13 Tips for Fundraising from Tourists and Travelers
Contributors: Rabbi Yisroel Brod, Kfar Chabad, Eretz Yisroel
Rabbi Moishe Chanowitz, S. Maarten, Netherland Antilles
Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, Beijing, China
Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, Anchorage, Alaska
Mrs. Perel Krasnjansky, Honolulu, Hawaii
Rabbi Mendel Mintz, Aspen, Colorado
Paying It Forward
During “Dollars” on a winter’s day in 1988, the Rebbe told Mr. Ronald Lauder, in English: “It is my idea that at the first encounter of two Jews, they should do something for a third Jew. And the first thing they can do for a third Jew is to give charity…. It is an indication of what every one of us should do, when any one of us meets a Jew—start by looking to do something that will benefit a third Jew” (20 Teves, 5749, Living Torah Disc 5, Program 17).
This clear directive is the driving force behind the efforts of shluchim around the world, most specifically when it comes to fundraising. Combine a shlichus that caters mostly to tourists and visitors with the above mandate, and the result is a host of shluchim who recognize that each visitor to their makom hashlichus is there b’hashgocha protis and is therefore a keili to benefit another Jew. If, by impressing upon a traveler or vacationer the valuable work of Chabad, a shliach is the recipient of a generous contribution, the benefit is not a personal one; rather, it is a gain for the “third Jew”—the people who make up the communities of those shluchim. These fundraising efforts bear fruit in the form of even more recipients of Chabad’s goodwill.
Admittedly, raising funds without the luxury of time to cultivate relationships is a challenge. It requires a different and more creative approach than traditional fundraising. Compass Magazine asked a panel of shluchim and shluchos for their suggestions and advice on fundraising within this unique demographic.
Four Overarching Fundraising Rules
Rabbi Yisroel Brod, noted fundraiser, consultant and coach, emphasizes the need to understand four key realities of all fundraising efforts:
- Fundraising is a process that develops over many years. Though you need not wait many years in order to begin reaping the benefits of successful fundraising, it is important to understand and accept this fact.
- Fundraising is not “shnorring” but, rather, a very respectable profession and should be treated as such (e.g., with appropriate study, preparation, etc.).
- Fundraising should be worked on daily, not just when the pressure mounts.
- Fundraising should be treated as a very serious and significant purpose of your shlichus and not as a means to something else. It is not a headache or a necessity borne from your bills or desire to run peulos. (This point calls for a great deal of elaboration, beyond the scope of this article.)
Windows of Opportunity
At the outset, Rabbi Brod offers a different approach. “The Rebbe taught us that every challenge is an opportunity for greater growth. Endeavoring to fundraise in a tourist hotspot absolutely has its challenges, yet, at the same time, has extraordinary opportunities that don’t always exist in places where the shlichus is centered around a local community.” Rabbi Brod highlights four advantages for shluchim in this demographic:
- There is a great deal of traffic and, as a result, you are always meeting new people—many times very wealthy individuals.
- People don’t stay around long enough to start suggesting what you should or shouldn’t do.
- People who would not necessarily enter a Chabad House in their own communities are often not as intimidated or hesitant to enter yours.
- You get to be there for people when they need it most (when they find themselves in a new country and don’t know where or how to make Shabbos or yom tov, or need urgent travel or health-related assistance, etc.).
When it comes to promoting Chabad in tourist hotspots, it is obviously essential to have a comprehensive tourist page on your website, complete with links and information on the services you offer, nearest hotels, supermarkets with kosher items, etc. Here are some additional practical tips on reaching out to visitors and inspiring their support:
Display a Warm Welcome
Rabbi Brod suggests setting up a professionally created stand that welcomes visitors and lets them know you are there for them, including the services you provide. It is a good idea to have a pushka prominently displayed so that, if they do wish to contribute, they can easily do so.. A “sign in” book for guests to leave their impressions of their stay at the Chabad House, even if just for a meal or a short period of time, is also a valuable tool for collecting personal information so you can keep in touch. You can also include a “ drop your business card” as part of this stand/display. Rabbi Brod notes that it is worthwhile to set this up in consultation with a PR professional to ensure proper and attractive wording, colors, etc. “This on its own may not bring in a significant amount of money, but it does heighten awareness and will make a positive difference over time.”
