Friday, May 17, 2013

Befriending donors or Using people?

I subscribe to fundraising-related emails from Guidestar, a great site for non-profits. After Shavuot I found a Guidestar email in my inbox, with a link to an article entitled, "Befriending Your Donors: Interview with Fundraiser Thomas Wolf".

The interview begins with the following question and answer:

Your book is about relating to donors, at times befriending them. A cynical person might say that's a manipulative ploy to snare money.
That's an attitude I've never understood. I like people. I like getting to know them whether they have money or turn out to be donors. Invariably, our relating makes them feel good and makes me feel good—especially when we strike a bond or find common interests. Why should there be an invisible barrier just because someone is a potential supporter?

I've known fundraisers who became close to donors in unlikely ways, and I've always wondered about this. My gut, after reading the answer listed, is that it's still manipulative. If you are a friend already, fine - but if you only become friends after you learn they are possible donors, that bothers me.

What do you think?


  1. As a donor, let me share the following:
    Nothing the local community rav does to befriend me will ever succeed. As the never-ending parade of Israeli shnorrers at my door long ago convinced me I am, in their eyes, not a human being but a cheque book with legs. All the "And you're such a tzadik" talk makes me ill and that includes when the local guy tells me about how I'm so important to the community. No, once you need my money you can't be my friend anymore. I won't believe anything you say because behind it I know that you only see my money when you look at me.

  2. Garnel-
    Is flattery the same thing as befriending?

  3. Garnel - could not agree more with you. I can do without "friends" who shake hands palm up......

    The Jewish charities I support most fully are the ones who simply say - "we need your help" and do it without the transparently condescending compliments.

  4. Bob-
    Same question I asked Garnel: Is flattery the same as befriending?

  5. No, of course it's not the same but there's always the ulterior motive.
    Try this: you see me sitting in the back of your beis midrash. You don't know me but being a friendly guy you come over and say hello. We could end it there or strike up a conversation. Let's say the odds are 50:50.
    Now try this: you see me sitting in the back of your beis midrash and decide you're going to come over and say hello but first ask your chavrusa if he knows who I am. And he fittingly responds "That's Lord Garnel Ironheart, leader of the Living, vanquisher of the terrible Undead Overload and a really loaded guy."
    What are the odds now of us striking up a conversation instead of just a simple exchange of pleasantries?

  6. I definitely hear you. This was something I worked hard against when I was in the rabbinate; I tried to build relationships with everyone, and I was very careful not to treat people differently based on their ability to fund things. Hence my question about the topic in the post.