Google Search and Jewish Charity

Tzedakah, Inc. has released a new study entitled Searching for Tzedakah: What Google Reveals about America’s Interest in Jewish Charity.

The research concludes that Google search volume for terms like “tzedakah” and “Jewish charity” is plummeting when compared with searches on charity terms in general and when compared with searches on other commandments, and last year hit the lowest levels compared to these other benchmarks since Google records were made available.

Dr. Ira Kaminow, the study’s author lamented “I fear that infrequent Google searches on tzedakah signals a casual approach to Jewish giving that cuts the effectiveness of tzedakah dollars.”

Searches on “tzedakah” fell two-and-half times as fast as searches on general charity terms between 2004 and 2009. By last year, tzedakah’s share of all Google searches on charity terms fell to about six-tenths of one percent, a fraction of Jews’ share of the total U.S. population.

Tzedakah, Inc. officials were surprised to learn that by 2009, Google queries for tzedakah scored low even compared with other mitzvot such as tefillin and  family purity which have more limited applicability. “After all,” Kaminow noted, “tzedakah is a cornerstone of all streams of Judaism and applicable to men, women, and children. It should be near the top of the list, not near the bottom.”

Additional findings include:

  • Chabad was the Jewish nonprofit most frequently searched on Google among those examined in the study. In 2009, “Chabad” and “Lubavitch” were searched nearly twice as often as Hillel which had the next highest score. Hillel did score close to Chabad in 2004, but its search interest score fell dramatically by 2009. Chabad search terms are among the few Jewish-related query terms whose Google interest score did not drop from 2004 to 2009. The heavy interest in Chabad is consistent with another finding – Chasidism was the most frequently searched of Jewish religious streams (Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionism) in the 2004-2009 period.
  • Jewish federations were searched very frequently compared to United Way and Catholic Charities, considering the very small proportion of Jews in the U.S. population.

The report, Searching for Tzedakah: What Google Reveals about America’s Interest in Jewish Charity, is available for free download.