Perfect your Elevator Pitch
When asked, “Who funds all this?” or “How do you fund all the meals for all of these people every Friday night?” you need to be ready with an answer. “Unfortunately,” says Rabbi Brod, there are shluchim whose response will be very ambiguous and wishy-washy. Either they are not ready to enter into this discussion or are uncomfortable giving a clear, concise answer. My suggestion would be to respond to this type of question with, “’Do you really want to know?’ Then give me 10 minutes of your time and I will be happy to share the answer with you.’ If they are inquiring seriously, then what you say next will make a big difference. Practice and perfect a short, professional presentation and know how to make the ‘ask’ in a pleasant and convincing manner.”
Long Distance Cultivation
Cultivation is one of the key elements in “keeping” a donor and having him or her continue to give in the future. Cultivation is the act of becoming closer to the potential donor so that when asked for a repeat gift, and even perhaps to increase the previous year’s gift, the donor will have a hard time refusing your request.
With today’s technology, cultivation can easily be done with the donor living on the other side of the globe. In the Facebook and Twitter age, it makes no difference if the donor lives down the block or across the ocean. “Once the donor is impressed by having seen what you do and has given a gift, you are in the best position to begin the process of cultivation and thereby keep him or her a reliable annual donor.”
Rabbi Brod maintains that knowing how to implement proper cultivation is an art in and of itself. “If approached seriously, you will succeed in finding the balance between being a nudge and not being sufficiently visible on the donor’s radar.”
Don’t underestimate the value of promoting in print
Rabbi Mendel Mintz of Aspen, Colorado, highlights the value of newspaper ads, pamphlets at hotel concierge desks, and rack cards in prominent tourist spots, which are all helpful in directing people to Chabad. Chabad of S. Maarten prints a glossy tourist magazine each year. Shliach Rabbi Moishe Chanowitz places them strategically in many busy hotels and car rentals that Jews are known to frequent.
Get all the info you can and follow up
Mrs. Perel Krasnjansky, shlucha to Honolulu, Hawaii, who, along with her husband Rabbi Itchel, has been hosting Shabbos meals every week for the last 29 years, highlights how important it is to direct everyone to fill out an online form so that you have their contact information. Even when people call in their reservations, she politely directs them to the website and then tells them to feel free to call back if they have further questions. This way, they are added to the center’s email list, and get all the emails about future pe’ulos. “The steady ‘drip’ of emails has been the reason why some people come back or will send in a donation,” she explains.
Walk the beat!
“Just by being out there, we are always bumping into Jewish tourists,” says Rabbi Chanowitz. A shliach will always stand out in a crowd and is easily identifiable as a go-to source for anyone with a “Jewish need.” Of course, it goes without saying that “walking the beat” in the Rebbe’s terminology means not doing so without a pair of tefillin or neshek kits on hand, ready to engage fellow Jews.
Invest in repeat visitors
Repeat visitors are a demographic that are most likely to help out, asserts Rabbi Mintz. Admittedly, each place is different, but if you do have visitors who return often, work on keeping up a connection with them throughout the time they are away. This builds the relationship and friendship, and lets them know you care about them. Rabbi Chanowitz gives shiurim on Chassidus via Skype with some of the annual vacationers to the tropical island, and he makes a point of calling others regularly. “They have become our baalei batim,” he says of these visitors. What about those who don’t seem interested or might rebuff your overtures? Rabbi Mintz maintains that while “they may not have been involved at all for five or 10 years of visiting here, sooner or later a need arises and they call us, whether it’s for a minyan for a yahrtzeit or a seder over spring break, and it’s at that time that they may make a respectable donation.”
Impress the guests!
