|Joe Benun of Princeton, Joe Teplow of YU, Jeff Dobrinsky of Queens College, and Ariel Sterman of NYU founded Good St., which asks for as little as a quarter – every day. Alex Bell|
“Our generation is constantly inundated with appeals for worthy causes, and it gets so overwhelming that you don’t engage with any of them,” said Joe Teplow, a 22-year-old Yeshiva University junior from Teaneck. “I found myself as a student with not so much funds, but a desire to make a difference. I wanted to give in a small way to all these causes.”
In August, Teplow and three friends launched Good St. (www.goodst.org), an innovative online charity platform that allows registered users, known as “Streeters,” to give as little as a quarter a day to charity. Its slogan: “Turning small change into big change.”
Members receive an email every morning introducing the cause of the day – for example, Alzheimer’s disease – and a choice of two charities to support – for example, Alzheimer’s research or home care. With one click of a button, donations are processed.
Since its launch, Good St. has grown to include about 135 users. Most of them are in the New York area; there are others in Los Angeles, England, and Israel. Collectively, they have donated $1,300 each month to various charities chosen and vetted by the site’s management team.
For Chanukah (and Christmas, for that matter), Good St. is offering the opportunity for gift-givers to pay up front for up to a year on behalf of the recipient. The recipient will get the daily email and decide how to spend the gift money.
Though Good St. is not a specifically Jewish endeavor, it is rooted in the values that the founders absorbed from the Orthodox culture in which they were raised.
“The Rambam [Maimonides] says it is better to give a little every day than one lump sum at once, to get habituated to making charity a daily routine,” Teplow said. “Every morning, Streeters start their day giving charity.”
Ariel Sterman, 21, a junior at NYU Stern School of Business, is another Good St. founder. He said, “Among Jewish communities there is a value to give charity, but young people need a simple, straightforward way to give every day, and that’s where the vision came in.”
Members eventually may be able to create Good St. microcommunities to support specific causes that are meaningful to them, Mr. Teplow added.
The founding and management team includes Teplow, Stern, Jeff Dobrinsky, 21, a Queens College student, and Princeton junior Joe Benun, 21. (Dobrinsky also is from Teaneck, and Benun is from Brooklyn.)
Two of the four already had earned serious credibility as philanthropists before they came to Good St. Benun founded the intra-collegiate nonprofit organization Team U, a fundraising endurance team dedicated to improving global health and alleviating poverty. Teplow won a spot on the New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36″ list in 2009, when he was a senior at SAR High School in Riverdale, for founding Teens for the World, a group dedicated to helping other teens conduct charitable projects.
Good St. is a labor-intensive endeavor for the young men. In the beginning it was just the four of them, getting together by phone or Skype each night to choose the cause, curate the charities, and vet them through websites such as Charity Navigator and GiveWell. Now they have different people assigned to each night of the week. Eventually they hope to introduce voting among members to decide on the daily causes.
Sterman says the choice often is triggered by current events, such as the typhoon in the Philippines. In fact, because news of the disaster broke on a Friday night, some Shabbat-observant Streeters first found out about it from opening their Good St. mail on Sunday morning.
“We can mobilize our community to respond to crises,” Teplow said. “We see ourselves as a kind of community of doing good. My 25 cents isn’t so powerful, but if I can get a few friends to add their quarters we can be a positive force for change.”
After givers donate, the website takes them to a thank-you page that prompts them to do a good deed for the day, such as being conscious of water use or donating clothing for homeless people.
For now, the young men are footing the bill for expenses, including website hosting and credit-card processing. If the site catches on in a big way, corporate sponsorships will be sought to take care of those incidental costs.
Email Sterman at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries and requests about Good St.; for the Chanukah gift campaign, Gift of Giving, go to www.goodst.org/gift.