“Several months?” Dini’s eyes widened. “But I wanted to start fundraising now!”
Dini opened the glass office door etched with the words Shapiro NPO Consulting, took in at a glance the textured wallpaper and parquet floors, and walked hesitantly up to the secretary.
“Hi, I’m Dini Blumenfeld? I have an appointment with Mrs. Shapiro?”
She winced at the question marks in her voice. There’s no reason to be insecure, even if this lady is clearly an uber-successful professional. You’re paying her for her time! She pictured the way her father, or Eliana, would have stridden into the office and politely but authoritatively announced their arrival.
The secretary consulted her computer. “Yes, eleven o’clock. Sit down please, she’ll be with you in a moment.”
Dini barely had time to wonder whether the large plant in the corner was real or fake when Temima Shapiro stuck her head out of her office door and beckoned Dini in.
Temima was the nonprofit consultant that all the bigwig organizations used, at least according to Shuki’s friend Glasser whose father sat on multiple boards and who was the type who just knew things. (Glasser had also been the one who’d told them who to call when they’d needed permits to combine two apartments into one and add another floor on top. Their neighbors sometimes still muttered about their “palace,” which Dini found insanely ridiculous. Did they have any clue how tiny their apartment still was, compared to the way her siblings lived?)
“Hi, Dini, nice to meet you.” Temima stuck out her hand, which Dini shook. The woman wore a short black sheitel and a businesslike silk blouse. “How can I help you?”
She spoke English with a slight British accent, and with the stiltedness of an Israeli more comfortable in Hebrew. Anglo parents, grew up here, Dini guessed. Was that what her own children would sound like one day?
No; her mother would have her head if her children ever reached the point where they didn’t sound like perfect Americans. And she’d immediately send over English tutors and accent reduction specialists and who knows what else.
Dini blinked to clear her head. “I’m here because I’d like some guidance in how to fundraise. My organization, Chesed Tzirel, has grown to the point that it needs a full-time executive running it, and we need to raise money to pay her salary.”
Temima nodded. “That’s really exciting that you’ve reached this stage. Why don’t you start by telling me about your organization?”
Dini enumerated the various services Chesed Tzirel provided while Temima took notes and asked questions.
“It sounds like you do wonderful work,” she said. “Although, from a marketing perspective, you’re a bit all over the place. You might want to think about streamlining your services, to make it easier on the branding.”
Dini blinked as Temima continued. “So now you need to raise $48,000 a year for a full-time salary. That’s not so much money. Is this something you can reach out to your existing donor base for?”
Dini squirmed. “We — uh — don’t really have an existing donor base. Until now, we’ve been very low budget. Everyone’s volunteer, and the few expenses we’ve had, I’ve just paid for myself. I think Ayala — Ayala Wexler, she’s the founder — I think she’s asked her parents and in-laws to donate over the years. And, you know, every now and then one of the families we helped will give something to the organization as thanks. But that’s it.”
“I see. Are you at least registered as an amuta — a nonprofit organization — that can provide Section 46 tax-deductible receipts?”
Dini felt her face grow warm. “Um, no, we haven’t done that. I think Ayala looked into it, but the legal fees and accounting costs were a lot, and there were no donations anyway, so it just didn’t seem worth it.” Temima simply nodded and wrote something on her notepad, but Dini couldn’t help but wonder if Temima was questioning why she was wasting her time with such a tiny unofficial entity. Did they sound like two little girls playing house?
“Okay, so your first step is to register as an amuta. That’s a relatively simple procedure that an accountant can help you with. Once you do that, your accountant can apply for Section 46 status, which enables you to issue receipts. That process generally takes several months.”
“Several months?” Dini’s eyes widened. “But I wanted to start fundraising now!”
“Once you’re established as an official nonprofit, you may be able to go through another organization to issue receipts. But if you really want to be taken seriously, I advise you to obtain your own status. Even if it does mean audits and legal paperwork.”
“We want to be taken seriously,” Dini said immediately. “We want to do this in the best, most professional way. That’s why I came to you.” She smiled, and Temima smiled back.
“Wonderful. I always recommend investing as much as you can into setting up the organization so that you’ll have the best shot at success.”
“Oh, totally! That’s my feeling, too!” Dini said. “Okay, so you’re saying I can’t start fundraising until I become registered in Israel. Um… but what if I’m fundraising in America?”
“Then you need to register yourselves as an NPO in the US, to provide US tax- deductible receipts.”
Dini felt her head starting to swim. “Gosh, there are so many steps to go through. It sounds like it’ll take forever until I’m even ready to think about fundraising. And meanwhile, Ayala really needs a salary so she can quit her regular job, because she’s been going crazy trying to do everything.” She tapped her nail on the glossy, cherrywood desktop. “Do you think I can ask for money now and tell them I’ll give them a receipt when we become registered?”
