If someone owes a certain amount of money for Maaser, can one use it to buy goods (raffle ticket, baked goods, etc.) from a fundraiser that will only donate its profits, not all its proceeds, to the actual cause?

Technically, some of the total money received in the fundraiser will be used to pay off the goods, and this will not be considered "tzedaka".

Essentially, my question is whether or not it will be considered as if only a portion of the money one gave actually went to tzedaka (and thus the giver wouldn't have fulfilled his Maaser obligation), or can one just imagine that their money is going to the part of the funds that will actually be donated?

  • 2
    Isn't running the fundraiser a legitimate expense of the charitable organization? That's spending money to make money. You'd be funding their investment. – Double AA Apr 20 '16 at 4:44
  • What @DoubleAA said. To put it in other words: If I send a check directly to the Ploni Fund for the Needy (not as part of a fundraiser), some percentage of that check will go to administrative costs. Thus, only the profits and not all the proceeds of the fund's income actually goes to the needy. That case seems to be similar to the one in your question. (This is not an answer, though. Conceivably, in your case and in mine only the amount that goes to the needy can be given from maaser.) – msh210 Apr 20 '16 at 7:17
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  • @DoubleAA i was thinking of a third-party sort of fundraiser (like a school raising money for an organisation through a bake sale) – wonderingjew Apr 20 '16 at 8:11
  • @msh210 good point. I guess then it would be allowed? This then leaves the bigger question of if charity funds that invest in marketing campaigns or whatever can be used as maaser causes. Would one have to judge an organisation's business skills and determine how much money they make back before choosing to donate? are there opinions that say you only give maaser directly to the poor? etc. – wonderingjew Apr 20 '16 at 8:16

There are two issues here

  1. Are expenses of a tsedaka collector/organization considered part of your ma'aser? (your question)

  2. Is the price of the raffle ticket/dinner considered part of your ma'aser? (not directly your question but you speak of buying a raffle ticket so quite relevant)

On the first one, poskim ask if a tsedaka collector is allowed to take a commission and agree that they indeed can. The whole amount is considered ma'aser and there is no discussion of deducting his commission from your ma'aser. For instance R Avrohom Chaim Feuer writes in his book The tzedakah treasury (p. 335)

R Moshe Heinemann relates that his Rosh Yeshiva, R Aharon Kotler, said a professional fundraiser is allowed to take up to 49% of what he raises as his commission. As long as the majority of the money goes to the institution, it is considered that he was raising funds for the institution and not for himself

@Shalom similarly reports here in the name of R Yaakov Kaminetsky that

a tzedaka can have up to 49.9% of its costs as overhead, and still count as tzedaka vis-a-vis your tithing money.

On the second issue many poskim rule you need to deduct from your ma'asser the price you would have paid for a raffle ticket if not coming from a tsedaka organization, e.g., see here from R David Sperling

In the work Emet L'Yaakov (by Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky zt"l – Yoreh Deah 249) it says that one should deduct the amount you would pay for such a meal from the total donation, and only consider the remaining sum as charity. This may not necessarily be the same amount that the organizers paid for the meal, which may have been more or less, but the amount you would be willing to pay for such an evening. So, if you paid $200 say for a ticket to the Gala Dinner, and for such a meal and entertainment you would expect to pay around $50 if it wasn't a charity event and you were to go out for such an evening, you should consider only $150 as the charitable gift which may be paid for with maser kesafim monies.

See further sources on this here.

  • Thank you for your through response. I'm still having some trouble reconciling the answers to the two issues you mentioned - if, according the R Sperling, you'd have to take away the money you would otherwise pay for the service/raffle ticket, wouldn't that be because the company is paying for these from the proceeds? And thus wouldn't this mean that if it makes at least double the expenses back (and uses 50% of the proceeds for charity) you could use your payment as maaser? Or is the issue that you're benefitting and "getting back" from your payment to the organisation? – wonderingjew Apr 20 '16 at 8:50
  • The reason you deduct the value (not cost) of the ticket/service you receive is because you benefit from it and therefore it is not a donation to others. The fact they pay from the proceeds is part of their expenses and an authorized deduction for you – mbloch Apr 20 '16 at 8:52
  • Bake sale: if you're getting market-valued goods and services, that doesn't come out of maaser. If the yeshiva bake sale is selling a cake for $15 and I could buy the same cake at the grocery store for $10, that's a $5 donation. If they're selling it for $10, that's $0 donation. (More importantly, a banquet: the ticket may cost $200, but $50 of that is what you'd pay for the same food at a restaurant. The remainder is your donation.) – Shalom Apr 20 '16 at 9:28
  • You should note that just because taking 49% could still be qualified as Tzedaka from the giver's perspective, that doesn't necessarily make it appropriate to charge a Tzedaka organization that much overhead. – Double AA Apr 20 '16 at 12:23
  • @DoubleAA I find it just as shocking as you and carefully screen the organizations I support. I was actually surprised to hear the halacha supported such a ratio. I wish it would be different – mbloch Apr 20 '16 at 12:51

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