Feb 15, 2017

Interesting Psak: what percentage can a shnorrer take of his collections?

There is always a debate, and a concern among people donating money to organizations, as to what is a legitimate percentage for the collector/meshulach/shnorrer to take as compensation from the monies he raised on their behalf. People want to know that the money they are donating is going to the organization, but it costs money to hire a fundraiser and they deserve a salary for their work and efforts. They surely deserve to earn a salary or commission - the question is simply how much is reasonable.

Rav Doni Schwartz of Machon Hatorah vHaaretz has written a detailed psak on the matter in which he says paying to the collector anything beyond 50% is unreasonable and is considered theft. He says that organizations should give a lot less than 50% but he leaves it open saying that it also depends on the amount of work the collector has to put into the job.

Rav Schwartz brings from Rav Shternbuch that a colelctor is allowed to take a portion of the money because otherwise nobody would be willing to fundraise for the organizations, so like the halacha by poor people that nobody will look out for them if they did not earn some of the money, that applies to these organizations as well.

Rav Schwartz also brings from Rav Zilbershtein that it is still considered tzedaka for the donors and giving some of the money to the fundraiser is nto considered going against the wishes of the donor who wants his money to go to tzedaka. Rav Zilbershtein explains that the fundraiser works on their behalf and deserves to get paid and this is like any other expense or salary the yeshiva has to pay.

So, a yeshiva could designate a portion of the money raised for the collector and it is not considered theft from the poor for whom the money was designated. The recipients are "moichel" the reasonable percentage so that someone will be willing to do the work to raise a lot more money for them than he otherwise would.

However, Rav Schwartz makes the point that giving anything beyond 50% is already too much and nobody donating money agrees to the majority of his money going to pay for the collector. So anything beyond that is unreasonable and would be considered theft. The exact amount he receives should be base don a combination of factors such as how much work and effort he must put in, the value of the "brand" for which he is collecting, with an upward limit of 50%.

I wonder who is considered stealing in such a case where the fundraiser takes more than 50%. A case could be made that he isn't stealing anything as he is working for an organization and whatever they negotiated is fair for him to take. Maybe the yeshiva or organization agreeing to use the collected money to pay more than 50% to the fundraiser is the one stealing, but the money is there to be used for their expenses, and this is an expense. It seems the donor is being deceived and the yeshiva/poor people are being stolen from, but I am not sure who guilty of the theft. Maybe the two together - the collector and the yeshiva administrator.

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  1. What if the collector is paid a 'living wage' salary and after the fact they realize that the amount he is able to collect puts his salary at above the 50% mark. What about indirect contributions? Sometimes, a donation might be donated after the fact due to the efforts of the fundraiser, even if he doesn't always get the credit.

    1. regarding your first question I would say that is less direct but if he isnt bringing in enough donations to keep his salary below the 50% line he might not be doing a good enough ob and they might need to replace him.
      regarding your second question, I am not sure what the question is. should he get a percentage of it? is there flexibility in the 50% number because other donations might come in? I am sure many sales positions have similar situations and in negotiations that should be dealt with


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