In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 19, 2008 / 14 Iyar 5768

Transparency in fundraising

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: We have a small, little-known organization. In order to reach donors for our very worthy cause, we would need to hire a well-connected fundraiser who demands 50% of the donations he solicits. May we hire this person?

A: Certainly there is no inherent ethical problem with having a paid fundraiser. Encouraging people to give money to charity is considered a great mitzvah; indeed, the Talmud tells us "One who induces others to do is greater than one who does himself". (1) People who engage in this calling have to eat, just like everyone else does, so it is evident that they deserve a salary. Jewish tradition affirms the legitimacy and even the desirability of giving people involved in public service respectable pay. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (authoritative Code of Jewish Law) states: "It is better to have a hired prayer leader than a volunteer". (2) The commentators give various reasons, including the fact that it gives the prayer leader more inducement to do a careful job, and that it will keep unqualified individuals from pressuring their way into the role. Giving a salary to community charity collectors was an accepted practice (3).

At the same time, our tradition is familiar with the danger of excessive pay. The Scriptures tell us that the sons of the prophet Samuel "did not go in his way" (I Samuel 8:3); the Talmud suggests that they exploited their office in order to give excessive salaries to public functionaries. (4)

So when a fundraiser approaches a donor for a donation, the donor has every reason to be aware that the fundraiser is a paid employee and that some of the organization's budget goes to pay his salary. However, by the same token he has every reason to believe that if a fundraiser asks for money to support the work of a charity, then in fact the majority of the money given will actually be devoted directly to this purpose.

Where do we draw the line? Based on statistics I have seen, reputable organizations typically spend about 20% on fundraising, though a significant minority spend as much as 50%. It's hard to draw a hard and fast line, but in my opinion if fund raising takes up more than 30% of the budget donors should be informed.

I can't think of any cogent objection to this rule. If the organization claims that there is no need to disclose because, say, 40% is a perfectly reasonable amount, then by the very same token they have nothing to fear by disclosing this. If by contrast they say it is not fair to make them disclose this because it will deter donors, then they are basically admitting that donors don't know where their money is going and are effectively being misled, actively or passively, as to the true use of their donations.

If your fundraising costs are unusually high for a good reason, then by all means explain the reason to donors. If donors are poorly informed about the costs, then educate them; for instance, you could show them that many reputable organizations have high fund-raising costs. The professional you hire can tell the donors very frankly: I'm getting 50% of funds collected, because I'm making initial contact with donors, or because my expenses are very high, etc.

I find that many prominent charities have insufficient respect and regard for donors. Donors are too often viewed as fair game for pressure tactics or misleading stories; their contact information is bought and sold without their knowledge, etc. In the end it is the charity recipients who suffer. One essential component of a relationship of mutual trust with donors is adequate transparency regarding the use of funds, including any percentage agreements with fund raisers.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Basra 9a. (2) Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 53:22 (3) Nesivot HaMishpat 72:19. Though this is slightly different than a fundraiser. (4) Babylonian, Talmud Shabbos 56a.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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