Most shluchim concur that when guests are impressed, they will be moved to support the cause. Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, shliach to Beijing, China, emphasizes the importance of making sure that tourists actually see your interaction with the local community. “Otherwise, they see you as a service center,” he explains. When people see that in addition to all you provide for visitors, you have a bustling local Jewish community, with programs and activities, they are more moved to support you. For example, on Sundays Rabbi Freundlich leads a bar mitzvah class. Since davening (which many frum visitors will attend) begins at 8:00 a.m., he makes sure to start the bar mitzvah class at 8:30 a.m., just as davening is finishing, so people get to see up-close the diverse community Chabad caters to.Rabbi Mintz advises that it’s important to take note of visitor’s sentiments. Some guests will show deep respect and appreciation for what Chabad does and the far-out places shluchim and their families live. It’s usually those people who are more likely to make a donation. If you encounter a visitor who expresses warmth and caring for what you do, he recommends following up with an email or letter asking for assistance.
Be there for them
Mrs. Krasnjansky estimates that 50% of her “working time” is spent answering emails and calls from tourists. There’s no doubt that dealing with the needs (and, at times, demands!) of a large number of tourists and visitors, all in addition to providing for the local community, can be trying on your patience and energy. “Yet,” cautions Mrs. Krasnjansky, “I try to be nice to everyone. That’s what we’re here for.” Rabbi Mintz agrees. He emphasizes the importance of giving guests the time they need and to always respond nicely and within 24 hours. Rabbi Chanowitz adds, “We are there to help people in times of need and they usually reciprocate.” When a visitor lamented the fact that he had not brought along kosher dishes, the Chanowitzes happily provided him with the pots and utensils he needed. They were more than a bit surprised by a very handsome donation made by this individual, whom they had not met previously. Rabbi Chanowitz maintains that it’s the mesiras nefesh of shluchim, ready to go out of their way for another Yid, that impresses people the most. The refrain of the popular song sung by many Chabad children comes to mind: “…just to do a favor for another, love him with all your heart….” Who truly lives by these words more than shluchim?
Remember the Goal
“Our goal is to give visitors a great first impression so that they, in turn, visit their local Chabad. This way, we collectively have a much greater impact,” stresses Rabbi Chanowitz. Of course, connecting visitors with their local shluchim ensures that they remain connected Jewishly even after their trip. Shluchim can inquire of guests whether they have been to their hometown Chabad centers, and, if not, encourage them to do so. Take a moment while you converse and make a referral via chabadlink.org. The overall objective is to instill and cultivate a connection to Yiddishkeit; if tourists become partners, and then in turn support their local Chabad institutions, it is an added bonus.
Put Things in Perspective
The transient nature of the Chabad House visitors in a tourist hotspot creates a very real challenge, and often a demoralizing one: lack of appreciation and reciprocation for the services Chabad provides and for the people providing those services—the shluchim. Tourists may come and avail themselves of all that Chabad graciously offers, but have little interest in the community or care about local needs. As one shliach put it succinctly, “They don’t have a commitment to your cause.” Another shliach lamented, “Oftentimes, visitors can be abusive, demanding, and disrespectful—they have no skin in the game.” Rabbi Mintz underscores the need to understand and recognize with whom we are dealing —which, far from justifying certain behaviors, can help keep things in perspective and alleviate feelings of dejection and discouragement.
On the flip side, there are many advantages that the shliach-tourist relationship brings. “More than just meals, we’ve developed personal relationships with them,” shares Mrs. Krasnjansky. She adds, “I see the tourists who come to Chabad as a win-win situation.” Chabad is able to provide them with their needs, and the relationship becomes mutually beneficial when the tourists support the shluchim by befriending them and enabling them to continue their work.
Put Jewish history on display
Rabbi and Mrs. Yosef Greenberg recently opened the Alaska Jewish Museum. “From the moment we built it, we’ve gotten secular Jewish tourists from all over the world, non-stop.” One of the main exhibits, “On the Wings of Eagles,” explores Alaskan Airlines pilots’ contribution to Operation Magic Carpet (program airlifting Yemenite Jews to Israel in 1949-50). The Chabad center in Beijing also houses a Jewish Museum, showcasing artifacts from Jews living in China in the late 19th century. In busy tourist hotspots, where groups are constantly being shown the sights of your city, it may be worthwhile to find a Jewish historical connection to your city and put it on display. Exhibits like these definitely generate publicity and create a place for you to meet and connect with Jews who would not otherwise seek out Chabad.
