(photo credit: Courtesy)
Fundraising is a noble pursuit that sometimes gets a bad name for various
reasons, some unjustified and some, sadly, sometimes justified. Therefore
it is good news that this week’s conference of the Israel Association of
Professional Fundraisers undertook a process of professionalization, which will
ultimately include accreditation and a code of ethics.
sector is a large and growing share of the world economy, and innumerable
services that make life better for poor and rich alike are provided by these
groups and in many cases only by them. It is wellknown that Jewish tradition and
culture give charity a very high status, and Jews are invariably among the
leading charitable donors both individually and collectively.
It is less
well-known that Jewish tradition also has special regard for the fundraiser. The
Talmud says, “One who makes others give is greater than one who gives
Yet fundraisers are often held in low regard. Some of the
reasons are bad ones. Many people understandably prefer to hold on to their
money and get annoyed or pressured when fundraisers try to convince them to part
with it. Prospective donors have to remember that it is always permissible to
say no, but that it is also permissible and ultimately necessary that others
Others are suspicious or resentful of the salaries and
expense accounts of fundraisers. But there is no way around the need to pay
fundraisers a decent salary. Just as the commercial sector cannot function
without salespeople, the nonprofit sector cannot function without fundraisers.
Capable people will be drawn to this sector only if they can be fairly
compensated for their talents and efforts.
That being said, the
fundraising sector truly is too often characterized by misleading, exploitative
and disgraceful tactics.
Fundraisers are entitled to decent compensation,
but transparency is essential. Not infrequently a very large share, or even a
majority, of the money goes to fundraisers. Yet donors are not informed that
their donation to a worthy cause will hardly make a dent in the operational
budget after the fundraisers and their middlemen get a share.
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always permissible to ask, but sometimes charities solicit so much it
constitutes true harassment. Once I got repeated calls from a local charity, and
when I complained, the caller told me frankly, “If you donate I will stop
Perhaps infrequently, but certainly too frequently, there
are outright lies. A particularly scurrilous tactic sometimes used is to
tell people they already made a pledge and ask them to make good on it. Many
people customary make a number of small pledges to well-known charities, and
they are reluctant to contradict the representative who claims they did
Professionalization and codification are a viable solution to all of
these issues. Transparent policies about fees can prevent and prohibit the worst
excesses and educate the public about the genuine need for fundraisers to get
adequate compensation. Misleading, harassing and exploitative tactics will be
shunned. The result is that fundraisers who belong to a professional
organization will have an enforceable commitment to act in a responsible way. If
a fundraiser doesn’t belong to a professional society, donors will justifiably
want to know why and will be extra careful before writing a check.
is a worldwide trend toward greater professionalism in this field, and the
participation of the very large and active cadre of Israeli fundraisers in this
process is an important firstname.lastname@example.org Asher Meir is
research director at the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, an independent
institute in the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev).
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