Interview with Dr. Jonathan Donath of Daily Giving
“Giving affects not only the one you give to, but also you, the giver. Therefore, it’s not only important how much you give, but how often. Each act of giving uplifts and purifies you a little more.”
~ R’ Tzvi Freeman
This quote hit my inbox on November 14 as part of the Emunah Daily inspirational message. As I continued to read, I learned of an organization called Daily Giving. For just one dollar a day, I could fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah every single day no matter what. Each day my dollar would be contributed to a different charity. Inspired by this thought, I signed up.
The very next day, an email arrived in my inbox: “Thank you for your donation! Your dollar has been part of $772 that has been given to Melabev.” Since then I receive an email each morning informing me of the daily recipient organization, as well as the total amount raised. I love watching the dollar amount rise; as I write this article, the number has reached over $1000! This means that over 1000 people have signed up to give $1 a day – and the number continues to grow.
A New Kind of Crowdfunding
There is something so genuine about Daily Giving. As soon as I signed up, I received an email from Dr. Jonathan Donath, thanking me for partnering as a donor and encouraging me to spread the word. I was ready to write off the email as just another automated response, but then I took a closer look. His response was sincere, enthusiastic and not at all generic. I knew I had to reach out to the powerhouse behind the organization.
This week my ambition became reality as I spoke on the phone with Dr. Donath. First things first, I had to get some background information. Who is Dr. Jonathan Donath and how did his organization begin? Dr. Donath is a chiropractor by trade, who was simply looking to do a good deed. One evening, he was listening to a shiur about the importance of doing seemingly small mitzvos. Shortly after, he went to Maariv and put a dollar in the tzedakah box. “I thought to myself, no matter how much tTzedakah I give, I still get a mitzvah for this $1,” recalls Dr. Donath. “How can I guarantee that I do the mitzvah of tTzedakah every single day?” He searched online but couldn’t find an organization to automate daily giving. “I remember that in nursery and kindergarten we had to bring a coin for tTzedakah every day,” Dr. Donath says. “Why did that habit stop when we grew older?”
Dr. Donath’s idea was simple: create an automated platform where people could sign up to do the mitzvah of tzedakah every day. “It’s crowdfunding,” he explainssays, “but the money is given to a different vetted Jewish organization each day.”
It took several months to build the Daily Giving platform and to become an official 501c3. Dr. Donath also created a rabbinical advisory board. Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg, Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, and Rabbi Herschel Schachter stand behind the organization, approving the charities that receive funds and consulting with Dr. Donath about decisions as they arise. In January 2019 DailyGiving.org officially launched , when it became a 501c(3), bringing about endless opportunities to enrich the lives of others.
How it Works
36 organizations were on the original recipient list; today there are 42. To make it on to that list, each organization must be a Jewish nonprofit and have national reach. Although Dr. Donath says he is “bombarded” by requests from organizations wishing to be on the recipient roster, he says he he and his board plans to keep things small, so that the impact of donations is more strongly felt by the receiver. Each organization receives a donation approximately eight times a year, proving to be more impactful than a yearly contribution. Recent donations have been given to a range of organizations, spanning from kiruv programs such as Partners in Torah and Aish to medical assistance like Magen David Adom, United Hatzalahn and Yad Sarah to special needs organizations like Camp HASC, Yachad, Shalva, and Ohel. In just one year, Daily Giving has raised over $800500,000 – a remarkable feat considering that the organization has a PR budget of zero. Daily Giving is run by all volunteers and no one gets paid. All the money raised goes to the tTzedakah organizations.
Soorganizations. So how exactly does Daily Giving work? Donors sign up to give as little as $1 a day, and decide whether they want their recurring contribution to be charged once a month or once a year. (The transaction fee would be too high to charge daily.) Daily Giving is their sShaliach. Each day donors receive an email, telling them which of the 42 participating charities received the Daily Giving donation that day, and how much was donated. As the number of donors grows, the amount of each daily donation grows—even though each person’s donation amount remains the same.
Donors have the option of signing up to donate a dollar (or more, if they choose) a day via a monthly charge of $30 plus $1.20 in processing fees, or a yearly charge of $365 plus processing fees. A one-time charge is done to avoid processing fees being tacked onto each day. The money donated is allocated daily in $1 denominations. Statistics are also neatly organized on a calendar on the Daily Giving website, depicting how many people have signed up and where their money is going. And of course, there is the daily email sent to all donors, letting them know where their dollar has gone. “It’s the most transparent charity you’ve ever seen,” says Dr. Donath.
