Julien Leitner

Photo: Courtesy Leitner Family

WHEN PORTLAND’S 13-year-old Julien Leitner hit bar mitzvah time—and with it, the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony’s traditional obligation to do something altruistic—he decided to think big. He figured that just because he didn’t have a couple million dollars to give to charity didn’t mean he couldn’t raise a couple million dollars.

His idea, the Archimedes Alliance, blends the online microgiving appeal of Kickstarter with a reality-show-esque popularity contest. The goal: persuade one million people to donate two dollars apiece via the Archimedes website—and pick which of three charities they want to get the donation. After six months, the one charity with the most votes gets the whole kitty. Leitner then plans to choose three new charities and start over.

In his first round, Leitner’s candidates are organizations focused on developing-world medical aid, assistance to Ugandan child soldiers, and international poverty relief. He says his criteria included a desire to help nonprofits that lack big-name patrons, run lean administrative budgets, don’t have explicitly religious missions, and “help human beings rather than causes.”

While $2 million is, so far, nowhere in sight, Leitner’s effort had raised more than $4,000 by press time.