Thoughts on the challenges of being a chossid (or trying) in a modern world.
Fellow Lubs are most welcome to read and share and comment. Chabad-haters and agitators, please find another place to troll.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Charidy Fatigue

Have you heard about this amazing online sensation called Charidy? You can run intensive 24-hour fundraising campaigns where donations are matched by others to 'gear up' or multiply the giving power. It's all or nothing - either they meet the target and the matching donations kick in, or ... you don't want to imagine. And you can use social media to spread the word!

This was indeed very exciting the first time I heard about it. The campaign was for a large Chabad organisation with a very ambitious goal, and generously matched. I had been helping them with some marketing strategy, and learnt about the campaign early on. A lot of planning went into it, and BH they were able to reach their goal. It was a big thrill for all involved.

But over the last few months, there has been a flood of these Charidy campaigns, especially from Chabad organisations. Having connections in some way to many of them, my social media feed is full of them, each one bursting with the excitement and energy of trying to meet their goal in just 24 hours.

The Chabad world is highly interconnected. Anyone is usually just two or three "degrees of separation" to anyone else, be they an individual or an organisation. And a large number of organisations are reaching out to everyone in their network looking for funding with a kamus and aichus that is unprecedented.

Similarly, we are receiving more and more phone solicitations from New York (and we are in Melbourne, Australia). People are sitting in call centres (or perhaps at home) and calling everyone on Tzach lists all over the world asking for donations. I received one call seeking support for a Crown Heights organisation from a very young-sounding girl. She told me she was just sixteen (yes, I asked her age because I was shocked at how young she sounded)! Are we teaching our children how to be schnorrers?

From the view of the prospective donor, this has reached - no, passed - a saturation point. Everyone's cause is very worthy, but donors have limited funds and cannot support every cause to the point of making a real difference. Is it better to support a small number of causes with large donations, or spread yourself with small donations across many causes? This is one of the key challenges for any philanthropist.

Organisations need to consider the saturation risk to their donor market. As the saying in the gemoro goes: תפשת מרובה לא תפשת - if you try for too much, you end up with nothing. The overuse of innovative funding campaigns has left donors with fatigue, and has stripped away the innovation and excitement from these campaign from the very people who are meant to fund them.

Article also published at Shmais and at COL Live


  1. Yes, I agree. They need to consider the donor's point of view. I have also noticed that they contact myself and my wife separately, which I think is inappropriate as we have a shared budget.
    Re the phone calls: my father got a call from someone from overseas and had no idea what the guy was talking about. It is getting out of control.

  2. Mendy Ajzenszmidt18 December 2015 at 20:15

    While I do agree that phone calls can be taking it too far, Charidy campaigns can be a great tool for the donor as well as the mosad. If a donor is passionate about a cause they can become a matcher and inspire others to give.

    When we did our Charidy campaign we saw 2 things.
    1. Many members of our community and friends from across the world (who generally don't donate) will give even $18 or less knowing that it will add up very fast.
    2.The fact that 2 of the matchers weren't living in our community inspired our community to give even more.

  3. Phone Calls? Phone-a-thons? News Feeds? - the question here is not one about Charidy it is one about fundraising. I am the Rabbi at a Chabad house in Maryland in a small community. the majority of our funds come from local donors, however We are blessed that a few generous people from Melbourne where i got smicha and from my non australian Chabad friends continue to support us.

    Donors give for different reasons, the Charidy model pushes people to give 1) because if i don't give now - their entire campaign will fail and that will be on my sholders (guilt) 2) my 12.50$ makes a $50 difference 3) because i want to support this organization (for all the reasons donors find an affinity to a specific organization).

    It's not wise to guilt people into supporting your organization - the best way is to use method 3 - you need to give - you like what we do - it is easy to give us - so do it here...

    There is nothing wrong with young children learning how to solicit support - it is not schnorring - when i went door to door to raise money for my jumpathon in 3rd grade was that schnooring? When a new businessman raises venture capital money is it schnorring.

    Jews need to give charity, if you want your organization to be a recipient you need to ask! If the donor says no - for whatever reason - say thank you and if you think that your org interests them keep them informed of the work you are doing.

    So thank you - I understand the fatigue - but its fatigue of being pestered by unknown organizations for funds - regardless of Charidy or any other fundraising pitch.

