With custom subscription services for food, spirits, beauty products, and even eco-friendly toilet paper on the rise, how would a collaborative philanthropic subscription service fare? Amy Schilit Benarroch put that question to the test with a dollar-a-day virtual giving subscription called Righteous Crowd. Now, with over 250 members, Righteous Crowd donates about $2,000 every week.
Amplifier team member Arielle Brender sat down with Amy to learn how she created a successful online giving community.
Q: Hi Amy! Thank you so much for joining me today to discuss your unique and successful project. I have to say, when I came across your recent article in eJewish Philanthropy, I was so excited to see you sharing Righteous Crowd. What you’ve created is pretty amazing. For those who aren’t familiar with your work, how would you describe Righteous Crowd?
A: Righteous Crowd is a crowd-giving platform that enables people to give a small amount of money; the default amount is $1 a day. By doing so, they join a community of givers who are able to amplify their individual impact. Each week, their donation goes to a different nonprofit with an annual budget of under $5 million that serves vulnerable populations. The nonprofits are chosen in connection with the Jewish calendar. So, for example, we might give to an organization that supports refugees around Passover, or an organization that does home repairs during Sukkot. Members receive some Jewish learning as well as an easy way to give and discover new organizations.
Righteous Crowd members can suggest organizations on our website or by email. We also source many recipients through Jewish funding organizations like Amplifier, Slingshot, Natan, Upstart, Good People Fund, Federations, Jewish Womens’ Foundations. Small donations add up and each week, we’re able to give over $1,800.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Righteous Crowd?
A: The idea was definitely my brother Jonathan’s. Five years ago, he sent my family and I an email about Dollar-a-Day, which was an organization started by one of the founders of Kickstarter. Dollar-a-Day sent out an email each day about a different organization. He asked: “is anyone doing this in the Jewish world?”
I think the real thing that finally made us do it, or got me more on board, was that, after I had my daughter, I didn’t go back to work for a while, but I just couldn’t stop being a Jewish educator. The idea of “how do we make this Jewish?” kept coming back to me. Eventually, it kind of clicked that this would be a really cool way to teach about the Jewish calender, Torah portions, and Jewish values.
I leveraged many existing resources in the Jewish world. I reached out to Amplifier, and you put me in touch with some people who did online giving. I also joined the Giving Circle Incubator. Around that time, I went to a pop up giving circle with the UJA Federation of New York in Brooklyn, where Amplifier’s pop up resources were used. Seeing all the questions Amplifier asks, such as “Should I give locally or globally? To Jewish or secular causes? What kind of organizations?,” I remember thinking “I want to give to so many causes- How do I do that?” I didn’t have the bandwidth to give intentionally to every organization I wanted to on my own, so I recruited over 250 friends and my family to do it with me. Moishe House came on board as our fiscal sponsor, allowing us to make sure that 100% of donations go to the organizations.
Q: What would you say is the most meaningful part of this work?
A: It’s really meaningful when our members or people to whom we donate share stories about how we’re inspiring them to think about how to give back. We found out that a Hebrew school used our organizations as options of where to give $1000 they raised. A member in California read one of our emails about an organization that gives essentials to new mothers, so she decided to host a diaper collection at her baby shower.
And it’s not just the members- recipients have also expressed that it really impacts them to know that it wasn’t just one person giving the money, and that they were chosen for a reason.
Through this project, my own views on philanthropy have also entirely changed. I used to give to a maximum of five organizations a year. It was very personal and I didn’t talk about it very much. I only thought about it at the end of the year when I’d send some checks. Now I think about a different cause that we’ll give to every week. It’s an engrained, weekly practice that’s connected to Judaism and this larger Righteous Crowd community.
Q: What do you hope to see in the greater philanthropic world at large? Where do you see need and how do you hope to see those needs filled? How can philanthropy do better?
A: It would be cool to see our model replicated in a smaller community, for hyper-local organizations or environmental justice organizations. I want to see our online, communal giving model reiterated.
I’d also like to see philanthropy at large become more accessible, That’s part of the reason we started Righteous Crowd. When I was doing research for the project, I found really cool ways that people give, such as apps, which help young people get into the habit of giving. I feel like I’m seeing more entry points for donors who give smaller amounts, which, to me, should be the goal.
Feeling inspired by Amy and Righteous Crowd to create or join a collaborative giving project? Reach out to Amplifier for coaching, trainings, and resources