Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Time to Modernize Tzedakah

Rabbi without a cause has a number of Orthonomic related posts that are worth checking out. Here is one entitled Time to Modernize Tzedakah which was a follow up to the post March of the Tzedakah Envelopes.

The Rabbi suggests the following regarding the relationship between the donor and the soliciting organization:

1. When they call you for a pledge, ask them pointed questions about how the money is spent. (The solicitor won't have a clue, but ask for the information anyway. If enough people ask, word will get back to their bosses.) Remember: These organizations should have advertising budgets, but those expenditures should be a very limited percentage of the total spending. They need to have overhead - but make sure it's reasonable overhead.

2. Find out who they are competing with in their chesed area, and find out how efficient they are in serving their target population.

3. Remember, above all, that giving to a tzedakah whose board is not trustworthy is prohibited (Rama Yoreh Deah 256:1).of organizations seeking your tzedakah dollars.

His previous post looks at an area of waste that should be simple to eliminate: duplicate mailings. Working in a synagogue the Rabbi sees numerous mailings addressed to past presidents, etc. Synagoges aren't the only ones receiving numerous mailings. My number and I routinely receive duplicate mailings, sometimes up to three of them: one under his name, one under my name, and one under my maiden name. Time to learn how to use mail merge! Stamps are now $0.41.

Also, is it really a good practice to continue to send a mailing year after year after year if you have never received even a $5.00 donation? I would think not. But, I'm open to discussion on such.


Anonymous said...

I don't know about the mailing thing. It may cost more to try and weed through all of the addresses for duplicates then to just send a blast to your mailing list. That and the efficiency of a mass mailing is thatyou don't have to really review who its going to, just print addresses and drop them in the mail.

Credit card companies and student loan consolidation lenders are not in the business of losing money and I get far more duplicates from them than I get tzedakas, so maybe there's a method to the madness.

Orthonomics said...

I get a ton of duplicate credit card offers, but I know I get cut off catalogue mailing lists. This question is probably best not answered by a "bean counter" (that's me) and better answered by an executive or marketer.

David said...

My number and I routinely receive duplicate mailings, sometimes up to three of them: one under his name, one under my name, and one under my maiden name.

The Jewish Federation of greater Washington absolutely refuses to quit soliciting my wife and I separately. I have asked, and escalated (!) but was told that it's their policy to only deal with individuals (because they want their donor count to be higher than it really is). Needless to say, this was not impressive.

Orthonomics said...

Hi David,
Not that Federations particularly care, but I think there are halachic issues with dealing with a wife separately from a husband (if she hasn't declared herself financially independent).

Ariella's blog said...

The reason we now say across the board "We don't pledge over the phone" is that years ago a well-known organization's telemarketer called to solicit a donation. I said she could send an envelop but didn't want to commit. She said that the cost of mailing is high, so she would have to put something down, but we can take a year to send it in. Well, the cost of mailing was not so high to prevent them from sending us multiple bills as if the amount was past due way before the year.

But, of course, SL, you should delete the above and your whole post, according to a particular person's view. According to a certain anonymous commentator on my husband's blog, I would not even be allowed to share this story, and perhaps you are not allowed to illustrate yours as it cast "anonymous others" in a negtive light. So we'll pretend everything is just hunky dory and not talk about anything that is not, lest we can be accused of being negative about others even when they are not named. Obviously, all frum people are perfect and good and honest and doing things the best of all possible ways.

Anonymous said...

To be successful, businesspeople have to get to know their customers.

Charitable organizations also need to find out what moves their customers. Lately, they have been trying out various strategies, some of which probably alienate some contributors. If their strategies doesn't work overall, they will have to try something else. So our conscious channeling of contributions to the more low-pressure, responsible, transparent charities will also put the others on notice to improve their methods.