Collecting From Gevirim: Pointers From the Gabbai Tzedaka

Many people are clueless when it comes to dealing with rich people, especially in regards to fundraising from them. The gabbayai tzedakah of some of klal Yisrael’s gevirim say they’ve seen it all over the years, from the guy who called a gvir a cheapskate at his own daughter’s wedding, to another who continually rescheduled and then missed appointments, to those who present ostentatious displays of obviously false flattery. It’s understandable that collectors may feel awkward and overwhelmed and feel they have to do whatever they can to get their due attention, but some common sense would make the whole process a lot more pleasant and efficient for all.

Here are some thoughts a gabbai tzedakah wished all people knew about gevirim.

Gevirim Have Feelings, Too

Rich people are regular human beings who wish to be treated with basic courtesy. Perhaps they develop a thicker skin than most, but they are never impervious to those who insult them, take them for granted, or ignore their basic need for a bit of privacy. While giving large amounts of tzedakah forces many donors into the limelight, this is usually something they bear as part of their responsibility, not a thrill that they seek.

They aren’t necessarily interested in being surrounded by a crowd of admirers in the coffee room and can quickly detect those who praise them insincerely. At best, these hollow efforts are ignored, and on occasion, a philanthropist may limit his interest in assisting those who demean him in this way. On the other hand, a simple but heartfelt thank-you note can go a long way in giving chizuk to donors who care very much about the causes they support.

Gevirim Have Lives—Very Hectic ones, Actually

Most significant donors have established practices for when, where, and how they accept solicitations. But many solicitors decide the rules don’t apply to their VIP yeshivah, kollel, or personal need. While collectors chafe at barriers placed in their way, following a process is the only way the most generous givers can function.

The super-rich tend to have extremely demanding business obligations—a gabbai tzedakah related to me that he witnessed a gvir committing to a $50,000 donation while literally panting from the exertion of juggling phones to finalize a massive real estate closing! Business owners also struggle to carve out time for their families, Torah learning, and other personal commitments. When multiplied by tens or hundreds, requests for “just five minutes” would completely consume the lives of gevirim unless they stick to a process. Help the donors help you by adhering to their instructions.

Gevirim Have Financial Limits

The fact that someone donates millions annually to tzedakah doesn’t mean he can write you a massive check. In this world, everything has limitations, and gevirim prioritize their giving based on halachic guidelines, personal obligations, and sometimes just their preferences. Often, the breakdown of a gvir’s two million dollars of annual donations is something like:

  • $500,000 x 1 to his brother’s kollel
  • $100,000 x 5 to other mosdos he has a personal obligation to
  • $10,000 x 50 to significant organizations and requests from rabbanim or askanim
  • $1,000 x 300 to miscellaneous vetted aniyim and organizations
  • $200 x 1,000 to whomever

Merubim tzarchei amcha—although a tremendous sum of money is distributed, very few can get six- or seven-figure donations. Placing unreasonable demands on a potential donor is a frustrating waste of time for all involved.

Gevirim Can Experience Downturns

From time to time, even the wealthiest can experience a cash crunch that requires them to drastically cut back on their giving. It takes money to make money, and often this includes borrowing vast sums and taking significant risks. When a new venture becomes a financial drain every spare penny is thrown at it, hurting a rich person’s cash flow and placing tremendous strain on him. That an organization got money in the past doesn’t create a perpetual chiyuv, and the last thing a generous but strapped donor needs is a guilt trip.

Bad middos are also bad for the fundraising business, as gevirim have the right to decide where to send their hard-earned dollars. If an organization or nitzrach displays a lack of middos as they pursue donations, they shouldn’t be surprised when they are placed at the back of the line when the temporary downturn is over.

Tzedakah Is a Two-Way Street

While they may enjoy their ability to easily afford a luxurious life, the greatest pleasure of most wealthy frum people is their ability to help others. They are aware that their fortune is a gift to be shared and take their stewardship of this obligation very seriously. But just as gevirim are expected to do their giving with seichel and sensitivity, the collectors are as well.

Thanks to the various gabba’ei tzedakah who provided input for this article. Your dedication to the klal is amazing and inspiring.

Want to dig deeper?

Try these related articles

Lending to Family: Do’s and Dont’s

Keeping Track of Tzedakah Accounting

Donor-Advised Funds: The Brilliant New Way to Give Tzedakah

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