The Online-Giving Revolution


Why Judy Stern Peck is waiting for Jewish women to create a philanthropy revolution using the Internet

Many of us live in the fast lane, adapting quickly and constantly to our computers, smart phones, iPads, and iPods. Most of us shop online, correspond with friends through Facebook, text our families, and forward our favorite YouTube videos. The one area that has not kept up with technology is our philanthropy, though it seems like a natural fit for women to use the online-giving techniques for their philanthropic initiatives. The very nature of the Web, with its ability to foster virtual communities and provide topical information on countless issues, makes it a tool particularly suited for women’s philanthropic needs. I am waiting for Jewish women to create the online-giving revolution, and let me explain why I think it will happen.

Women are the bigger givers

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University’s recent study on women’s philanthropy states the following: “Women across nearly every income category give significantly more than their male counterparts—in many cases, nearly twice as much.” This is the first report to compare philanthropic giving in this way.

In addition, a report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy transcribes a discussion with Lisa Witter, coauthor of The She Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them. In the discussion, Witter points to the growth of women’s economic clout in conjunction with their characteristic to be altruistic, volunteer more significantly, and contribute to more charities. She points to the potential power of this combination. In addition, Witter notes, women do the majority of online purchasing.

And now to more informal observations: Throughout my professional and philanthropic experiences, I have recognized the consistent power of “women’s culture.” Women talk to women, and so word of mouth becomes an exceptional tool. They like to connect and prefer to contribute their time and money where there is a definite need and recognizable outcomes. Women are willing to take a risk and give where they can make the greatest difference. They want emotional appeal with hard results, and they are more discerning and thoughtful about the big picture. They tend to be inclusive and democratic.

Online giving and creating communities

So, how does all this align with online giving? What do we mean when we make reference to e-philanthropy? To date, there are websites for general giving, websites for particular causes, mobile philanthropy (making donations to organizations via texting on your cell phone), and giving through social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. For our discussion, I would like to focus on websites and social media rather than mobile philanthropy, which appears to be impulsive with short-lived involvement. Both online giving and social media have the capacity to create communities, develop relationships, and get more personal and transparent at the same time.

By way of example, how many of you have been solicited through your Facebook account to a friend’s “cause”? Have you visited the Kiva site (, which empowers individuals to lend funds to impoverished entrepreneurs in need of seed money? By combining microfinance with the Internet, Kiva enables you to follow the development of this entrepreneur, and then reinvest your dollars when your loan is repaid. Who has developed a page from the Just Giving site ( or has asked friends to sponsor them in a “race for…”? These options are at everyone’s fingertips. Jewish women need to make these resources work for them and their causes.

Because online giving offers the ability to connect, form virtual communities, and communicate both need and impact, it aligns with women’s ways of giving. Once Jewish women harness and successfully apply e-philanthropy as a tool, the impact on our Jewish communal and philanthropic world will be transformative. This is the revolution I am hoping for.

About the Author

judy_peckJudith Stern Peck
Judith Stern Peck, MSW, has had extensive experience as both a family therapist and family business consultant. She holds leadership positions on the boards of numerous nonprofit institutions and is actively involved in the asset management of her own family’s business. An author and lecturer, she presents seminars on family business, women and philanthropy, and intergenerational issues. She is the director of a project team at the Ackerman Institute for the Family to research, educate, and consult on money and family life, and authored a book, Money and Meaning: New Ways to Have Conversations with Clients about Money (Wiley, 2007), focusing on ideas from the project.

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