In my shul from time to time someone from outside the United States, usually from Israel, comes to collect charity. I would like to better understand the economics of this process. I had heard anecdotally that the person who drives the charity collector around receives a portion of what is collected (possibly 1/3rd!), I also assume there numerous other expenses such as air travel, food, lodging etc. I don't know if there is a cost to receive approbations or other expenses. I'm seeking either a breakdown of the costs and/or general information on what amount of funds a traveling charity collector can expect to receive after expenses - either gleaned from reputable sources or data available from elsewhere. The reason for my inquiry is to better determine the effectiveness of my charity.

I am assuming this question is considered on topic, if not please close

  • 1
    It's a free market, after all, everyone makes his own business, and especially if he fulfills a Mitzvah alongside! My close friend (in Jerusalem) went on a trip to the USA to marry off his daughter last year. He soon discovered the whole industry of advisers, consultants, personal drivers, referees, supporters, etc. After he calculated the commissions and fares and two-way ticket, he could still have a five-figure remainder - so it was surely worth it. Moreover, many small Yeshivas asked him to assist them on the way for 50% of profits....
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 20:11
  • 1
    It might seem unfair, but I think the donors must understand that they support not only the needy but the whole institute of charity. In terms of the Halacha, it was considered forbidden to take money (profiting from) for Mitzvos, but the latter Poskim were much more pragmatic and allowed profiting from teaching Torah as well as managing Tzedakkah and more.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 20:21
  • The number of meshulachim that come to a country is a short-term economic indicator with lag (because it takes them a while to figure out where they can go collecting)
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


A late Hungarian rabbi wrote the following in his memoir about his stay in the United States of the 1950s (pp. 264–276):

As we entered the flat [...], a man of a small stature sat on a low chair, around the age of 35. [...] He spoke English with a very heavy accent, it was difficult to understand his words. [...] It turned out that he was collecting for a yeshivah in Israel. He passed my father-in-law an English language brochure about the institute, on which a multi-storey building was visible and next to it the name of the institute: Yeshivat Beit Yoseif. According to the brochure, in this yeshivah 100 bocher study the Talmud with its most important commentaries from dawn until late night. We were informed that the American agency of this institute is in this flat, and he, Mr. X. is its sole director. [...]

After the short "hearing" he handed over to my father-in-law about fifty addresses. On these slips of paper the amount was also indicated which the person contributed to the maintenance of the school. The addresses were from the state of Massachusetts. The terms of the employment were very severe. He began by saying that 100 dollars were to be deposited in exchange for the addresses! This would stay with him as long as my father-in-law gets addresses from him. He didn't cover travel costs! The collector had to cover them, as an investment in the business. However, only 30 percent of the collected amount were to be handed over to Mr. X. The rest is the collector's. [...]

My father-in-law came home for the Shabbat. He was full of experience and hope.

– Imagine, all my addresses came off! I hand over the receipt, these bring it to the inner room, I can't even look there, and they bring the money. [...] These get such a receipt which makes it possible to deduct the amount of the donation from their tax.

– How much expenditure did you have? [...]

– Very little. In most places there is an orech shtibl (guest room for poor travellers) in the temple. One may stay there for one or two nights. There are places where breakfast and dinner can be bought for cheap as well.

– How much did you collect? [...]

– Four hundred dollars. In contrast, I had 120 dollars expenditure. 280 dollars remained. Out of it I hand over 84 to the rabbi, thus net 196 dollars remain for me. [...]

As for me, I felt [...] [that it's better] than collecting for an Israeli yeshivah, out of which quite little could remain for the yeshivah, because out of the 30% that the mysterious person called "rabbi" collected, he had to spend a significant amount on his own and his family's sustenance. If so, what is to remain for the yeshivah? It seemed evident that this part of the thing didn't bother those who were collecting.

So in this example 30% covered the costs of the collector (travelling, lodging, food), 21% gross went to the rabbi and 49% was the collector's income.

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