Israeli firm spoons out ‘secret sauce’ to foster philanthropy

Without divulging its proprietary high-tech recipe for success, give2gether promises its formula spices up charitable giving. CEO Arnon Shafrir of give2gether says his company ‘uncovers what makes people give.’ Take an Israeli TV-anchor-turned-philanthropist, pair him with a young Israeli high-tech …

Without divulging its proprietary high-tech recipe for success, give2gether promises its formula spices up charitable giving.

CEO Arnon Shafrir
CEO Arnon Shafrir of give2gether says his company ‘uncovers what makes people give.’

Take an Israeli TV-anchor-turned-philanthropist, pair him with a young Israeli high-tech entrepreneur, then add a Girl Scout and two game theorists from NYU and UC Berkeley – and what do you get? Something akin to the recipe for a Big Mac condiment, or the herbs and spices in KFC – a recipe custom-made for success in the world of American online philanthropy.

Israeli high tech company give2gether is converting donor dollars at a rate 100 times that of Facebook, the company reports. They’ve taken a common idea, like an everyday burger or fried chicken, and are hoping to spice it up.

Since the Bernard Madoff scandal that financially devastated an untold number of American and overseas philanthropies, the industry has been waiting for a new giving model that works — one that can collect hundreds or thousands of dollars, instead of pennies or “Likes” on Facebook. It’s harder to come by multimillion-dollar donations, so philanthropies need a platform to resuscitate charities that have invested time and money in an online presence, using blogs, Facebook and Twitter, for instance.

While there seem to be strong choices of online giving technologies already operating, most – including the tried and true Convio – don’t synch with the way people are communicating and connecting quickly online.

Converting visitors to donors

“The ‘secret sauce’ is our conversion rate,” says Arnon Shafir, CEO of give2gether, which promises a much higher conversion rate of charitable donor interest into dollars. While the company has been around only since 2007, the Girl Scouts of America are already onboard, as is the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and Brandeis University.

The company uses both intuitive and counter-intuitive approaches in getting people to give. If, for example, potential donors see that a campaign is not likely to reach its lofty goal, they might not give at all. But if, let’s say, a $20 gift could make a difference, donors could see their impact in tangible terms. That’s the general idea behind give2gether.

“We let the non-profit spend less time and money and help convert more visitors to donor dollars,” Shafir tells ISRAEL21c. Adding in 10 years of academic research on how people give, from co-founders who are economics researchers at Berkeley and NYU, respectively, give2gether effectively and strategically “uncovers what makes people give,” Shafir says.

Chairman Eliezer Yaari
Chairman Eliezer Yaari brings his expertise from running New Israel Fund.

Armed with this insight, the company can show results 100 percent higher than Facebook. “Where the average donation on Facebook is 70 cents, ours is 70 dollars.”

How exactly give2gether does its magic is a closely held recipe, with patents pending on how it works. “We are democratizing philanthropy,” Shafir states. Mashable.com, he brags, “called us ‘the Google Analytics of philanthropy.’”

The final ingredient

So far, we have the Girl Scout, the Israeli high-tech entrepreneur and two game theorists. The last ingredient in the secret sauce is Eliezer Yaari, a huge non-fan of the Facebook “Like” button and a long-time Israeli media guru. Over the last 10 years, Yaari was a director of one of Israel’s most influential charities, the New Israel Fund. He hopes to help give2gether turn “Likes” into charitable dollars.

The former Israeli Air Force pilot started out at Channel 1 news in Israel, where he was anchor, news editor and just about everything else. In 1998, he came aboard the New Israel Fund and built an alternative model of giving to Israel for Americans who wanted to support the Jewish state, but not necessarily its Zionist values.

The New Israel Fund is responsible for changing the face of civil society in Israel, growing non-profits from a few dozen to more than 36,000, says Yaari. Focused on co-existence issues, promoting civil liberties and capacity building for both Jewish and Arab organizations, the organization is also involved in environmental stewardship.

Now as chairman of giving2gether, Yaari is selling an application that could affect many more people in many more places, given the $320 billion US philanthropy market. For $300 a month, a non-governmental organization can use give2gether to custom tailor a social media campaign that can start earning real dollars (the fee covers give2gether’s costs to build a campaign). US-registered philanthropies may register for a free trial membership.

Operating with funds from an angel investor, give2gether is asking America to try its secret sauce, flavored with a little Israeli talent.

About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.