Temima tilted her head. “Legally? From what I understand, you have to issue the receipt when they give the money, not a few months later. Though that’s a question for an accountant. But you can certainly ask for a commitment now, and tell them you hope to be registered shortly. You’d need to find someone who trusts you enough, like a family member or close friend. Do you have people like that you can turn to, people who have money and would be interested in supporting your cause?”
Dini stifled a laugh. She had a million people like that. Not just her own family, but her family’s entire social network. A memory tickled in her brain. Hadn’t she just been speaking to one of her mother’s friends who’d donated a new building to some organization or other? Who was it? She closed her eyes and saw a huge diamond necklace. Her nephew’s bar mitzvah. Adele Samson, wife of Tatty’s CFO. And the organization was for sick children, because of something the Samson family had personally gone through….
She felt excitement bubbling up. “I think I know the perfect person!”
But then she pictured actually asking her. Calling Adele, telling her about the organization. Adele would surely ask for a brochure, some kind of material. They had nothing; they didn’t even have a logo. And then Dini would have to explain that they’re not even an official legal organization. Adele would probably give something small anyway, out of a sense of obligation. But she didn’t even want to think about what Adele would tell her mother about Dini’s amateurish attempt at fundraising.
She set her jaw. “On second thought, I don’t want to do anything until we can do this right.” She placed her hands on the desk and leaned forward. “Tell me what it means to do it right.”
Ayala heard Bracha’s voice calling distantly through the front door. “It’s open!”
Ayala pushed the door open. Bracha waved a doughy hand from the kitchen and motioned for her to come in.
“Sorry I couldn’t get the door. It’s cookie day at the Resnick house.”
Bracha’s three-year-old Avi was eagerly pouring chocolate chips into the batter, while one-year-old Leebie was sitting on the floor, eating the chocolate chips that had fallen. Ayala smiled at the sight.
“I came to return your book.” Bracha was forever pressing the novels she bought herself on Ayala, insisting she needed to relax more.
“Thanks, you can put it on the shelf over there. Tell me you actually read it.”
Ayala blushed. “Umm.”
Bracha rolled her eyes. “Have I ever told you that you work too hard?”
“Yeah, you and everyone else.” Ayala’s shoulders tightened. She eyed her friend. Bracha was her age but had gotten married less than five years ago. Before that, she’d been on an impressive chinuch career trajectory, going from teaching assistant to teacher to administrator. She’d been in the middle of getting her Ed.D. in educational administration and had just been offered a job as secular studies principal when she met her husband, moved to Israel, and quit her career to be a stay-at-home mom.
“Have you ever—” She stopped, blushing at the personal question she’d been about to ask.
Bracha looked at her curiously. “Have I ever what?”
Ayala said slowly, “Did you ever question your decision to quit teaching? Did you ever, like, wonder whether hundreds of students are missing out, just because you’ve decided you can’t push yourself just a little bit more?”
Ayala stared at her and Bracha laughed. “Joking. Sure, I have. But is there really any value in making yourself feel guilty?”
She clearly meant the question rhetorically, though Ayala didn’t think the answer was so obvious. Bracha continued, “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should chuck Chesed Tzirel. You’re doing amazing stuff. It’s so important to support people through medical issues. There are more families suffering out there than we realize.”
Ayala stared at her; was it her imagination, or had her friend’s face reddened slightly?
Deciding she’d imagined it, she said, “I know. I don’t want to give it up. But then there’s my real salaried job—”
“Dini still hasn’t come up with the goods yet?” Bracha grinned. “Wasn’t she going to fundraise a salary for you? I would’ve thought for someone with her deep pockets, that would take all of five seconds.”
Ayala felt a flicker of annoyance. “I certainly hope Dini isn’t just going to ask her father for the money. That would be so uncomfortable for me. As it is, I really don’t like the idea of taking tzedakah money for myself. Even if she found a donor, I don’t know if I’d accept it.”
Bracha’s eyes widened. “Don’t be ridiculous, Ayala. That’s totally standard in the industry.” Her voice lowered. “You’re allowed to think of yourself sometimes, too.”
Ayala blinked. She opened her mouth to retort — what? That she did think of herself? Or that thinking of others was more important? — when her phone rang.
She looked down at the screen and her eyebrows furrowed. Zev? Her brother in America didn’t usually call unless it was Erev Yom Tov or her birthday.
She quickly picked up. “Hello, Zev. To what do I owe this honor?” she asked lightly, even as her heart hammered inside.
Zev’s voice confirmed it. “Ayala, hi. How’s everyone? Listen, I’m calling because — it’s nothing major, no need to panic — but Tatty fell when he was walking down the stairs of his house and cracked a rib. He’s in the hospital right now. I’m on my way there.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 859)
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