Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: Fundraising Advice from the Rebbe



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    Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: Fundraising Advice from the Rebbe

    I am the administrator and fundraiser for our local Talmud Torah, what does the Rebbe say about fundraising? Rabbi Gershon Avtzon answers in this week’s Chinuch and Moshiach column • Full Article

    By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon

    Question: I am the administrator and fundraiser for our local Talmud Torah and I very much enjoy your articles about Chinuch. I know that your column was created to answer (mainly) the spiritual and emotional questions that are related to education, but we all know that “without flour, there is no Torah” (Pirkei Avos). I’m wondering if — in addition to the advice written about actual educational tools and ideals — the Rebbe wrote about fundraising ideas and techniques as well. 

    Answer: Firstly, thank you for your tireless, and often thankless, dedication and work for your holy institution. Most people are simply unaware of the long hours, and sleepless nights that an administrator of an educational institution endures. You are truly the backbone of the institution and you are a partner in all the learning of the children. The following are some of the letters that the Rebbe sent to those which were raising money for mosdos. Like in many instances, the greatest gift the Rebbe gives is the proper mindset and outlook we are supposed to have:

    You’re Not Just a Fundraiser 

    (1) “You write that you are planning to send a special emissary to Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and other countries, with the intent of raising money for the yeshivah. In my opinion, in general this is a proper suggestion. Two stipulations, however, must be met: (a) You should consult with other Lubavitch institutions who also send emissaries to different countries so there will not be confusion and complaints from one institution against the other. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to arrange a joint campaign with several of these institutions; and (b) that, as my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, instructed, the emissary (or emissaries) should not be involved merely in the collection of funds, but should, as [the Rebbe’s] adage states, ‘collect gashmiyus (material things) and sow ruchniyus (spiritual inspiration).’ We have seen that success in the first aspect of this work is dependent on success in the second…” (Igros, Vol. 4 p. 414; #1134)

    The Funds Are Already By You

    (2) In 5716 (1956), the Rebbe wrote to the Chabad askanim (community activists) of Melbourne, encouraging them to open up a girls school. The Rebbe then added these words:

    “It should be the will of Hashem that you recognize the true reality: you have been given the kochos (powers) and that the funding for the school is already in the bank. Both of these realities have not been utilized properly until now. While it is true that until the funds are given over to you they lay in the account of the donors, it is so important that this reality (i.e., that Hashem gave the person the money as a caretaker of the funds until the time has come to give it to the mossad) and the importance of supporting the institution is explained well to the donor. We have all seen positive results of such an attitude in the past. (Igros, Vol. 13 p. 378; #4631)

    מרכז סת”ם 720

    Maintaining the Relationship with A Donor 

    (3) “In response to your letter about the dinner that was made on the occasion of the dedication of the Yeshiva building … I’m very happy that it was successful. It is certain that you are aware of the custom of these countries, that the excitement generated by the dinner should be nurtured the entire year through meeting the prospective donors throughout the year. During these meetings, you should remind them — in a diplomatic way — of their excitement at the dinner and this will cause them to commit additional involvement in the institution, either themselves or financially.” (Igros, Vol. 11 page 27; #3404)

    Conflicting Campaigns 

    (4) In response to your questions about the conflicting fundraising campaigns for the Chabad institutions: both institutions are correct (in the fact that they both need to raise funds in order to keep functioning). It is self-understood that one donor can’t be approached by two Chabad institutions at the same time. The practical advice is for there to be set times during the year that the different institutions hold their major fundraising campaigns.  Another option (albeit less practical) is that the institutions divide the donors. However, besides being very difficult [to arrange], it is also questionable if the donor will accept the idea that he only “belongs” to one of the institutions. There is enough time during the year for all institutions to have successful campaigns to address their needs. (Igros, Vol. 12 p. 403; #4216)

    [There are many more directives of the Rebbe about fundraising. They can be read in the book “Shlichus K’Hilchasa pages 381-415.] 

    The Moshiach Connection

    In the times of Moshiach, there will be an abundance of physical good for all people and institutions. In the worlds of the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 12:5): “In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know Hashem.”

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