    BTW because of the december mass Charidy campaigns we do ours in march or april :) - if you want to donate to our organization for our non ChariDy year end campaign let me know and i'll send you a link - otherwise just check out the rabbi's blog for a weekly dvar torah :)

  4. Even if I had all the money in the world, it's a bit annoying to watch the same Shpiel over and over and over again, as if we don't know what's coming.... Something BIG is happening... We have a backup plan!... Surprise bonus round (like the spontaneous dancing at the Kinus)...

  5. It might be annoying but why is that different than any other professional company soliciting? Why can only big organizations get a chance? many smaller Chabad houses have seen major help from this program. The beauty about this is if you don't like it ignore it. when it comes to Tzedakh I don't think we should discourage if we don't like it we can move on as we usually do with everything else

  6. David my heart breaks for you. Do you think your attitude is in any way commensurate with a frum, and I mean really frum I.e. "between the ears" frum Jew, much less for an "aspirational chosid". For what other reason has Hashem granted you much more money than most people, and much more money than you could reasonably need, other than to act as a medium to distribute the money that Hashem intended for helping others, either bgashmiyus or bruchniyus or both, and has given you the zchus to act as His Shliach and thereby acquire a zchus for yourself. Did you experience the same fatigue when you had to review the design of every detail of your house starting with your front door etc etc, the choice of holiday destination, model car under $25,000 to choose. I remember going door to door collecting with your zaida a"h to some of the big houses in Lumeah Str and being given $5. I remember thinking at the time that if we had walked away with the doormat, not to mention the fancy door handle, we, and yeshiva gedolah, would have been so much more better off. Chances are that the person raising the funds doesn't take exotic holidays or live in the lap of luxury. Come back down to earth with the rest of us plebs, thank Hashem that you aren't in a position to need to ask others for help, value and respect the work that these people are doing and the sacrifices they make to carry on the rebbe's work, and take some time every so often to "sit and farbreng" with your zaida, and change from an aspirational chosid to an inspirational one.
    Ps. I thought long and hard whether to post this publicly or send it to you privately, but the public nature of your post and the inappropriateness of it demands a public rebuttal.

  7. Dear Anonymous 20 December 2015 at 01:03,

    I'm always prepared to engage in debate about the issues. You have not done that. Instead, you have made assumptions and judgements about me of a personal nature, and done this behind the veil of anonymity. You are playing the man, not the ball.

  8. David, technology has certainly leveraged the opportunities to give Tzedoko. And I do see how T-FATS ( Tzedoko Fatigue Syndrome) can set in. At the same time it's also a matter of attitude. "Wow, what a great opportunity to improve my levushim for my Gan Eiden tutorial and Ta'anug Hassogo!". Of course it remains your judgment call how much you give. But as I always advise my students/mushpoim - always give. As Sefer Tanya notes, giving $1 in 100 cent increments provides a Gucci suit Upstairs instead of a Henry Jackson. So the amount is not of the essence in this respect - the Kammus/Eichus dilemma. But may I exhort you to follow the advice of the great Jewish thinker Reb Nike - Just Do It! Laibl

  9. David, Thank you for expressing what many of us feel. But as others have said, it is easy to ignore it, and it helps many mosdos. Seems like a minor annoyance for a good cause.

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  12. B"H

    I'll provide another viewpoint to all the above. Whatever you think of Charidy, many of these campaigns make it only thanks to COL as many people aren't directly involved with the mosdos themselves to see them on their social media feed. I myself and my family were homeless after eviction and we had a campaign on COL, which b"H helped us enormously, but then it was taken down early before the goal was reached to make way for Shluchim campaigns... $1M for JEM and $1M for the Online School--all wonderful programs--but how about a poor Anash family who father lost his job working for a Lubavitcher gvir for almost 10 years and not because he didn't do his job well...

    So I don't mind Charidy campaigns, though I do see how there are so many some people might get annoyed; I do get a bit annoyed by the bonus rounds though, but my focus is that most importantly it's all connections so if you're not connected, who will help you, whereas if you get the right people to publicize the campaign, you can make the goal (and bonus round) in less than 24 hours...

    Here is my family's campaign we created after my family's mashpia convinced my parents this would be our way out of the horror we were in. My parents are they type not to want to ever take from anyone, but we had no choice. We poshut need to live (rent, utilities, medical insurance, phone, food, etc.), not a bigger mosad...

    To all of you who give and stretch, we appreciate so much and Hashem sees all your efforts. This is the highest form of Tzedaka when neither the giver nor the receiver know each other...

