How does a pair of a Jewish twins from Villanova raise almost $20,000 for COVID-19 relief and research over the course of a few months? And how do they get linked up with other college students, who have collectively raised more than $100,000 in the same period?
“Jewish geography,” Jack Adler said. “So much of it was due to Jewish geography.”
Jack and Kate Adler, 19, started the 3 Dollar Challenge on April 21.
Starting with their fraternity and sorority networks, they’ve encouraged their peers and anyone they can reach to send $3 to the @3dollarchallenge Venmo account, post about it on social media and then tag three more friends in the post, encouraging them to take the challenge as well.
For their efforts, they’ve been profiled in news outlets and have joined a collective of COVID-19 relief organizations that have together raised more than $100,000 since the spring.
For Jack Adler, studying business at Syracuse University, and Kate Adler, studying marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of Miami, their work is a natural extension of what they’ve done for years.
”We’ve always been raised to give back, and make that a priority, and it really has been instilled in us to value that,” Jack Adler said.
In high school, the Adler twins were co-presidents of a Harriton High School club called Jared’s Box. A few times a month, they gathered hundreds of their classmates in the cafeteria to box up toys for children afflicted with cancer at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Then they drafted elementary school students to make cards for the children at CHOP.
When they returned home from college this spring, they found themselves restless, adrift and just plain bored, according to Kate Adler. When homework was finished and the working day was through, they were looking for something more.
“We wanted to use the time to make a difference and do something effective,” she said.
“It was just us knowing that we were lucky enough to be safe and healthy at the time, none of our family members were struggling for their lives with this virus, and knowing that, it would have felt selfish to just act like we were just completely safe,” Jack Adler added.
The twins put their heads together and theorized that, for people their age, $3 would be the perfect amount to solicit. It’s enough to feel of some substance, and not so much as to give anyone a second thought. Using Venmo as a platform, they reasoned, would make it easiest to reach their peers, who frequently use the payment service.
And adding the social media component would expand the pool of those who were familiar with what they decided to call the 3 Dollar Challenge. Initially, the donations were intended for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation, Feeding America, Direct Relief and Family Promise.
They got to work, enlisting their friends in their respective Greek life scenes, their parents, their parents’ friends, their high school friends and their high school friends’ friends.
In the first week, they received 5,000 donations.
Though the donors came from all over the country and of a variety of backgrounds, Kate Adler said, it was clear that Jewish people in their social networks were making up a significant percentage of the donations.
“Everyone really works together to make these types of things happen,” she said.
When they were at about $10,000, a group called The Makin’ Lemonade Fund reached out to the Adler twins via Instagram. That’s where things got even more interesting.
Jesse Kay, 19, started Makin’ Lemonade with his friend Alex Sheinman at the beginning of the pandemic. Though it was initially, like the 3 Dollar Challenge, a stand-alone organization, Kay and Sheinman thought it could be fruitful to partner with other student-organized relief organizations.
The Adlers were happy to link their effort to Makin’ Lemonade, which had a nonprofit distribution partner and fiscal sponsor to allocate the funds they raised. Between the 3 Dollar Challenge and others, more than $100,000 has been raised for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation, Feeding America and Direct Relief.
Kay, Jack Adler said, “runs a tight ship,” and Kay praised the work of the Adler twins, as well.
The Adlers are proud to have applied some of what they’ve learned in school to an altruistic project, and doubly proud that they’ve done it together.
“We’re both very entrepreneurially minded, and we both love creating ideas,” Jack Adler said. “This is the first one that we’ve really turned into a reality together.”