80 to 90 percent of donors have signed up to give a dollar a day, but some have signed to give more -more – and some have signed up their children. “When you give a large check to charity, you won’t necessarily tell your kids about it,” Dr. Donath explains, “but when you sign them up for Daily Giving, they get can receive those emails letting them know that they’ve helped people others every day. They see it and get excited about it. It’s a wonderful way to learn about the power of tzedakah.” The Donath children, ages 10 and 12, have been signed up and according to their father, those emails make them very excited. A week before we spoke, another father signed up his four children.
Even for adults, it’s thrilling to see those dollars adding up. The CEO of a large corporation who gets thousands of emails a day told Dr. Donath that the Daily Giving email is the highlight of his day. Dr. Donath visited his hometown in Minnesota for Pesach and spoke in shul to let the community know what he’d started. A woman was in town for her mother’s yahrtzeit, and she signed up on the spot liluy nishmas her mother. “Others have signed up for someone in a coma, so that person could perform a mitzvah in some way,” says Dr. Donath. “There are so many ways you can sign up as a zechus and be inspired.”
But giving to others can be hard. By giving daily, we are training ourselves to change that part of our nature. The Rambam famously wrote that it is greater to give $1 to 100 people than it is to give $100 to 1 person for that very reason. It is the repeated act of giving that increases the giving nature within oneself. “Even though this is done as a once a month or once a year sign up, it still qualifies!” quips Dr. Donath. “Especially with those daily emails.” (I don’t love this paragraph. I think people may disagree with my quote that it qualifies for what the Rambam says and it may hurt the chances they sign up. Up to you. I like the Rambam quote just not my quote.
Born to Give
Dr. Donath admits that Daily Giving takes up a fair amount of his time, which is no small feat for a chiropractor with a busy practice. On the upside, he says that his staff is on board and involved with Daily Giving. Between social media and lots of human involvement the ball stays rolling. Dr. Donath still repliesstill replies with a personal email each time someone signs up. Although that takes time, it creates a connection and makes the organization feelfeel genuine personal. I can certainly attest to that, as that first email was the impetus behind this interview! “A lot of things around here that people would assume are automated are not,” Dr. Donath says. “But we do have a lot offew incredible volunteers who make things happen.”
With no advertising budget, how does word of Daily Giving get noticedaround? Dr. Donath visits places such as Camp HASC and the AIPAC convention to speak of his work. He also meets and speaks with Rabbanim who post speak on Torah Anytime and mention his organizationDailyGiving.org. “Every time Rabbi Paysach Krohn mentions us, we get about 30 new donors,” says Dr. Donath,. chuckling. “This past Friday, we Rabbi Yehoshua Zitron were mentioned us on Torah Anytime and people signed up from the Philippines, Mexico, Italy, Orlando, Baltimore – it was incredible to see.”
There are a few local papers in Brooklyn and Lakewood Teaneck that print the Daily Giving stats each week, and some of the organization’s charity partners send out email blasts with sign up information.
“Why wouldn’t someone want to do a mitzvah for a buck a day?” asks Dr. Donath. “People waste so much money. This seemingly trivial amount can actually make a difference. Your dollar can be powerful! That’s really the power of community: one dollar plus one dollar plus one dollar…it adds up very quickly and makes an impact.”
If just one percent of all Jews gave one dollar a day, that would amount to over $52 million dollars a year. Dr. Donath began his organization with the goal of reaching $1000 a day by its first anniversary. That goal was reached at the last moment, with the 1st $1000 milestone reached on January 3rd, just 2 days after the Siyum Hashas. I saw a glimpse of Daily Giving at the Siyum Hashas, when a young man stopped my family on our way in, handed us flyers, and encouraged us to sign up. The awareness brought about by the Siyum definitely made an impact., and helped Daily Giving reach its goal just in the nick of time.
By January 2021, Dr. Donath hopes to reach $2500. “We will get to the point where we will give $10,000 a day,” he says. “Maybe in a year, maybe in five years, but I know we will get there – and hopefully surpass it. It’s just a matter of time.”
Seeing the calendarcalendar on the Daily Giving websitecalendar crystallizes that idea as it showcases all the numbers in one spot.
Daily Giving was a finalist featured at the OU Impact Accelerator pitch night, an initiative which grants $25,000 to new Jewish nonprofits that use technology to further Jewish causes. Dr. Donath presented his work to a group of OU executives as well as 80 teens from NCSY Jump. Daily Giving won the People’s Choice award over the other eight grant finalists other nonprofits which were presented that daynight. . The OU Impact Accelerator will be announcing the grant winners in the near futureany day..
“Daily Giving takes a lot of work,” admits Dr. Donath, “more than I had anticipated, . Ibut it’s absolutely worth it. I love it, and it feels amazing to see t hethe tremendous amount of tzedakah being given. ! I used to feel like getting people out of pain was my tTafkid, but now I know feel like this is why I was brought here – to do this workwhat I was born to do.”
To learn more about Daily Giving and to join, please go to DailyGiving.org