Jun 17, 2008

The latest trend in "schnorring"

It used to be that people collecting tzedaka, either for themselves or for someone they know or for an organization, would knock on the door and ask for a donation.

I would give them a token donation, but I save my real donations mostly for local tzedakas and local organizations (shuls, schools, etc.), and for the couple of organizations/people I have given regularly to over the years.

It seems the various organizations have figured out a new way to market themselves so they can get me (and you) to give more than just a few shekels at the door.

Let me preface this by saying all these organizations probably do amazing work and are wonderful and help the needy, help the sick, help whomever they are trying to help. This is in no way saying that these organizations are not worthy of support. They probably are.

It has happened a few times recently. The phone rings and I pick it up. That is actually my first mistake. I hardly ever answer the phone - mostly because it is almost never for me, but also because I do not like talking on the phone. I will only rarely walk across the house, or even the room, to pick up the handset. I will usually only answer the phone when it is right next to me.

So back to the story, I pick up the ringing phone. It is 8pm and someone is calling while I am trying to get my kids to brush their teeth and go to bed.

They start their sales pitch telling me about their organization. Again, the organization is clearly important and does great work (assuming what the person on the phone says is true). Then they say that somebody from the organization will be on my street tomorrow (or whenever) and "can he stop in to collect a donation"? Sometimes they will even request a specific amount, and they will insist on the donation (once they think they have you committed already) being no less than "xyz" otherwise it is not worth his coming by.

That makes me feel guilty, and I am harried because of the kids at the same time. So I have generally said ok, and when he comes in I give him a reasonable donation. Much larger than I would have had he just knocked on my door. After all, they made the effort to find me and call and give me a spiel.

Last night I received a call from what sounds like a great organization. While she was talking, I kind of tuned out, because in the past 2 weeks I must have gotten 6 or 7 of these already. And, again, while they are all great organizations, I prefer to give locally (and to some others I support), and the more I give not locally means the less I give locally. So I tuned out and was thinking to myself, why should I give them more just because they called me? If they had just knocked on my door, I would not give them the amount she is asking for, so why should I do it just because she called?

So at the end of the spiel, she asks if the guy can come by tomorrow and pick up a donation. This time I said sure, and I will give him something. She asked for a certain amount and I said no - I will give him a few shekels. So she said "but not less than xyz, right"? I said I will give him a small donation and I do not commit to how much. If he thinks it is not worth it, he does not have to come. Then she starts her spiel again, "but it is for kids with this disease and that is important and we need your donations, etc. etc etc". SO irepeated that i would give a small, as of yet undetermined, donation, and

Maybe I was wrong, but I am frustrated. Why do I have to give more just because this organization bought a list of names and bothers people at night? Yes, your organization does important work. I am no longer going to give you more just because you call me.


  1. I got a call around 8PM last night from a guy who told me he's waiting downstairs at the entrance of my building...

  2. In any case according to halachah there is a set amount of money a person has to give to tzedakah, betweenth a tenth minimally and a fifth maximally. Why not calculate each month how much is available, set aside the majority for local causes because of aniyi irecho kodmim, and the rest divide up into a certain number of portions and each organization that calls or knocks receives one portion. If none is left apologize and tell them to try back next month.

  3. That's (one of the reasons) why I have caller ID. Any number that's "private number", especially if its coming at night, is one of these organizations or "surveys" or other nonsense I don't want to deal with. If it is an important call, then they'll leave a message on my voicemail. I live in a semi-charedi neighborhood in Yerushalayim and I get at least 5-6 ppl a week knocking on my door for Tzedakah. They ignore the sign on my door that says don't knock after 8pm. I have never had the "call before the visit" though.

  4. Great move, Rafi. I agree that it's getting out of control. I've gotten several calls this week.

  5. I hate these guilt/intimidation tactics that they engage in.
    One tzedakah called me last week and thanked me for my pledge of
    $36. I said, "I never made that pledge. I've never even heard of your organization." He said, "Oh, well then let me tell you about us...". I was so angry. They had tried to trick me into thinking that I had already promised to donate to them.

  6. Truth in AdvertisingJune 17, 2008 3:24 PM

    Rav Malinowitz spoke several months ago about the "herd" mentality that tzedakos use to intimidate donors to give.

    The idea is that if you don't give to us than you're not frum enough, cool enough, etc.

    There are even local organizations that use this tactic by plastering banners and posters over walls and shuls and sending people out to knock on my door monthly.

    The more that I get blitzed like this the more I wish to give to the more "modest" organizations who spend their money (even sponsored) on helping people not PR.

    A little PR is needed but hey..give me a break.

  7. super - very frustrating!

    Truth - I agree with the sentiments 100%

  8. Actually Rafi, some of these guys are way ahead on this tip, at least for certain "donors".
    An amusing story that I heard first-hand from the person answering the phone and door -
    He is the step-son of a big macher back here in Chi-town - you know the macher (and possibly, the step-son too), lives in a dead-end "compound" a couple blocks from your parents.

    The phone rings and it's a schnorrer asking if so-and-so is home. Step-son says "no, he's out of town" and ends phone conversation. 30 seconds later, the doorbell rings, and when step-son opens the door, the phone caller is standing on the doorstep looking for so-and-so. Step-son angrily tells him that "I just told you on the phone that he's out of town. Goodbye." And closes door.

    Literally, less than 2 minutes later, the phone rings and it's ANOTHER schnorrer asking if so-and-so is there. Step-son replies that he is out of town. 30 seconds later, doorbell rings, and when step-son opens it, the SECOND caller is standing on the stoop asking for so-and-so. Step-son very angrily replies "I just told you and the other guy that he is out of town, what didn't you understand?" And closes door again.

    2 minutes go by, and another phone call. A third schnorrer asking for so-and-so. Stepson doesn't even answer the question. He hangs up the phone, opens the front door, and walks down the driveway to the schnorrer-mobile idling at the curb, and yells "So-and-so is not home. If you call again, this is what I will tell you. If you come to the front door again, this is what I will tell you. So however many more of you are in that car that I haven't spoken to yet, this is the deal. Have a good night."

    The window opens and the TWO other schnorrers that he has yet to speak to (YES, five schnorrers in one car) say thank you and the car drives off.

  9. haha.. that is amusing... It is very common for a bunch of guys collecting to share a driver/car who brings them around to the same people... In chi-town it is mostly Aryeh W.(or at least it used to be)

  10. the calls are usually made by an independant call center, the tzedakas hire the call centers in lakewood and jerusalem to make the calls

  11. Have you noticed that the callers are always young women?
    This is no coincidence - they do it intentionally. I was told this by a guy who runs the call teams and recruits teenage girls/young women.

    What's that all about in the charedi world???

  12. Why is that surprising? They are probably young wives of kollelniks who are supporting their families this way. Nu, two birds, one stone...


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