Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tzedaka and Pesach

I have a beef with some of the frum tzedaka organizations when it comes to Pesach. It's not exactly a secret as to what date Pesach starts on. And for those organizations which specifically deal with feeding people, it's also not a secret that these people will need food for Pesach. Why, then, do they wait to send out their solicitations for funds so that they first arrive in the week before Pesach?

Even if I were to send away a check the second I receive a request for funds, that check would not arrive until a few days later. Then there is depositing the check and waiting for it to clear. Monies sent the week before Pesach are not going to be used to feed people for Pesach no matter how you try to figure things.

Then there are the tzedaka organizations that send out multiple letters for weeks, arriving about 5 days apart. We give generously to tzedaka but even we draw the line at multiple donations within one month to the same organization. Why are these organizations wasting the postage money and printing money? There isn't even time for the first response to have reached them before another solicitation has already arrived.

And then there was the tzedaka organization which first cashed our check almost 11 months after it was sent to them. For a group that was crying about how desperately the funds were needed this does not inspire confidence that the money is being handled wisely.

Then there are the organizations that send out letters that begin "Thank you for your generous pledge of_______money." Huh? When did I pledge that amount if I am first getting their letter now? We have a house policy that we do not under any circumstances respond to phone solicitations--by mail only. We once got burned with a tzedaka that was collecting over the phone and which turned out to be a lot less then legitimate, hence the policy. When we get something in writing we can check it out. There are a few tzedakas that are permanently off our list because they only use some 20 to 30% of the monies raised for the actual tzedaka portion--everything else is overhead and salaries. Then there are the organizations which hire people to do their solicitation, and the funds collected are split between the organization and the people doing the soliciting.

And why do some yeshivot also decide to get on the pre=Pesach tzedaka bandwagon and send out appeals? Yes, we are obligated to support Torah institutions, but to us, and to many people that we know, Pesach is a time for the poor. It is a time for funding food and the absolute necessities for those who do not have them.

The telephone calls are also beginning to grate on my nerves. I answer the phone and yet another organization is calling for funds. And they almost all begin with "We are so grateful that you gave us _________money last year and hope that you will do so again this year." First, I have never given to some of these organizations. Second, the amount they mention is not usually the amount that I have sent, regardless of if the amount I did send was more or was less then the figure they tell me. Could somebody in these places get their records straight?

We keep a ledger of all the tzedaka that we give out, with names, dates and amounts. In this way we keep tabs on if we are giving enough, according to our reckoning. It also allows us to see what tzedakas we have given to before at particular times of the year.

I just wish that all the organizations would get themselves organized and at least attempt to look efficient. I surely don't like getting aggravated when trying to do a mitzvah.


Bas~Melech said...

With regard to the letters received shortly before Pesach -- I don't know who's soliciting from you, but we've been getting the Pesach mail for over a month already.

But as to the excess of paper, I totally agree. We receive 3 copies of everything from one organization that's big on PR. I once heard from someone who worked in a tzedaka organizaton that the effort it would take to straighten out the records would not be worth the amount of postage that would be saved. Frankly, I think there's something seriously wrong with the system if it can't do a simple search-and-destroy of doubles.

The overhead costs are a different story altogether, surely worth a post of their own.

concernedjewgirl said...

Interesting that this post follows the one on organizations not having it together to publish a very simple Kashrus book (with most items being a copy and paste from the year before). Obviously someone or a lot of someone’s, messed up a long time ago and even with modern technology nobody has the time nor the willpower to actually get in there and clean it up.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! Just discovered this.

I simply look at the callerid. Since I live out of town, I can easily recognize a 718 number as an oddball.

It also seems that when I do pick up, the voices always sound the same. If they won't hang up or leave me alone, I have a voicechanger in the phone handset, I simply change it to "chipmunk" and start singing "Happy Birthday". That usually does the trick.

Anonymous said...

And the unsolicited "than you for your pledge" - I write in big words "LIARS!!!!!" on the envelope and return to sender.

Anonymous said...

We got a letter this week we haven't seen before. It says that Rabbi______has said that this tzedaka is so worthy that you should give to them before you give to other tzedakas. Have no idea who this rabbi is and my husband got so aggravated with the attitude that he ditched the letter straight into the garbage. Somebody is paskining via bulk mail now?

Anonymous said...

My father always told us that he sends a dollar in every envelope that he gets and gives more to the few tzedakas he fully supports. The problem with that today is that if we gave a dollar every time we get an envelope we would be giving 6 times maaser. Aren't some of these tzedakas overlapping and duplicates? It gets so frustrating to figure out which ones really do what they say they do and which ones should come first.