Why are the new payment methods challenging nonprofits at Purim time, and how, despite this, is it possible to donate correctly for the holiday?
As with every holiday, on Purim there are mitzvot (commandments) for which the action must be done on the day itself. This may surprise some of you – but dressing in costume isn’t one of them. What is counted amongst this list? Donating to the needy. In the past this was simple – during the holiday people would go out with their wallets and give cash donations to various organizations, or directly to poor people throughout the city. Then credit cards came along.
Matanot La’evyonim (gifts to the poor) are a commandment that applies on the day of the holiday itself. With the development of the internet and credit card payments, it became a challenge to perform the holiday commandment, because with credit cards there is a gap between the time that the donation is made and the time that the money is actually transferred to the organization. How can we make donations on the day of Purim, if the credit card company transfers the funds to the organizations only on the 10th of the month (for example)?
To make it possible for donors to perform the commandments of the holiday through credit card payments, the usual guidance to nonprofit organizations is to donate funds “on credit.” That is, the organization can find out how much money has been donated to it during the holiday by looking at details of electronic donations – and donate these funds on the same day through funds that the organization holds in the current account, knowing that the funds will become available in future. This is a kind of loan from the future if you wish.
And what happens if funds are donated to the organization in large amounts that aren’t available in the current account, and the organization cannot distribute them? Here there are several options – one option is to borrow funds (from the bank) to enable distribution on the day. But there are also other options that don’t require bureaucracy and loans. Since on Purim people usually donate sums greater than the actual amount defined by the halakhic dictate, the organization can give only the minimal sums (about 50 shekels) on the day itself, and the rest of the funds can be used for the ongoing activities of the organization. In this way, if 100 donors together gave one million shekels on the holiday, the organization can choose to transfer 50 shekels per donor on Purim day.
Having dealt with the technical issues, let’s get to the practical. To perform the commandment of gifts to the poor, we need to give two gifts to two poor people. The definition of a “portion” is very much subjective, but the minimum is 25 shekels. Thus 50 shekels meets the requirement for the holiday. Of course, if you want to donate more, there’s no limit. On the contrary, it is written in the halakha, “it is better to increase gifts to the poor than to increase sending foods (mishloach manot) or to increase the Purim meal.”
Who should you donate to? In principle, to anyone who asks. The guideline for Purim is “anyone who reaches out their hand – we give to them.” This means that there are not stringent checks on the poor at Purim, but in any event, it is worth investing and giving to organizations that distribute funds to people who are defined as economically poor.
Currently it is possible to donate with credit cards, on different payment applications. In order to perform the commandment of the holiday, you will need to donate at least 50 shekels to two different poor people, and it is worthwhile to donate to organizations that distribute the funds to those defined as poor. Before you make your Purim donation with a credit card, it’s important to make sure that the organization you are donating to is aware of the requirement of donations on the day of Purim. We recommend donating early, before the holiday begins or in the morning, so that you can avoid the situation where the donation appears too late in the organization’s account and might not be included.
In honor of the holiday, we have opened a designated page on our site for Purim gifts to the poor where you will find only organizations that take responsibility to deliver their donation funds on the holiday. All the organizations on the site are registered nonprofits with certificates of proper management and donations are tax-deductible. Click here for the Purim gifts for the poor page.
The JGive Team