The Pretended Pledge
Question: In my new capacity as executive director for a Day School in the U.S. I am about to run an annual fundraising dinner. Some people on my board of directors have suggested that we have some "dummy" pledges made at the outset of the scheduled appeal in order to inspire some of the wealthier participants to up their pledges. I have some hesitations about the honesty of such a move. What is the right thing to do?
Answer: There is a story in the latest volume of "Aleinu Leshabeach" in Hebrew about a fundraising dinner held half a century ago for the construction of a building to house the growing yeshiva which the great Rabbi Aaron Kotler, zatzal, had established in Lakewood.
The sum needed for this project was $100,000, a very large sum of money in those days. At the dinner two guests announced that they were willing to contribute a total of $75,000 on the condition that a particular guest not noted for his generosity would contribute $5,000. The latter took sharp exception to this effort to coerce him into making a pledge which he declared he was incapable of fulfilling.
A recess was called and an emergency conference was held. One of the yeshivas supporters had suggested to the reluctant guest that he could raise the $5,000 instead of giving his own and could thus make the pledge which would gain for the yeshiva the big sum offered by the others. When this plan was presented to Rav Kotler, however, he rejected it. The gentlemen who made the condition had in mind that this fellow must give his own money and it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise. One cannot build a Torah institution on dishonesty, ruled the Rosh Hayeshiva, and forfeited the $75,000 pledge.
Anyone who visits the impressive campus of Americas largest yeshiva today in Lakewood sees the vindication of this policy.