| Voice in the Crowd |

Give It All You’ve Got

Online, it’s different. There it can be dinner season all year long



Q: What’s the perfect month for an online tzedakah campaign?

A: Every month of the year, it turns out. All of them. Every day of every month except for maybe Tishah B’Av.

Back when we had actual dinners to raise funds for mosdos, there was conventional wisdom about timing. Sefirah seemed like an obvious choice, because there are no weddings then — but there is also no music, and then how can you generate emotion without a choir, without children singing school alma maters, and without “V’ezkeh liros banim u’vnei banim” playing as a soundtrack to the video?

Not only was Sefirah a problem, the Yom Tov seasons were off limits, too, due to the assumption that people are stretched thin then. Summer wasn’t nogeia either. So many mosdos chose to hold their events during this point in the calendar — the second half of winter, but not too close to Purim, because we don’t want the dinner to overlap with the Purim campaign, right?

But online, it’s different. There it can be dinner season all year long.

With the transition from sit-down dinners to digital campaigns, there is never a bad time, because no one has to leave their house to donate. Elul is heavy; mosdos capitalize on the fact that tzedakah is one of the big three, the stuff that can transform a harsh decree — and maybe this tzedakah is the one that can make the difference.

But I don’t think I have ever seen a month like December 2023 (donate before the end of the year to reap tax benefits, or whatever). The links came fast and furious, major organizations and minor organizations and local start-ups overlapping in the rush to raise more funds.

It makes sense. We are all a bit more conscious these days about the need to channel Divine rachamim, eager to dig deep and generate zechusim for our nation, so there is that.

Some of these campaigns struggled to connect themselves with the war effort in Eretz Yisrael, and maybe that was a bit of a copy-writing stretch — yes, your book-lending library is wonderful, and it’s nice that our little tzaddikim have kosher reading material on Shabbos afternoons, but you’re not really on the front lines of anything.

Jews are good and Jews are generous and after some good-natured kvetching, we agree to post and share the link, and we try to respond to the links sent our way. (Anything helps, no amount is too small, they assure us, knowing that once our name is there, basic self-respect and the need to make shidduchim for our children will remind us that there certainly are amounts too small.)

Secretly, I think there are some people who enjoy watching these campaigns evolve. I don’t think it’s the sort of addiction that will ever garner prime-time space at an Agudah convention session or a Mishpacha special feature, but let’s be honest: There’s a kav guy who can sit in his office and spend an entire afternoon watching a Charidy campaign progress.

There is suspense — will they reach their goal? There is intrigue — who is the secret matcher?

There are people so obsessed that they will follow a campaign for an organization that they never heard of, featuring raisers and donors they don’t know. (Every frum person, when given the choice between seeing the list of donors by latest donation, highest donation, or alphabetical order, will always choose “highest.” That is because the neshamah of a Yid instinctively seeks… nah, it’s because we want to know who can give a hundred-thousand-dollar donation, that’s the truth.)

A friend once confided in having a perverse joy in donating to the page of someone he does not know, then posting a breathless tribute to “an amazing person who drops everything to help.”

“I imagine them scratching their heads, bewildered about who wrote that about them, and why — and believe me, it’s worth the thirty-six bucks.”

We are six months to a year away from either a Shavuos night shiur or a full kuntres on the halachos of Charidy/Rayzeit campaigns. What happens if I plan to give, but then they reach their goal — am I still obligated? Is it fair to pay off an old donation today of all days, on the cheshbon of the matcher? (Spoiler alert. I don’t know, and I don’t know. Someone will do a shiur, though, so keep checking TorahAnytime.)

December 2023 cost Klal Yisrael several million dollars, it’s true.

You felt like you had to contribute to your neighbor — the one who is “really not the type to do this, and isn’t comfortable asking, but how can I say no to people who never say no” — and to your cousin from Chicago. (You also have a campaign coming and you’ll need a network.) With mechutanim, one doesn’t play games, and any organization based in Eretz Yisrael needs more friends now, not less.

The high school kids calling from the local yeshivah call center, given time off from math and science class and provided with pizza or poppers, are special: How can you disappoint a teenager whose self-confidence rides on your response? How can you ignore a voice in middle of changing when it asks if you can do a bit more, since the yeshivah is, like, really amazing? (And also, he’ll win a drone if he raises the most money.)

It might seem like, for the donor class, this new digital fundraising world is inconvenient: With live dinners, you could beg off because of geographical distance or prior commitments, but when all it takes is a click or a swipe, there are no more excuses.

But it is, in fact, very convenient. Aside from bringing extended families together and reuniting old friends and roommates, it’s the smartest way to show respect or appreciation. Forget the meat board or the expensive bottle; give $180 on someone’s page with a heartfelt message and they will appreciate it a lot more.

And now more than ever, we should embrace each link.

V’shaveha b’tzedakah. Our return home will be in the merit of tzedakah: The links and matchers, the messages and scrolling names and balloons on the screen when the goal is met — they are all opening doors, bringing us closer.

Now that we’ve established that, give me 30 seconds to tell you about a mosad close to my heart.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 994)

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