If undertaking this type of project, the practical follow-up step would be to develop good relationships with local tour guides and encourage them to bring their groups to your exhibit. Though this can generate some (albeit small) funds in tips when groups come by, you stand to gain a lot in terms of connections, relationships, and getting the word out there about your Chabad center.
Make the most of the mileage
About three years ago, Hawaiian Airlines began running nonstop flights from New York to Honolulu. Mrs. Krasnjansky realized that most of the visitors have no need for their miles accumulated on Hawaiian Airlines, and an idea was born. She began asking people if they would consider donating their miles to Chabad. She found that most people were only too happy to oblige. A large percentage of the expenses of most shluchim in far-out places goes towards airfare, and collecting miles can make a serious dent in the budget. In addition to personal needs and covering flights of bochurim and girls who come for yomim tovim, the Krasnjanskys were able to send a frum boy to camp and a local couple to the mainland for an urgent medical procedure—all with the help of generous guests who donated their miles.
- Capitalize on your city as a yom tov destination for frum tourists
Chabad of Beijing initiated a full-scale Sukkos program. With close to 100 people in their inaugural year, it was deemed very successful. If you are ready and able to focus on the four elements which are vital to a successful program–accommodations, kashrus, shiurim, and full schedule of activities–it might be something to try. According to Rabbi Freundlich, the above four factors are non-negotiable. That’s how he found himself delivering a Daf Yomi shiur for participants of the program. If done properly, a yom tov program has the potential to be a very lucrative source of income.
Enter into the shul at the Bet Yaakov Chabad House in Beijing, and you’ll see something quite striking. Two beautifully embroidered challos on the mantel of the Sefer Torah. Challos? Yes, because the Sefer Torah, as well as the shul building itself, came about thanks, mostly, to a challah. One Friday afternoon, Rabbi Freundlich reached out to a visitor and invited him for Shabbos. He refused. Undaunted, Rabbi Freundlich went over to his hotel and brought him a challah that had just been baked by his wife, Mrs. Dini Freundlich. “After ten minutes, he told me to tell my wife that in exchange for the challah he would give a Sefer Torah.” And that was the beginning of a relationship that eventually led this individual to donate most of the funds for the new Chabad center, built in 2011.
Sometimes tourists provide the funds, and sometimes they facilitate them. Sixteen years ago, it was a tourist from West Hempstead, NY who was instrumental in raising the money necessary to build the mikvah in Anchorage. This visitor was moved by the plight of a Jewish community without a mikvah and resolved to get his community back home involved in the cause. “He invited me to come speak at his shul and in the first hour after my talk, we raised a substantial sum,” relates Rabbi Greenberg.
Positive impact is not always in dollars and cents. Mrs. Krasnjansky recalls the time a Persian family from Los Angeles visited Hawaii. Usually, visitors have to pre-register for Shabbos and yom tov meals, but this family just showed up at Chabad on the first night of Sukkos, and continued to join for all of the holiday meals. “They had a wonderful time,” she remembers. About two years later, Mrs. Krasnjansky’s daughter got engaged and the wedding was scheduled to be held in Honolulu. The logistics of making an out-of-town wedding are very complex, all the more so in the westernmost major U.S. city, and not just because it is physically far. Well, it turns out that the father of the Persian family is a caterer, and he ended up catering the wedding in a most helpful and accommodating manner, turning a potential headache into a pleasant experience for the shluchim.
These stories are replete with hashgocha protis, where one literally sees the hand of Hashem matching specific people with shluchim to help with their various programs, events, building projects, and personal lives. As one shliach stated, “Be nice to everyone because you never know מאין יבוא עזרי.” Indeed, it sometimes comes from the unlikeliest of places.
Written by Mrs. Chanie Wilhelm, Milford, Connecticut