    May you be blessed many times over & Moshiach NOW!

  13. Mr David,

    I'm a bit confused about this post. Who is it directed towards? If to the donors, they can just say no. Do they need your moral support to not feel guilty about it? Do you want to be that one? If to the organizations, firstly, you're arguing a difficult case considering the fact that not a single one has failed, and they are only becoming more and bigger. Secondly, most of them have a unique donor base, and those that don't, are organizations that benefit the greater Lubavitch community (like JEM). Even if I'm mistaken about this last point, don't you think it would be better to share your feelings with these organizations privately? Don't you think this post has the ability to make things harder for the organizations? Do you want that?
    Your point about Shnorer, perhaps it's different down under, but in the states it's quite common for teens to volunteer in this capacity. Whether it's public schools raising money for March of dimes, or people running marathons. Not sure exactly what would make this different.
    Personally as a Shliach, I may share some of your feelings about this, and that's why is be hesitant about such a campaign, but I don't seem to get the gain of making such a public post about it.
    I'm only posting because this was shared on COL, otherwise I wouldn't comment on your blog.
    Please explain.
    Either way,גדולה צדקה שמקרבת את הגאולה. May it be בקרוב

    1. Levi,

      This blog is about the challenges of being a Chossid in the modern world. It is not directed specifically at organisations or individuals. It is a place to raise ideas and discuss them.
      As many have commented, people have choice: they can choose to give or not to give to any particular campaign. Please give them some credit: do you really think they will change their mind about giving to a cause because of what I write? I've just pointed out what many people are thinking - that there's been an overload of this type of campaign.
      I've done this in a public forum to encourage debate and discussion about issues that are important, and to get people (both fundraisers and donors) thinking about tzedokah and how to do it *better*. We ought to be able to discuss issues publicly and robustly without the old trope "why publicize?" which is a corollary of "don't air our dirty laundry in public". We are not a perfect society, and we can only deal with challenges by acknowledging them and addressing them, rather than whispering about them as if they don't exist.
      On that specific point, if someone wrote to Charidy or to all the organisations and made these points, the likely response would be "you are wrong; look at our continued success" and they would keep operating in the same way and ignore the potential risks of donor fatigue. By discussing in public, organisations can hear what their donor base actually think and learn from it rather than burying their heads in the sand. That is a positive thing.

  14. Dear Reb David,
    I hear that you are an ainikel of Reb Zalman O``h, in itself a great zchus. I also hear that you generously give tzdakah, an even greater zchus. I have also heard that you prefer to keep you tzdakah local, a prerogative to which you are entitled. (Possible as long as you give some also for Eretz Yisrael.)
    While I do share much of the sentiment of your article, there is one point that I would like to address.
    "Are we teaching our children how to be schnorrers?"
    The definition of "schnorrer" is: a beggar or scrounger; a layabout.
    The Gemara Bava Basra 9. states about those who encourage others to give tzedaka ``א"ר אלעזר גדול המעשה יותר מן העושה``.
    I have heard from my father Sheyichye about your dear Zaide's collecting, and how he would look at a picture of the Rebbe before knocking on a door.
    There is a letter of the Frierdiker Rebbe in his Igros volume 17, letter 6511, where he writes to an older chosid to give himself over to the collection, not only with his money, but with his body and effort as well, to talk on the telephone, to go and collect, and every day work more than the day before... and so must do an older yid in general, and a chasidishe yid specifically...
    He continues that the Alter Rebbe writes that the hand that gives tzdaka becomes a "merkavah" for elokus, hence when the collector is doing his work his entire body is a merkavah!
    These are just some Torah tidbits that I am aware of, surely there are many more.
    The point is that getting others to give tzedakah is a fabulous mitzvah, even greater than the actual giving of tzedakah. So no, we are not teaching our children to be schnorrer's, we are teaching them to encourage others to give tzedakah, without being embarrassed to ask. The wat the Rebbe set up Botei Chabad, every single shliach must raise money. Again this is not schnorrer'ing, rather giving people an opportunity to participate in bringing Moshiach, both with the act of tzedakah itself, and with their participation in getting another yid to do just one more mitzvah.
    In fact this is a minhag yisrael torah hi, in many shuls, to hand the pushka to a child to go around collecting in the shul during davening.
    As one who raises funds for a Lubavitch institution in Canada, I take offense at the above statement, and I hope you retract that sentence from the article.
    Thank you and hatzalacha raba