This article originally appeared in The Jewish Press, written By Baruch Lytle
Avi Kehat revolutionized the art of giving chesed with his massively successful crowdfunding website called The Chesed Fund. With its user-friendly applications and online staff ready to assist at any time, anyone can create a campaign to raise money for themselves, their loved ones or for a worthy cause.
Since it began in 2016, The Chesed Fund, which caters to the Orthodox Jewish community, has hosted over 3500 charitable causes and raised over 36 million dollars in contributions. Most impressively, the website is commission-free.
“I was inspired to create The Chesed Fund when I saw how much crowdfunding campaigns were collecting as fees from their fundraisers,” Avi Kehat told The Jewish Press. “There is so much pain and suffering in the world. I wanted to create a way that would help individuals and organizations keep as much as possible of the funds they raised.”
In the beginning, Avi Kehat, who lives in Beit Shemesh, Israel, and is a software developer by trade, worked long nights in his home office to get The Chesed Fund up and running. Even today, with all of its success, Avi Kehat and his partners do not receive a regular salary, but still maintain a fully paid staff.
Without the security of commissions, operating costs are covered by the generosity of donors. “When people make a donation to a cause, they have the option to donate to us as well, and we are eternally grateful to these partners in chesed.”
Both individuals and non-profit organizations are able to create an account and start raising money in a matter of minutes. Payments are processed by The Chesed Fund, but all funds go directly into the money account of the individual or organization’s choice. “We’ve helped some of the biggest organizations in the Jewish world collect millions of dollars for their causes, including Kupat HaIr, an international agency whose goal is to feed the hungry, Aish.com and Hatzaloh.”
One of The Chesed Fund’s successful campaigns was “Save Eliana,” which ended in July. Eliana was diagnosed with SMA type 2, a very rare genetic disease. In 5 days, $1,998,005.09 was raised to purchase a life changing drug called Zolgensma, which would allow young Eliana to stand and hopefully to walk, and also to eat and breathe on her own.
After the campaign ended, her father wrote a message to The Chesed Fund. “When we began this campaign 4 days ago, we embarked upon the impossible,” said Ariel Cohen, Elian’s father in a letter on The Chesed Fund site. “Very quickly, Klal Yisroel joined together and in an unprecedented display of achdus… With great siyata dishamya and b’chasdei HaShem, we were able to reach this unprecedented goal and are now in a position to receive the miracle drug.”
With so many campaigns, Kehat says it’s impossible to determine which one has inspired him the most since he began The Chesed Fund. “All the campaigns bring me satisfaction,” he said. “Where a Jew is in need, and other Jews who do not know them open their hearts and give – that’s touching.”
The Jewish Press asked Kehat about his long-term outlook for The Chesed Fund. “We want to be the one-stop-shop for chesed. Our dream is to be the go-to destination for anyone who needs to raise money, and to measure the amount of funds we raised in the hundreds of millions.”