Carly Rothenberg Friedman, founder of MyTzedakah
World Mizrachi and MyTzedakah Fund Revolutionize Next-Generation Giving
An Interview with Carly Rothenberg Friedman
As yeshivah and seminary students near the end of their year of Torah study in Israel, World Mizrachi and MyTzedakah Fund are partnering to help them develop their own personalized tzedakah portfolio. Rabbi Elie Mischel spoke with MyTzedakah’s founder, Carly Rothenberg Friedman, to learn more.
Tell us a little about your Aliyah story and why you launched MyTzedakah Fund.
Since I studied at Midreshet Harova in 2007, Aliyah has been the driving force of my life. On my first date with Marc, my future husband, I told him: “I am making Aliyah in five years so if that is not on the cards for you, there won’t be a second date.” Five years after our wedding, together with our 10-month-old daughter, Noa, we were on a plane to Israel. Now, five years into our life as Israelis, we haven’t looked back. We feel like our souls were meant to be here, and that only in Israel can we become who we are meant to be.
The year we made Aliyah I invested in my startup, MyTzedakah Fund. Building a tech platform and an entire company geared towards revolutionizing the way the next generation of Jewish philanthropists give to tzedakah was only possible because I am living in the startup nation, filled with tech superstars who are also passionate about tzedakah and philanthropy. Being a woman in the tech space, and especially the Jewish nonprofit tech space, has its unique challenges. But I truly believe that because I am in Israel, I have been granted seats at tables with both tech giants and Torah giants, without hesitancy. Being in this forward-thinking environment has accelerated my growth as a female tech entrepreneur and founder.
How does MyTzedakah work? What is unique about your organization?
MyTzedakah is the tech solution empowering the next generation of Jewish philanthropists to give tzedakah in a way that’s most impactful, intentional and meaningful to them. Donors are able to build their own customizable giving portfolio, filled with the causes that they want to support and invest in. They then choose an amount they want to donate every month, and we automate their giving for them, so their tzedakah can be donated in a way that’s most sustainable and impactful for the Jewish world – through monthly recurring revenue. I built this platform with my own personal needs in mind; as much as I valued giving tzedakah, I realized I was donating the majority of my ma’aser funds to fundraising campaigns when my friends ran for marathons and posted them on Facebook. But that form of giving didn’t feel meaningful or personal to me. It felt more like supporting a friend, rather than building a charitable legacy that represents my passions and beliefs. I think that a lot of people my age end up donating the majority of their tzedakah like this – in response to urgency or pressure, without intention and meaning.
I built MyTzedakah to solve this issue by bridging the gap between millennial donors and the amazing Jewish nonprofits that need our ambassadorship. Our goal is to encourage deeper connections between nonprofits and givers through technology and customization. Nonprofits don’t have a lot of resources to focus on micro-donations and micro-givers from younger givers, but the reality is that millennials and Gen Z are the future of the Jewish community. It’s time for Jewish nonprofits to communicate effectively with this generation.
The younger generation expects more from their technology – speed, ease of use and automation – and the right online tool can meet those needs and make giving easy. We don’t have a lot of time, we don’t want to whip out our credit cards over and over again, we don’t have checkbooks, we’re not going to galas or parlor meetings, and so we’re hard to reach. And even the most well-intentioned person simply forgets to give. That’s why we built MyTzedakah – to ensure the future of charitable giving.
You are currently working together with World Mizrachi to give gap-year yeshivah and seminary students the experience of creating their own tzedakah portfolios. Why is this an important project for you?
My own personal MyTzedakah portfolio contains 9 nonprofits that I support monthly. I chose these from over 100 amazing nonprofits on our platform because they represent my ideological beliefs and my charitable legacy. But I really wanted to add my seminary, Midreshet Harova, to my portfolio. When I spoke to Harova about joining our platform, they urged me to talk to World Mizrachi, who are dedicated to providing valuable tools to the yeshivah and seminary gap-year programs. It was a fantastic idea. World Mizrachi and MyTzedakah worked together to build a “co-branded” tool to help each yeshivah and seminary inspire their students to think meaningfully and critically about how they can give back to the Jewish community. With this tool, each student can build their own MyTzedakah portfolio and fill them with the Jewish causes they love before they leave Israel at the end of the year.
Studies show that if children are not taught to give charity at a young age, they are very unlikely to give when they’re older. Because of this amazing tool, students will be able to actualize the Torah education they received throughout this past year in a concrete and tangible way. With this partnership, World Mizrachi and the yeshivot and seminaries will help create thousands of future givers who will prioritize impactful and intentional giving.
What is next for MyTzedakah?
MyTzedakah is committed to creating a revolution in giving for next-gen donors. Our next push will be partnering with major Jewish institutions like yeshivah day schools and shuls to help them transform the giving experience for their younger donors. By providing the right technology, MyTzedakah will enable young donors to have a frictionless, transparent and meaningful experience when supporting their community institutions, and will also allow the institutions themselves to build better relationships and have a better understanding of what their constituents and donors want to support.
MyTzedakah has the goal of becoming the main tzedakah marketplace for all donors and nonprofits to be able to meet in the most meaningful way. We want to revolutionize what it means to be a philanthropist. When people hear the word “philanthropist”, they usually imagine an older man in his 70s who sits on many nonprofit boards, donates hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and has his name written on the walls of hospitals, shuls and schools. We want to help $10 donors feel like philanthropists – a feeling that can only come from giving intentionally, meaningfully and personally.
Giving our ma’aser should be personally transformative. We need to be just as serious about the money we are giving away as we are about the money we are keeping for ourselves and our families.