Tzedakah Amazon.com Style

October 3, 2013
BY Eric Hal Schwartz

A new online platform makes giving tzedakah as easy as buying a book on Amazon.com. It’s called jgives.com.

“With the site they can give with just one click,” said jgives.com co-owner Jodi Samuels.

Samuels said she and partner Allen Ganz founded the platform to give people the opportunity to send aid to worthy causes, Jewish and otherwise, with the same ease and confidence as when they purchase other goods online. Users can go to the website, look through list of more than 40 charities associated with the company and give $9, $18 or $36 to whichever they prefer.

“Charities love this model,” Samuels said. “It helps them reach small donors they wouldn’t otherwise reach.”

The website grew out of jdeal.com, which Samuels and Ganz also co-founded. That website offers deals on Jewish-themed products and services, similar to Groupon or LivingSocial. It didn’t take long before the partners realized this model could apply to nonprofits, too.

Not all of the charities listed are specifically Jewish and any valid charitable group may get recommended and eventually put on the site.

“People want to do something to help,” Samuels said. “But they don’t want to have to spend time researching charities.”

Samuels said it is an unfortunate fact that scams and data-stealing operations masquerading as charities infest the Internet, making people legitimately suspicious of giving credit information to groups they don’t know, excluding smaller or limited causes from getting donors. But because jgives rigorously vets the charities they offer on their site, using personal references, public records and even in-person visits, users can feel comfortable donating without worrying they’ve been tricked.

“Consumers trust our brand,” Samuels said, adding that, much like how small brands can appeal directly to the masses via crowd-sourcing websites such as Kickstarter, charities that would otherwise never have a chance to reach many people can really get their message out.

“It has the feel of the crowd-source model but with the marketing side on steroids,” she said. “There’s definitely some level of cross-marketing between people who are looking for deals and people who are looking for charities to give to,” Samuels said.

The majority of users fall between the ages of 25 and 45, unsurprising considering the similar age groups that commonly use deal websites, but it should appeal to any demographic.

“We hope to reach all different age groups and regions,” Samuels said.

The website only launched alittle over a month ago, but there have already been large amounts of traffic coming in from the more than 85,000 people registered on jdeal, and not just in the United States.

“We actually have a lot of people in Israel using it,” Samuels said.

Samuels is confident that the benefits of using jgives as a portal for charitable giving will only draw more people to it, especially as the list of charitable destinations grow.

“It’s a win-win for charities and gift givers,” she said.

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