lots of different ways to assist in the success of your campaign. Besides for the online video seminars that they offer an organization, a Charidy coach is sent out to the organization three to six weeks prior to the campaign to help them create a strategy of success.
They walk the organization heads through the process.
It’s more than just a strategy. There is an exact method used to take you through it all. There is a process that every organization needs to go through in order to succeed. But most importantly Charidy teaches the organizations that in order to succeed, you need to commit.
Throughout our interview with Yehuda, we asked him to share one of the methods used to succeed in a campaign. Yehuda shared with us the three D’s, a method he uses in every campaign.
Data: Charidy gathers the information you provide to capture the spirit of the organization. In essence the groundwork for the next steps.
Development: Charidy works together with you to create a comprehensive theme and narrative for the campaign, it turns the data into a tellable story.
Delivery: Charidy builds out a strategy for the developed content to captivate your audience.
Launching a campaign to fundraise large sums of money is no game. As exciting and fun as it may sound, it takes lots of research. A talented team of experts begins working on the campaign weeks, and sometimes months, prior to its launch. A strategy is built, targets are designed and a campaign theme is created. Lots of thought and work is put into each and every campaign. It did not come easy for Charidy to hold a 99% success rate.
Nations Shall Go By Your Light…
Charidy’s high success rate brought them some major opportunities beyond the Jewish world.
Vision Australia is a non-profit for the blind. It holds the largest annual fundraisers in Australia. For the past few years, they too have been using Charidy for their campaigns. Even they, with thousands and thousands of regular donors, were able to reach so much more new donors with the help of Charidy.
Just recently, Charidy partnered with the UN to create a campaign to support anti-human trafficking efforts.
What started as a small platform to help shluchim pay their monthly bills, now became a huge success story helping organizations around the world meet their necessary funds.
While accompanying Yehuda to one of his campaigns, I turned to Yehuda and asked him what his true secret to success is.
Yehuda smiled, “The Secret of our success rate is that we know what it takes to succeed in a campaign. We study each and every organization, we know that if you would like to raise a million dollars, you have to do X Y and Z and with siyata di’Shmaya you will be successful.”
“I often compare it to a diet. There are exact things needed to be done and if you do them properly you are bound to succeed. It’s not just a campaign, there is an exact strategy used to reach the goal set.”
“But most importantly,” he says, “beyond any strategy nothing moves forward without the Rebbe’s constant blessings and siyata di’Shmaya.”
Yehuda has this last message to share.
“We worked in the past with many organizations around the world, it helped us gain lots and lots of experience needed. But through all our campaigns, the shluchim stand out most. Shluchim are committed to succeeding. Nobody has the devotion and dedication that the Rebbe’s shluchim have. Nobody has the desire, as well as the willpower that the Rebbe blesses the shluchim with. And that is what really gives us our high success rate.”
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